When it comes to Brazilian music, samba, bossa nova, forro, and baile funk are genres that easily come to mind. What many foreigners don’t know is that Brazil has also one of the world’s most popping hip-hop scenes. That’s especially true in São Paulo, where boom-bap beats dominate the soundscape and colorful graffiti decorates every spare surface.
In this field, Sabotage is one of the country’s greatest artists. The recognition doesn’t come from a large body of work, since he had released so far only one album, in 2000, titled Rap é Compromisso [Rap is Commitment]. What makes Sabotage, who was killed in his hometown, São Paulo, in 2003, still a legend is a combination of charisma, sharp social messages and an incomparable rap flow.
Almost 14 years after his never-solved murder, a posthumous album was released thanks to the dedication of Sabotage’s old friends/producers and many internationally acclaimed Brazilian artists, including DJ Nuts, Céu, Tropkillaz, and Rodrigo Brandão, a rapper (check out Brookzill) and much-loved representative of Brazil’s hip hop scene.
The Brazil Curator asked Brandão why the new album Sabotage (2016), available on Spotify, is a must-listen for all hip hop lovers:
“When you mention Sabotage, most hip hop fans worldwide think of the timeless Beastie Boys song and its instant classic Spike Jonze-directed video. That’s not the case in Brazil. All over the (now Temer-kidnaped) nation, Sabotage stands as one of the most iconic MC’s to ever bless the mic, an artist whose legacy surpasses the country’s rap scene to reach a social level that hasn’t been fully measured yet.
Almost 14 years after his murder, a posthumous self-titled album has been released, including 12 tracks featuring Sabotage, also known as Maestro do Canão, in reference to the slum he was born. Even 14 years after his death, he sounds fresher than fresh and is still ahead of most of his peers.
Much props to São Paulo’s elite production team Instituto, a duo composed by Tejo Damasceno and Rica Amabis, and its former member, Daniel Ganjaman, whose solo catalog is equally impressive.
They were Sabotage’s weapons of choice when it came to making music, and the ones that took the duty of diggin’ through tons of rough drafts and recordings Sabotage kept laying anytime he had a chance, as if he knew his time on Aiyê* would be that short. He was pushing 30 years old when a bike-riding shooter murdered him early in the morning on January 24th, 2003.
For the album, the producers sound-carved and chopped up Sabotage’s acapellas, shaping them into full songs. Around the time of his death, they were working on some tracks for a new album, but a great part of what remained was more of him freestyling or mixing quotes from different notes and rhymes he used to have in stock at all times.
In possession of that, the producers chose the vocal tracks for other contributors, including those who had worked with Sabotage and managed to stay currently relevant. Enter São Paulo’s own Dj Nuts, Tropkillaz, Mr. Bomba, and DJ Cia, who is part of RZO – another legendary Brazilian rap group that took Sabotage under their wings back in the days, highlighted him on stage and engaged a mission to help the artist get his more than deserved shine.
The album hosts a wide variety of features: singer Negra Li and rapper Sandrão, both from RZO, as well as local superheroes Dexter, BNegão, and Rappin’ Hood; ghetto superstars like Funk Buia, Lakers, DBS and Fernandinho Beatbox; multi-taskers Duani and Quincas; super cool singer Céu; Wu-Tang Clan affiliated MC Shyheim, and even yours truly.
The result went beyond expectations, even to the most optimistic ones, with the album gaining more than 2 million streams on Spotify on its first week of being released.
For non-Portuguese speakers, it’s one of those cases which the music for itself is worth the checking. After all, the depth and passion emanating through Sabotage’s voice is strong enough to take you beyond that language barrier.
As the King Ad-Rock of the legendary Beastie Boys once said: “listen, y’all and y’all… it’s Sabotage!”
*Aiyê means “terrestrial world” according to candomblé, a religion based on African beliefs which is particularly popular in Brazil.