Introducing the All-Female Favela Crew Rhyming Their Own Vision of Rio de Janeiro
Pearls Negras are the teenage Brazilians bringing baile-funk back. The trio hail from the winding streets of Vidigal, a hillside favela overlooking Rio de Janeiro’s coveted Copacabana and Ipanema locales from its vantage point high up the Morro Dois Irmãos. Directed by the 32-year-old carioca (Rio local) director Kayhan Ozmen, the braggadocio-filled film spotlights Mariana Alves, Alice Coelho and Jennifer Loiola’s brand of hip-hop and raw Latin R&B, first dropped earlier this year on their Biggie Apple Mixtape. “They represent the new Brazilian youth who are born in slums, but now have access to the world via internet and social media,” says Ozmen of the 16- and 17-year-old stars. “This reflects on how they see the world: more broadly and beyond the slums. Vidigal is a community of talented artists and musicians and they take in everything the community has to offer them creatively.” The trio’s second mixtape is out next month with European and US tours later in the year. In the meantime, NOWNESS spoke to Mariana, Alice and Jennifer about their rapid rise, musical inspirations, and, of course, the World Cup.
Who are your musical heroines or heroes?
Alice Coelho: Nicky Minaj, because of her awesome attitude and confidence. And I really like Flora Matos and Karol Conka because I see them fighting for their place in the hip-hop world—in Brazil is very difficult as a female to take part. There is a lot of prejudice toward us, but they are breaking through that and we are trying to do the same.
Where did you learn your lyrical flow?
Mariana Alves: The three of us started taking acting classes at [Vidigal theater company] Nós do Morro around 2005, but everything really started when they set up a rapping workshop with [local musician and teacher] Jeckie Brown.
What is the future of Rio, after the World Cup?
MA: The 'Cup is very important but we are also fighting for improvements in our country. If we can have a World Cup, we can also have schools, hospitals and a better living wage.
Celebrating the Music and Artwork of James Lavelle’s Boundary Defying Record Label
As a British teenager in 1992, James Lavelle launched the Mo’Wax label with a £1000 loan from his boss at the West London record store, Honest Jon’s. Over the next decade, Mo’Wax created the blueprint for a pre-internet youth culture where England’s electronic and hip-hop movement collided with New York and Tokyo’s. Where music, art, fashion and film collaborations were curated by Lavelle outside the tyranny of genre; from DJ Shadow to Futura 2000, Alexander McQueen to Jonathan Glazer respectively. The rich heritage of the now defunct, seminal label has been compiled in a monograph published by Rizzoli, edited by Lavelle (who is currently leading this year’s Meltdown Festival in London) and designed by Mo’Wax art director Ben Drury. In an interview with writer Paul Bradshaw, Lavelle and DJ Shadow AKA Josh Davis discuss Psyence Fiction, the debut UNKLE album and epic collaboration with Thom Yorke, Richard Ashcroft, Mike D of the Beastie Boys and Ian Brown.
James Lavelle: When we started working with Richard and Thom, Urban Hymns and OK Computer hadn’t come out yet, so they weren’t these uber stars that they became. Right in the moment that we’re trying to get them into a studio, lo and behold, the Verve sells whatever ridiculous amount of records it was, and OK Computer comes out to become what many think is the best British record ever made. So suddenly we went from these quite relaxed conversations about being in the studio with people to dealing with managers. And from beginning to end that was a two-year process.
Josh Davis: To offer a bit of perspective: certainly we were not the first people to mix different worlds. But at that time in the mid-1990s, rock was one world, electronica was one world, hip-hop was one world—they did not really mix, frequently or easily.
JL: Psyence Fiction came out when I was 24. We were the only band that had a Channel 4 news special other than Oasis and the Spice Girls that year. There was a lot of expectation and there was a lot of chaos.
Urban Archaeology: Twenty-One Years of Mo’Wax by James Lavelle with contributions from DJ Shadow, Futura, Ben Drury and more is published by Rizzoli and Meltdown Festival curated by James Lavelle runs until June 22 at Southbank Centre, London.
A Bespoke Edit of Emily Kai Bock's Cutting-Edge Documentary on NYC’s Rap Underground
Mykki Blanco, Angel Haze and C.J. Fly hold forth in this exclusive edit of filmmaker Emily Kai Bock’s new documentary on New York’s underground rap scene, Spit Gold Under An Empire. “So many people there are really pushing the form,” she says of the city's hip-hop avant-garde. “It’s the most interesting and authentic thing going on.” Filmed largely in Brooklyn, the movement’s epicenter provided its own backbeat. “When you’re there, you can hear people in the apartments above and below you, people yelling on the street and car radios going by—it’s like a backing track, and if you’re raised there, it’s in your blood,” says Bock, a rising Montreal-based director with a fine art background who hit the ground running on the music scene with her stunning video for Grimes’ “Oblivion,” which became an overnight sensation. Produced by Somesuch & Co. and set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this week alongside efforts from independent directors Abteen Bagheri, Bob Harlow and Tyrone Lebon, the short is part of a series exploring the musical lives of American cities including the New Orleans bounce craze, shoegaze in Portland and Detroit’s warehouse scene.
Click here to view Spit Gold Under an Empire in full, alongside other works in the New American Noise documentary project, from January 19.