fact friday rio: from misogyny to feminism in funk carioca

(Sorry today's Fact Saturday Rio instead of Fact Friday Rio. I promise this post is worth the wait!)

Funk carioca is a type of dance and music that originated in Rio’s favelas, inspired by the U.S.-based movement of Miami Bass. Common themes in funk are politics, violence, race and sex.

This is a video-story post. That means you need to watch each of these videos as we go, or you won’t understand the story. It should take approximately 30 minutes to complete, and I promise it will be world-view-altering!

Let’s start at the beginning, with this intro to funk carioca from the documentary Favela on Blast, narrated by Philadelphia-based DJ Diplo (who will be important later).


Since the Miami Bass genre inspired Rio-based Funk, I’d love to explore this influence. According to ever-trustworthy Urban Dictionary, the most famous Miami Bass group is 2 Live Crew.

The titles of their songs alone are telling. You don’t have to watch the entirety of this video to get the gist.

Things to note: sexual harassment at 0:57 (we can’t fix it if we don’t name it), Atlanta Braves jersey at 0:59 (small world, huh?), 90’s-tastic video effects, misogyny (if you disagree, let’s discuss in the comments section).

If you find this video shocking, I promise I’m going somewhere with this.


From the sounds and movements of Miami Bass emerged Rio-based funk. DJ Marlboro is credited with pioneering Funk Carioca with his album Funk Brasil. (I couldn’t find a video, but note the lyrics.)


Women rose from the ranks of dancers to MCs in the early 2000s, a decade after the genre emerged. The “queen of the scene” is Tati Quebra-Barraco:


(Did you notice the male dancers?)

Another MC is Deise Tigrona. As is common when women enter a male-dominated space, Tigrona faced close observation and relentless critique. Her explicit sexual lyrics spark controversy that questions whether her message is liberating or oppressive.


Whew. After all of this, does anyone else feel like Baby in this scene?


But we’re not done! (This is the best part.)

I’m leading up to one of my favorite artists, someone I happen to have a bit of a huge crush on. Inspired by the beats of Deise Tigrona (above) and perhaps by her past relationship with DJ Diplo (although, let’s not over-emphasize this), M.I.A is credited with bringing international attention to the funk carioca style through the song Bucky Done Gun.

Do watch the entirety of this video, because it’s awesome:


So, did anyone else pick up on that? Where we started (voiceless naked women’s bodies juxtaposed with fully clothed men’s faces + degrading lyrics) to where we ended up (outspoken, engaged, controversial female rapper)? What a transformation!

The world can change.

(Please note: This isn’t to say that misogyny is absent from present-day funk, but I enjoy celebrating the progress.)

To remind us of hope for future generations lest we forget, let’s conclude with a look at M.I.A’s son wearing House of Holland couture (ya know, speaking of overcoming misogyny and poverty and all…and because I love babies):

M.I.A. and baby in matching House of Holland
source: http://www.thamarai.com

Now, you can stop here, because that’s pretty much the story. But if you’re too excited to quit, I’ll give you one more.

Bonde Do Role is an internationally-celebrated group from the south of Brazil that has gained popularity in the past few years. They include funk carioca in their mixes. Diplo signed them, so we come full circle.

This video will blow your socks off, and it offers too much for my feminist analytical brain to process in this blog post.


Thoughts on funk carioca? Translations? Analysis? You discuss, I need a breather.


9 responses to “fact friday rio: from misogyny to feminism in funk carioca”

  1. I cannot WAIT to hear your thoughts on the last video.
    Also, I really like the niki minaj video clip you posted… this is what we should see more of from our female superstars. I look forward to the day they don’t have to resort to seductive sarcasm to sell and can be as honest and frank in their music as she was in that clip (without fear of looking stupid).
    Females bashing other females also happens all to often (in Minaj’s and every other female rappers’ music), so if they could channel that anger towards more profound social criticism (directed at the oppressor and not the oppressed) that’d be great 🙂
    One final slice for thought– why are their no asian or white angry, causticly raunchy female rappers? What does this say about the intersection of race and gender? Have there been many notable caucasian feminist artists since Madonna? And look at how different she is from say Lil’ Kim or regatoneira Ivy Queen. I know this has to do with the type of music they perform; and why there are different types of music for different races is a whole nother ball game. But what does this difference say… how are their musics interpreted…in what different/same ways are they effective/not effective?
    … very provocative post

    • Cara, what awesome questions!! When I posted the Dirty Dancing video, the topic of race seemed even more apparent… class is the main topic of that movie, but we can’t ignore the fact that everyone in it is white. All of these -isms are so interconnected.

      I’m SURE there are more notable white feminist artists since Madonna… but strangely, none come to mind immediately!

      Also, isn’t it interesting how openly sexual the music genres associated with poverty are?? I wonder if sexual explicitness connects to different gender roles for people of different economic classes? Something I love about M.I.A.’s video is that it’s sexy without being so naked… but is my preference toward that style connected to my class, privilege, and whiteness? Or do I love that she can be clothed and powerful and outspoken because the earlier videos with naked women seem degrading?

      Thanks so much for your comment and food for thought! Also, totally have to credit Louisa Hill for alerting me to the Nicki Minaj video. 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing this Cara and thanks to the original person who posted it. I always wonder why I’m able to find more politicized female rappers in Latin America than in the US. In case you don’t know there is amazing female rappers in spanish (I find them much better than the dudes and the female ones I know from US). In case you’re interested, here is my own personal list: Ana Tijoux (Chile), Actitud Maria Marta (Argentina/Venezuela), La Mala Rodriguez (Spain/Gipsy), Danay Suarez (Cuba), Telmary (Cuba).

  3. What good food you just gave me! I have a friend who is older and white and has gone CRAZY for salsa dancing, which has generated a ton of discussion between us (two older, white middle class, educated, feminist women) about culture, gender, sexuality, dress, race, age etc. Most relevant to this discussion (she is a single mom, fairly recently divorced) is sexuality. In so many ways the virgin / whore complex transcends everything–we coined for our conversation the word “effeminated” as a parallel to emasculated (maybe there is an actual word, if so, please tell me–I need it!) to describe the way our acceptable clothing styles–old or young–are retro/pretty/decorated but NOT sexy. That is, if any woman shows cleavage, thigh, midriff [FLESH other than face] there’s something tawdry about it–unclean. If an older woman does it, it’s seen as gross. huh? So, if you want to be sexy, how can you be? If I want to be powerful can I also be sexy–I mean sexy with my body? Or do I have to forget my body and put it into a different category? (I can’t!)

    • Nell, I’m so glad you brought age into this conversation. I hear about “older” women being sexy in the media (Demi Moore…), but it’s usually in the context of them dating younger men. It definitely seems like there’s a double standard for dress and behavior.

      Characteristics associated with “older” women seem to vary across cultures, too. When I lived in Buenos Aires with short hair, everyone called me “senora” because no other woman my age had short hair. Here, no one seems to think twice about my age because women with short hair span age ranges.

      I think we all can be powerful and sexy with our bodies, whether or not we’re perceived that way… ultimately, isn’t confidence and sexiness something that we create? (I think yes, but it would be easier if everyone else agreed!)

  4. Of course I would like to say unequivocally that sexiness and attractiveness is ALL about how I feel, and no doubt I am a really big part of it. But Attraction requires two forces, and as big as I am I can’t supply both sides. I am recognizing that for me there is an element of publicity to it. Complicated, cool subject!

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