Money, luxury and showing off. “Funk” music coming out of São Paulo is all about being ostentatious (“Ostentação”) with your wealth, and that means designer clothes, imported cars, nightclubs and women.
Watching Funk Ostentação on Youtube is like watching 90’s American rap videos; singers throw champagne around in fake nightclubs, walk in front of expensive (hired) cars and hover-hand strippers that dance as if they’re not sure if the director yelled “Cut!” or not.
With lyrics that highlight an ambition to leave the favela and live the good life of women, nightclubs, cars and jewels, Funk Ostentação singers are self-fulfilling dream-makers. Videos on Youtube showing them counting fake US dollar bills and standing in front of expensive imported cars now make them tens of thousands of dollars in ad revenue, and the biggest Funk Ostentação stars charge R$10,000 (US$4,000, £2,700) a show.
Although this kind of wasteful excess seems arrogant and cruel given the huge inequality between rich and poor in Brazil, its biggest stars talk freely about their lives before they became stars – MC Tchesko sold pastries from a street-cart and MC Felipinho washed cars.
The new style of Funk made headlines last year when MC Daleste was shot dead live on stage in Sao Paulo. MC Daleste was pulling in £60,000 a month as a rapper before he was shot dead (link to his Youtube video).
Four other Funk Ostentação MCs have also been shot dead, supposedly by ex-police “grupos de exterminio”(death-squads) targeting rappers with anti-police lyrics, although my sources tell me MC Daleste was killed for stealing a woman from a dangerous drug-trafficker. These rappers have gained a form of respect from even the middle classes, who normally scoff and talk about the hyper-sexualised lyrics of Funk Carioca music.
When an 18-year-old kid that used to wash cars is pulling in 10x more than a middle-aged doctor makes in a year, and goes on stage every night despite the threat of getting shot dead, how can you not stop and admire their bravado just a little?