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The Shape of Funk to Come: Renato M2 Interviewed

As part of our new show “Party and Dissent: World Cup Brazil 2014,” we spoke with Renato M2, founder of Funk Na Caixa, a record label that explores the latest and greatest sounds of baile funk. Renato recently made us a banging exclusive mix of rasterinha, a new baile funk style that is winning the hearts of funkeiros throughout Brazil.

Jesse Brent: First of all, thanks so much for doing this interview with us and for the exclusive mix you made for us, which is really fantastic.

Renato M2: It is a pleasure to know that you like it.

Lately you’ve been doing a lot with rasterinha. Can you give us an overview of what that style is and when it became popular? What it’s all about?

OK, last year I was in the event in Rio de Janeiro called Rio Parada Funk. It’s the main event of baile funk and it has support from the government in Rio de Janeiro. This event is very important because two years ago there was no government support for baile funk culture, and so this was the first time that the government supported something of baile funk. I was a friend of Apavoramento and they played a track called “Quero Bunda” from MC Ti Pocki. The moment I listened to that, I thought, “What’s this kind of disc? What is this style?” Because it was too different from the baile funk and there were Brazilian vocals. At first, I thought that some foreign producers created some new beat for baile funk, which is very common in the baile funk scene. I was thinking, “What was that music?”

Then I returned to São Paulo and I started to look just to see what that beat was. I found three or four tracks, and I said, “Oh, that’s a very nice style. Let’s find out more about this.” I wrote an article for my friends at Vice about this movement. When I talked with the producer DJ BamBam, he said “Oh, this is something new here in Rio de Janeiro. Some people call it ragga funk or axé funk.” And I said, “No. This name is strange. It sounds like a mix of cultures.” It was something new from funk. We know the baile funk beats like the tamborzão and the tamborzinho. And that rhythm was slow compared with baile funk. I said, “No, man. You have to create another name.” And he said, “Oh, in the middle of  the ’90s, there was a movement called rasteiro in baile funk. And some guys are calling this rasterinha.” And so, rasterinha is very nice because it is Brazilian. Because there is a kind of flip flop here in Brazil for women called rasterinha. The BPM of the music is low and you are dancing like a… how can I explain… passing your foot on the floor. I created the article for Vice and a lot of things started to grow up out of this. Rasterinha is a kind of movement from funkeiros to slow down the BPM because a lot of other styles slow down the rhythm like zouk bass, twerk–even trap is slow. They aren’t so fast like drum and bass or B-more or soca or other styles. The most interesting thing about rasterinha is that this slowed-down movement comes from funkeiros from Rio de Janeiro. It isn’t a gringo who made the beat and it isn’t a guy like me, who’s middle class and from São Paolo that created that beat. It’s something that’s original to Rio de Janeiro, from funkeiros of Rio de Janeiro.

So, there are a lot of people from outside baile funk culture that are making new styles?

Yes. In baile funk there are a lot of producers from the middle class or foreigners like Diplo. If someone creates a new beat, the funkeiros from Rio de Janeiro say, “We don’t give a fuck,” you know. They won’t say, “Oh, they are putting some guitars on baile funk. Let’s do this. Let’s put this on our tracks.” No, they don’t give a fuck. They’ll say, “Oh, that’s for them. Let’s keep our culture.” And rasterinha was the first movement from baile funk that changed the beat. You can say that rasterinha is a kind of Brazilian funk because funkeiros created it and funkeiros have continued to make that music.

It really started last year?

Yes. Last year. There were four tracks. One of them was “Quero Bunda,” released in June. The first track was “Joga A Teia” by MC Nandinho. He was just playing around with friends in the studio. He said, “Ahh, just a joke” and uploaded it to YouTube. MC Ti Pocki listened to that and thought, “I can create something like that.” After “Quero Bunda,” for a long time, the beat from that song was the rasterinha beat. Then, in November, MC Romântico released a very good song called “As Novinhas Tão Sensacional.” The producer of that song was DJ BamBam, who helped us to give the name for rasterinha. And after that the movement start growing.

How popular would you say it is compared to other baile funk styles?

This is a very difficult question because baile funk is a very, very closed culture. I started Funk Na Caixa four years ago and it is still very hard for me to talk with MCs. I’ll say, “Let’s release a single. Give me one track to include on a compilation.” And they’ll say, “You are not from baile funk culture.” So, they are very closed. And there are very old DJs, old MCs, who are against new movements because they are afraid of losing their space in baile funk culture. When rasterinha started, a lot of guys said, “This is just a new fad.” That was in January. Now we are in June and there are more and more rasterinha tracks coming from baile funk MCs and producers. These old DJs now are accepting rasterinha. They are creating some rasterinha tracks because they think, “We can’t go against the day.” Rasterinha is the future. The DJs and producers and MCs release a track of rasterinha and then they’ll release a track with normal baile funk beats like tamborzão and tamborzinho. Rasterinha appears in newspapers, appears on television. The MCs know what’s happening and they want to participate. One of the tracks from MC Maromba is called “My Name Isn’t Johnny.” He’s from the baile funk culture and he want to conquest his space in rasterinha to get more shows, more fans, and start growing that way.

Who would you say are some of the top DJs and MCs in rasterinha right now?

Bumps is a guy who’s in love with Brazilian culture, so he’s releasing songs in a lot of styles. He understands the baile funk and the Brazilian culture. Munchi and Comrade are gringos with big love for baile funk culture. There is a new friend called God Wonder. He’s very good too. Here from Brazil, I can say Guto De Almeida is a very nice producer of rasterinha. From baile funk culture, I think DJ BamBam is the best. DJ RD da NH is very very good. He was the creator of Ti Pocki’s beats, so he understands the movement of rasterinha. I can say the same for MC Maromba and MC Japa. MC Romântico created just one track, but it’s one of the best tracks ever. MC Gus has the style of rasterinha too.

You included a track by MC Japa on one of your compilations: “Perereca Suicida.” That’s a good one.

Yes, It’s a very very good one. One thing that is very nice about the movement of rasterinha, including on “Perereca Suicida,” is that the lyrics are talking about fun. They’re talking about women. They talk about dance. They talk a little bit about everything, but it’s not like, “Oh, put your dick on the vagina. Oh, put your ass here on me.” There is a kind of sensualism, you know? They are calling girls to dance. They are talking about sex movements. They are talk about conquesting girls, but it’s not so explicit. So, this is a very good point about rasterinha. They are taking this forgotten culture from baile funk and bringing it back.

So, rasterinha has really spread out from Rio. It’s now in São Paulo and other places.

Yes, it started in Rio de Janeiro, but here in São Paulo the people are accepting rasterinha more than in Rio de Janeiro.

And is it in other cities too?

It’s very hard to say if it is or it isn’t. In the underground movement, the DJs are playing it. But I can’t say to you that there is rasterinha in Pará and in Bahia. People release tracks, upload to YouTube and Soundcloud, and it spreads around the world. I can’t say if rasterinha is being played in people’s cars or on the streets in Bahia. It’s very, very hard to say that, and I think it’s better for me not to say yes or no. Producers–they know about rasterinha. That is true, but I can’t say whether the crowds, the public listen to it and enjoy it so much as guys from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

Is your plan now with Funk Na Caixa to keep going with rasterinha or do you have other styles that you’re also looking at?

Yes, we’re going to keep releasing rasterinha tracks–RRRIO here from São Paulo–he’s friends with MC Maromba. He made two very good tracks. We’re gonna release them in like two weeks, maybe. We want to release original baile funk. We want to release favela trap. We want to release neo baile sounds. We want Funk Na Caixa to show every style of baile funk. So, everything from baile funk and neo baile funk, we’re gonna release it.

I was just talking to Chief Boima. Do you know him?

Yes. Yes, I know him.

He was telling me about this new dance–passinho do romano. You know about that?

Yes.  Passinho do romano is a movement from a track called “Lança de Coco” from MC Bin Laden. Bin Laden is from a neighborhood called Vila Romana. So passinho do romano is a dance from guys from Vila Romana. I have doubts about passinho do romano because the way they dance is like how they act when they are drugged. The track “Lança de Coco” is about the drug they used and started dancing that way. I don’t like it so much when they talk about prohibidão and drugs. I think the baile funk culture is so good that we don’t need to talk about these bad movements to grow up the same. We’re going to keep releasing tracks. The thing about dance is that it’s very hard to see the future. After passinho do romano, there were 50 more tracks just of new styles of passinho. So, I can’t say, “We’re going to release a track and it will be a hit.” It’s very difficult to say. We enjoy the passinho do romano. MC Bin Laden is a very, very good MC.

What are some other Brazilian styles that you like right now?

There is a movement called tecno brega from Pará. It was very very strong, but there are no more tracks. From tecno brega, there is Jaloo and Gang do Eletro. It’s a new culture of Brazil because it’s very fast and the sound is very simple, so there are a lot of things you can do in tecno brega. But no one is releasing tracks now. Just Jaloo, who released an album this year.

Another movement that is very, very good is from Bahia. We call it Bahia bass. Bahia bass is showing that there is more culture and styles of sound in Bahia than axé. Today, a lot of gringos and foreign producers think that Bahia has just axé and this is a lie. There are a lot of other cultures there. Braza has released four tracks on my label. And we’re gonna release four more tracks. Each track is different from the other. And there is a lot of influence from pagode bahiano. So, I think in the future, Bahia will get attention from producers and we’re gonna see more producers from Bahia–very, very good producers.

Another movement I think we have to pay attention to is funk from São Paulo because funk paulista is very different from the funk carioca. In funk carioca, there is more rhythm. There is more dance. Passinho comes from funk carioca. Here in São Paulo, the there is more attention to the lyrics. They talk about reality. they talk about the lifestyle. They talk about how they want to be. This is a reflection from funk ostentação when the locals of Brazil started to have money and they started to buy things and sing about brands. So the funk paulista is now showing that they don’t need to just sing about brands. They can sing about a lot of things. They are talking about their culture, their lifestyle. And it becomes a trend like passinho do romano. So I think Pará, Bahia, and funk paulista are the new true directions of Brazilian music… with the rasterinha too.

So now, the World Cup’s starting. What’s it like in São Paulo right now?

[Laughs] Here in my neighborhood, there are a lot of people screaming out the window. They are playing vuvuzelas. There is a kind of party. There is a feeling of party here. I can see some streets where they painted the streets. They put flags in the windows, on the doors, on the gates. There is a very good movement here–that is people complaining against the World Cup, but it’s not in residential areas. That is more next to the stadium and downtown, not the old neighborhoods like where I am now.

So what do you think about the World Cup personally? Do you agree with the protesters or are you more happy about it?

I don’t like football. It’s a problem for me, but my point of view is that Brazilians have started to learn how to do politics. We can’t say now, “Ohh, we don’t want the World Cup in Brazil.” This was decided like four, five years ago. That is the point. You have to say, “No, we don’t want it. Let’s call for a vote to see if the population wants it or not.” After the thing is decided, we can’t say, “Oh, we don’t want it anymore.” The movement against the World Cup is very good for Brazilians to understand how politics work. So, if you want to do something now, you have to start thinking about the Olympics. That is four years in the future. We don’t want another big event in Brazil, so complain against the Olympics to say there is not time for big events in Brazil. We have to start getting better schools, better hospitals, better transportation, better government. There are a lot of points. So, Brazilians are starting to see how it works.

I think the World Cup is a very happy party. Brazil is the only country to have five championships. It’s something that gives Brazil a lot of respect. And football is a very popular culture in Brazil, so I think that it is important for the World Cup to be here for the players, for the crowd, for the public. I will watch some games. I will watch Brazil now. I am not like, “Oh, don’t have the World Cup.” It was decided several years ago. Now we have to accept that.

And what do musicians you know think about it?

For musicians, it’s a very big problem here because the underground scene here is very closed and there is no money, so musicians want to to do something for the World Cup and get some shine, you know? “Let’s make some music for the World Cup and appear on TV Gobo.” There is this kind of thinking. “Let’s do some kind of music about the World Cup and try to gain a lot of money on that song.”

Is there anything else that you’d like to talk about? 

Yes, I think there is a very interesting point to say–Brazil is a very huge country, 126 years old. I’ve traveled around some states here and every time I go to a new state, I listen to new styles and new producers. It’s always something I’ve never heard. A lot of Brazilian music come from Sao Pãulo and Rio de Janeiro. These movements like tecno brega and Bahia bass are something that’s very, very young because they are just receiving attention now. It was very common to see producers from Bahia, Pará, Recife, Pernambuco, Amazonas creating tracks with influences from the cultures of Sao Pãulo and Rio de Janeiro. Now, Braza and I will start to look for sounds from Brazil, like in Recife–it’s a state in Pernambuco–there is a scene called gangsta brega. This is a mix of tecno brega culture from Pará and the funk ostentação from Sao Pãulo, and they call it gangsta brega. No one talks about that, you know? There is a culture in the Amazonas with a lot of music we never heard. And there are producers making electronic music with that influence. It is very important for Brazil to show that there is more culture that’s still undiscovered. So, I think the most important thing about Brazil is the culture. There is baile funk, there is tecno brega, there is funk osentação, there is the Bahia Bass, there is samba, there is axé. There are a lot of sounds we have yet to see and we have to open our minds to more new sounds to come.

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  • Renato Martins

    in love with AfroPop!

    • AfropopWW

      Love you too, Renato!