Racionais MCs: high speed against the tide

Distant from the media and without any advertising, the São Paulo hip-hoppers release their first live album with 200,000 copies sold.

Marco Antonio Barbosa
When they have to deal with the media, the Racionais MCs definitely neglect their own name (Racionais stands for rationals) and escape from the patterns that were dictated by the big corporations. They release albums in their own label called Cosa Nostra; they refuse to give interviews and don' t appear on television; their albums are not sent to the press and they don't even care about radio stations. Irrational or not, the question is: the Racionais MCs are the most successful group in Brazilian rap history. The one million copies sold of the album Sobrevivendo no Inferno (1998) proves that.

The paradox of their radical independence gained one more chapter in the end of 2001. They released Racionais Ao Vivo, a live CD covering the Sobrevivendo no Inferno tour. The long-awaited studio album since 1998 is still a promise, but it raises great expectation: ...Ao Vivo was distributed to the stores with 200,000 copies sold.

Mano Brown, Edi Rock, KL Jay and Ice Blue play a set with songs from Sobrevivendo no Inferno only - Capítulo 4 Versículo 3, Qual Mentira Vou Acreditar, Tô Ouvindo Alguém Me Chamar, Mágico de Oz, Rapaz Comum, Diário De Um Detento, Fórmula Mágica Da Paz. The songs are subdivided with instrumental skits. In these instrumentals, the rappers recorded short speeches like messages to their community. The live recordings took place at several neighbourhoods in São Paulo like Jundiaí, Mauá and Interlagos. The reason that made the Racionais MCs record this album was the fact that the audiences were sistematically taping their gigs and selling bootleg versions for cheap in the streets.

Unfortunately, Racionais Ao Vivo is not as good as it could be. The sound is not thumping. Actually sounds flat, poorly mastered, with harsh-sounding loops that hardly resemble the fat sound of the studio tracks. The catharsis of their gigs is not translated in the live album. But the massive crowd is there, singing in unison each verse of the lyrics.

Vida Lôca (supposedly the name of the forthcoming album – they won't either confirm nor dismiss that), would be distributed by Sony Music, but the negotiation has failed, and they returned to Zâmbia, their original record label. There's so much mistery around the new album (due to be released in march) that their new songs were not included in the live album, even though they've been playing them thoroughly in their gigs. It seems that once more Racionais will keep distant from the media and selling millions of copies.