TEJO, BLACK ALIEN, SPEED – “Follow Follow” / “Quem Que Caguetou”

This is another new record I like a lot. It’s the music from a recent Nissan advert, which had very violent Latinish dance music playing in the background. As soon as I heard it I thought, “Wow!”, because it sounded so much like ‘baile funk’ a.k.a. ‘funk proibidao’ aka just ‘funk’. According to a wise ILMer this lot aren’t baile funk people, they’ve been commissioned to do a baile funk record for the advert is all, and they’ve done a very good job I think.

But what is baile funk? I’m not 100% sure I could tell you – I’ve heard of it, and I’ve heard a bit of it, enough to know when something sounds like it anyhow, but take what I’m saying with two pinches of salt. It’s a hip-hop variant from Brazil, mostly the poorer parts of Rio, and it relies on loud, hard, basic syncopated beats, with crude sample-splices or electro-treatment and rhythmic but flow-less MCing. It’s closest to Miami Bass but there’s more syncopation and the rappers like forceful barking more than that slightly breathless, speedy horndog flow you get on 2 Live Crew records. Thematically it seems pretty in tune with the Miami stuff, though. (Here’s an interview about it from Hyperdub, and you could always listen to some yourself).

Back to Black Alien et al. “Follow Follow” is a cleaned-up version of baile funk – not in a lyrical sense (I have no idea about the lyrics of any of this stuff) but in terms of the sound: it’s more structured and more produced, it doesn’t have the lashed-together feel of other tracks I’ve heard. It’s still strikingly different from anything that’s currently charting, at least in Britain: a messy, bouncing churn of bass and yelling. So much so that Nissan were apparently giving CDs of it away free and only now is it getting a release date.

I’ve been dipping into baile funk for 3 years now and it’s been going for about 13, but for all its raw appeal I don’t see it crossing over even with Nissan’s help. It’s interesting that it’s been around so long, though, as a successful regional variant on hip-hop. By ‘regional variant’ I don’t mean a version of hip-hop with occasional local references and sample-sources: that’s pretty much the minimum local hip-hop needs to have any kind of communicative power. It’s more like the difference between pidgins and creoles – some areas develop hip-hop based musics which become their ‘mother tongue’, not just a quirky cross-breed or a perpetual second-language (with the first being the real, American stuff). Baile funk is one of these, Kwaito in South Africa may well be, and it seems a good way to understand the links between Grime and hip-hop too. Over to DJ Marlboro, from the Hyperdub interview, for the last word on this:

“When the Roland 808 was launched in the States, it was criticised by musicians at the time because they were after a more acoustic, natural sound, and the 808 had this really electronic sound, so the price fell and the people from the ghetto started to adopt it into their sound. When this music arrived in Brazil, it was really successful. The sound systems had the massive speakers to deal with this heavier sound of the 808 beat and we really got into it. This sound, that was to become Miami Bass, started to dominate the bailes with its stronger beat.

However we never called it Miami Bass, because for us it was always funk. So this Funk/Miami Bass that came over in 1988/89, 2 Live Crew and all of that, started to become nationalised with rapping in Portuguese and the melodies from Pagode ( a strain of samba) and Forro, mixed with the Miami Bass beat to create something more characteristically Brazilian.

We have this thing of mixing our language, our style so that in 1993/94, the percentage of stuff played in the bailes was gradually increasing, so that nowadays 100% of the tracks are national, made in Brazil, and the funk made here is completely different from anywhere else in the world.”