The Brazilian music style funk ostentação is the South-American version of the «pimp model» in U.S. rap. In his comment, Renato Martins asks why an MC would «sing about expensive cars and motorbikes». From the Norient book Seismographic Sounds (see and order here).
When I started to study funk ostentação – a derived style from funk carioca that MCs from São Paulo created in 2008, I never imagined I would discover that it is just a copy of the «pimp model» in American rap. Singing about money and wealth has always been part of Brazilian funk music, but it was never as strong as in funk ostentação. Before, funk music — as dance music — predominantly focused on the subject of sexuality. I asked myself, «Why does an MC sing about expensive cars and motorbikes?» and I soon recognized that funk ostentação changed the way these MCs were dealing with the topic of money completely.
Two distinctive parts of the ostentação movement can be identified: the kick-off and the definition. The first ostentação video by Kondzilla, main director of more than ninety percent of all ostentação clips, was «Megane» from MC Boy do Charme, an MC from São Vicente. Before recording, he invited a few friends to appear on the set. In exchange, they had to bring along their own expensive motorbikes and cars – swanky vehicles that create a contrast between the reality of their still poor neighborhood and the wish for a better life.
The second part of the movement started with «Plaquê de 100» from São Paulo-based MC Guimê. This is the moment when the video language stops being honest with its audience. Suddenly the video show under-contract dancers and models with rented cars and motorbikes. Instead of hanging around with a few friends, the genre started producing expensive music videos with professional staff. From then on, the songs and videos became just about money and the dream of being rich. The style of ostentação was consolidated.
The video medium itself became more and more a space for competition: who can collect the most expensive things on the set? They started with a Megane, continued with a Citroën, an Audi, a Ferrari or a jet ski, and ended up with helicopters and planes. All this material is very expensive – if not impossible – to own. Finally they reached the apex: there were no more lavish objects to show. And, as tends to happen with trends, new MCs began singing about other subjects and ostentação became old.
In the Brazilian funk carioca culture, the artists would always sing about their lives. So, it’s none too surprising that as soon as it’s possible for them to buy new clothes – a comprehensible consequence of the economical boom, which started at the same time as the ostentação movement in 2008 – they would sing about it. But these funk MCs definitely lost any contact with reality when they started to sing about unaffordable objects.
This text was published first in the second Norient book Seismographic Sounds.
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