By Cory Sklar
By Alee Karim
By Christina Li
By Dave Pehling
By Ian S. Port
By SF Weekly
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
Though nowhere near each other atlas-wise, Baltimore, Atlanta, Detroit, San Francisco, and Rio de Janeiro share at least two traits. Each is home to an original form of bounce music that captures an insular place and pace. And they all have a champion in DJ Wes Pentz, aka Diplo.
This journeyman claiming Philly by way of Florida garnered fame by ignoring genre and geographical lines. As half of party rockers Hollertronix, then as a singular DJ/producer (for M.I.A., remixing Gwen Stefani, and much more), Diplo has actively extended the mash-up concept across pop and world cultures. First he helped popularize the upfront fuck-or-fight traxxx of Baltimore's deeply ingrained Club Music. Now he has similarly plucked and put forth the favela (hillside slum)-initialized Funk Carioca (aka Baile Funk), the latest decades-old-but-just-now-hitting-the-glossies street music where punk meets trunk rock.
"[Funk Carioca] isn't thought out like a Dylan song; it's made quick and heavy as possible, which is the way I like to make and play music," says Diplo by phone. "I love homegrown music that doesn't put anything in the way of the vibe and stays strong because it's made for the people it's by."
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Over the past two years, if you Googled "Baile Funk" (technically not a genre, but the name of the "funk ball" events), you couldn't pitch a fork throughout the blog-o-sphere without hitting references to Diplo's Favela on Blast mix CD (Essay Recordings' Rio Baile Funk: Favela Booty Beats compilation falls a close second). Now Diplo has logically progressed to producing and touring with the first signing to his Mad Decent label: Bonde do Role, a Brazilian trio that, like Diplo, hails from essentially the suburbs, and shares a background in cultural appreciation and appropriation.
"The whole Baile Funk thing started when people in Brazil tried to imitate the Miami bass guys, and they got it just a little bit wrong," states Bonde do Role's DJ Gorky by phone. "Now we're doing it 'wrong' our way."
Indeed, Baile Funk stemmed from the '80s when DJ/producers following the legendary, still active Marlboro imported bottom-heavy (and moving) Miami Bass records themselves hybrids of hip hop and funk plus the body and booty electro then adhered concussive percussion, Portuguese patois, and illegal loops to create Funk Carioca. It's a shantytown of musical resources. Contemporaries such as Edu K (originally of group De Falla, now solo) pulled a Rick Rubin by adding guitar riffs.
Baile Funk has gone from the slum sound systems to being engrained across economic classes. And while the genre was originally describing the ghetto's back-alley business, Bonde do Role's usage now incorporates things like spitting about silly shit in food over Alice in Chains and Grease samples. But Bonde is still in tune with regional street party culture, displaying an instinctive cheekiness that sticks to Poppa Diplo's mantra of translating without displacing homegrown enthusiasm and integrity.
It's not just music formerly of the drug traps that's making the Brazilian scene oh so hot right now. Touring along with Diplo and Bonde do Role is another example of the country's indie class, São Paolo's Cansei de Ser Sexy (CSS). These irrepressible sass merchants are like the Sounds meet the Go-Go's at a pep rally, even name-checking Death From Above 1979 in one song.
Ultimately, what binds these groups isn't sociology, though; they're performers who'd rather see asses on the dancefloor than critics riding their dicks. Their sets intend to unite the room into a single-minded party tribe which can also be seen as the intrinsic, ritualistic intention of music from crunk to hyphy to Angola's Kuduro (perhaps the next "big" thing). The beauty is in the booty no matter how it rubs worldwide, or where Diplo runs up ashore next.