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There’s room for all music subdivisions in the Hip-Hop world, and while the likes of 2 Chainz, Kanye West, and Rick Ross, get lots of coverage there are other rappers celebrating increased notoriety. Brazilian rapper Criolo is among those making a steady rise to the top.

The 36-year-old performed at Brasil Summerfest in New York City’s Central Park over the weekend, and marveled at being added to the bill. “There are millions of talented musicians in all corners of Brazil,” he told the Wall Street Journal, of the weeklong celebration. “And they chose us to be here.”

With the inclusion of several different genres like reggae, samba, jazz, and soul, Criolo is far from your average rapper. “Criolo is probably the best example of how Brazilians have forged in the last decade or so their own musical language for hip-hop beyond merely rapping in Portuguese,” noted Tulane University associate professor of Brazilian studies, Christopher Dunn.

In 2006 he founded Rinha dos MCs, allowing rappers to battle one another, but also giving a platform to otherwise disadvantaged youth.

Born Kleber Gomes, bits of Criolo’s poverty stricken childhood and lifelong experiences live in his lyrics—and he does it all in Portuguese. Music may be one of his loves, but Criolo’s focus never veers too far from sociopolitical issues. “Every two seconds someone dies of hunger. I don’t have the intellectual or political knowledge to talk about certain things. But I know what my eyes record,” he explained.

Two albums in, and there’s a good chance that Criolo will crossover into the mainstream, and even the absence of English in his music won’t stop him. “I think he has crossover appeal in the U.S. and in Europe,” predicted Washington University cultural anthropologist Derek Pardue.  “People want to see Criolo because he’s real, he has credibility because of his background.”


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Photo: Portal Cultura