Leandro Roque de Oliveira was born into a poor São Paulo family in the summer of 1985. He is now one of Brazil’s most popular rappers. Leandro aka Emicida is Elevator 30.
What kickstarted Emicida’s popularity was his ability as a freestyler. In São Paulo rap battles don’t just take place under the glare of the spotlight, but also under the glow of the streetlight. Emicida always emphasizes the importance of knowing the roots of the hip-hop movement and his street battle reputation proved that when he speaks of the struggle of the ordinary man he speaks from experience. In 2006 he won a battle in Rio and his fame spread.
In 2008 he released “Triunfo” his first single. “Triunfo” struck a chord. As well as the intensity and honesty of the rhyming and the head-bopping beat, the chorus had a catchphrase that injected self-respect and determination into the heart of the average slum kid: “A rua é nóis” (We are the streets!). The music video has almost 5 millions youtube views.
Early in the track he raps: ‘The forgotten remember me because I remember the forgotten’
‘Since the king will not become humble, I will become the humble King’ and
‘I came not to betray my beliefs on behalf of ambitions’
Once he started to gain momentum as an artist Emicida poured all his energy and the very little money he had into his music. After burning, designing and hand-labeling his first mixtape he and his brother sold 1000 copies of them in just two days. Within a year they had sold 10,000 units.
His follow-up mixtape and EPs are full of hard-hitting gems like the very angry ‘Dedo na Ferida’ and ‘Rua Augusta’, a prostitute’s lament:
The ‘Zica vai lá’ video features Brazilian football star Neymar as Emicida’s martial arts master!
Musically Emicida incorporates an ever-widening list of styles. Funk, samba, rock, soul all play a regular part on his records and in his gigs.
“This isn’t a fad”, he asserts, “it’s in the roots – rap was created from funk loops – James Brown, a sampler, that’s it. Songs are born out of other songs, we’ve always drunk from other fountains. Somewhere along the way the misconception arose that rap is oblivious to the rest of the musical map, but we’re open to every genre.”
He clearly respects Brazil’s musical legacies recording with musicians from other generations including formidable samba singer Elza Soares
His 2013 full-length album: ‘The Glorious Return of Who Never Was Here’ has all the anger and hope of his earlier work, but with a lusher, more varied musical backdrop.
The stories of depravation are never far from Emicida’s lips. On ‘Arise and Walk’ (the video of which he released in readiness the 2014 World Cup), he talks about a kid becoming the man of the house at age 6 and describes his environment as ‘dirty as a komodo dragon’.
Another belter from his newest album is ‘Earlier Today’.
Listen to those vocals. They have a gravity, a vulnerability, a soulfulness, a passion that you don’t need to understand Portuguese to be struck by. Translate it and grasp the full weight of the sadness.
Hard-working, optimistic and realistic: Emicida, our 30th Elevator.
Watch a 3-part 30-minute Emicida documentary HERE. http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/emicida/emicidas-rise-to-fame-part-1