Brazilian MC Marcelo D2 has earned a place as one of the most important figures in the global hip-hop scene. His groundbreaking 2003 album Looking for the Perfect Beat gained international acclaim for its unique mix of samba and hip-hop rhythms. Marcelo D2 is currently touring the U.S. to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Planet Hemp, the band he started his career with in 1993. Planet Hemp will perform alongside Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers at Lollapalooza this Saturday, Aug. 3 in Chicago. Planet Hemp's inclusion on this year's star-packed Lollapalooza lineup is a testament to the importance and lasting influence of their distinctly Brazilian take on hip-hop and punk rock.
We caught up with Marcelo D2 after Planet Hemp's recent performance at Central Park's SummerStage in New York City.
NUVO: The title of your new album is Nada Pode Me Parar (Nothing Can Stop Me). What's the concept behind the album and title?
Marcelo D2: In 1993 I had this phrase written on my bedroom wall: "Eu já caí no chão só que me levant. Eu faço meu sistema, eu dito a minha lei, nada pode me parer." ("I fell on the ground, but I already got up. I make my own system, I write my own law, nothing can stop me.") These are lyrics from a Brazilian rap song by Thaide & DJ Hum.
The concept of Nada Pode Me Parar came from hip-hop itself, and how it gave me a voice. It allowed me to travel the world and taught me how to express myself. After a 20-year career in music I wanted to do a project that conveyed that idea the nothing can stop me. In a way, this album is an homage to hip-hop itself.
NUVO: Planet Hemp has been a major voice in the campaign to legalize marijuana in Brazil. Where does the movement for the legalization of marijuana stand?
Marcelo D2: It's no longer a question of if it will be legalized, but when it will be. Is it this month, next month, or next year? That same process is now happening around the world.
NUVO: You've collaborated with a diverse group of artists, from Will.i.am to Sergio Mendes. Can you talk about a couple of your biggest influences, [like] samba pioneer Bezerra da Silva and mangue beat creator Chico Science?
Marcelo D2: When I first started blending hip-hop with samba, Bezerra da Silva was the first person I played that music for. It was a traditional boom-bap hip-hop beat, but instead of the cymbals I used the ganza (shaker) for the rhythmic accents. When I showed Bezerra he suggested how I could use the tambourine, cavaquinho and other elements from samba. That expended my mind to open up to new sounds.
Bezerra and Chico Science were great influences on my sound. Chico Science had a phrase he used to say, "We have a duty to make regional music that is also universal." People who listen to my music will hear that regional style. I'm from Rio and my music has a contemporary Carioca sound. But there's a universal familiarity to the sound, which comes from incorporating elements of pop culture.
NUVO: So are you trying to create a "universal" form of Brazilian hip-hop?
Marcelo D2: That's tricky because hip-hop is an American music. What I want to do is to give a new face to samba. My face - not Zeca Pagodinho's face, or Beth Carvalho's face, or Bezerra da Silva's, [since] they've already established a sound and style in samba. I want to make my own contribution to samba. Music has done a lot for me, so it's time for me to pay back. More than representing Brazil, I want to represent myself, my art and my sound.
NUVO: What are your thoughts on the protests in Brazil?
Marcelo D2: I went out into the streets to protest with them. I was on the front line. I exchanged rocks with the police. People are asking themselves, "Will this change anything?" But, I think it has already. Because the doors of possibility were opened and the Brazilian people began to understand they have the power to change things. It's this possibility that was opened up in people's minds, "I can leave the house and do something for the country instead of staying home and complaining that the government is shit." I think it's going to reflect a lot in the next elections. We're going through a time of great change in Brazil.
Each edition of A Cultural Manifesto features a mix from Kyle Long, spotlighting music from around the globe. This week's selection features a variety of recent releases from Brazil - from the Northern brega pop of Gaby Amarantos to the Afro-Brazilian noise-rock of Metá Metá.
1. Karol Conka - Sandália
2. Criolo - Lion Man
3. BNegão & Seletores de Frequência - Funk Até O Caroco
4. OQuadro - Balançuquadro
5. Metá Metá - Oya
6. Caetano Veloso - Funk Melódico
7. Afroelectro - Sambada
8. Karol Conka - Caxambu
9. Gaby Amarantos - Mestiça
10. Bonde do Rolê - Tilelê
11. Banda Uó - Faz Uó
12. Deize Tigrona w/ Jaloo - Prostituto
13. Catarina - Amufinada
14. Curumin - Selvage
15. Marcelo D2 - Esta Chegando a Hora
16. Afroelectro - Cala Boca Menino
17. Rodrigo Campos - Sete Vela
18. Criolo - Linha de Frente