‘Racionais: From the Streets to Sao Paulo’ Now on Netflix

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The documentary Racionais: Das Ruas de São Paulo Pro Mundo is now available on Netflix.

The film chronicling the life and times of Brazil’s most popular music group,  quickly overtook some of the biggest streaming hits, securing key spots in the list of the ten most watched productions. It includes interviews with group members, music business professionals and much more. 

According to the official synopsis of the film, “the iconic rap group Racionais MC’s has transformed street poetry into a powerful movement in Brazil and around the world with its protests in the form of music.” 

Along with rare interviews and a ton of music, the movie includes previously unreleased scenes that were shot over the group’s more than three-decades-long history.  The documentary’s goal is to emphasize the Racionais’ influence and legacy on Brazilian music from their early performances on the streets of Sao Paulo to the present. 

Rappers Mano Brown, Ice Blue, Edi Rock and KL Jay established the group Racionais MC’s in 1988. Their catalog represents a popular sense of protest against racism’s role in prolonging suffering and violence, as well as the ruin of the lives of young, Black and poor people from the Brazilian margins. 

The group’s first album, “Holocausto Urbano(Urban Holocaust) debuted in 1990. They performed all around the state of Sao Paulo over the next few years, including performances in juvenile detention centers. This cemented their status as musical activists. In 1991, the group served as the opening act for Public Enemy during their world tour stop in South America. Their popular hit, “Pânico na Zona Sul,” samples Public Enemy’s now-classic, “Fight the Power.”

Over their career, Racionais MCs developed a hip-hop sound and reputation for political and educational rap. They were the face of the Brazilian Ministry of Education’s RAPensando a Educação (“Rap-Thinking Education”) program. They toured schools lecturing on a variety of social issues affecting Afro-Brazilians.  

The production of the group’s albums over the years expressed an appreciation and solidarity with the African American musical tradition with samples from several influential artists, including James Brown, Marvin Gaye, The Meters and Curtis Mayfield. Their political philosophy can also be seen in their album art. 

Their second EP “Escolha Seu Caminho(Choose Your Path), has a front cover image depicting the group around a table occupying themselves with guns, drugs and money. The back cover presents the opposite “path,” showing the group around the same table filled with books they’re reading and taking notes from. 

Racionais launched into global fame with their second studio album, “Sobrevivendo no Inferno” (Surviving in Hell) in 1997. 

This monumental album was the first production on their independent label, Costra Nostra. The album sold over 1.5 million units, propelled by the single “Diário de um Detento” (‘Diary of a Detainee’). The track was produced and written as a collaboration between Manu Brow and Jocenir, an inmate at the notorious Brazilian prison, Carandiru. The penitentiary was the site of the historic 1992 Carandiru massacre. 

During an inmate uprising, Brazilian military special forces descended upon the prison resulting in the murder of 111 inmates. Considered a human rights crime internationally, none of the officers indicted have served jail time. The music video portrays the horrors of the prison and juxtaposes them with other global atrocities. 

After nine albums and over thirty years in the rap game, Racionais MCs stand as hip-hop legends. The group is often compared to Public Enemy, NWA, and The Wu-Tang Clan due to their politically-laced street storytelling and relentless authenticity. 

The documentary, Racionais: Das Ruas de São Paulo Pro Mundo shot to the top of the Netflix Brazilian most-watched list. Check it out tonight. 

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