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Diplo : Favela Strikes Back

Diplo : Favela Strikes Back
Release Date:2005

By Robbie Whelan | Posted 8/24/2005

Hollertronix DJ Diplo plays amateur ethnomusicologist—traveling to Brazil to collect samples of baile funk, the rough-edged street music of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas (slums). Baile is all about stripped-down booty beats produced by crappy sequencers and Casio keyboards, with MCs droning dirty-sex chants overtop. Think Tone-Loc screaming in Portuguese over the instrumental to “Whoomp! (There It Is).”

On last year’s Favela on Blast, Diplo made his intentions clear: baile funk MCs are about making people dance, and he’s all about exposing (read: elevating) the butt-shaking sensibilities to the American public. It’s condescending in a way, because it implies baile funk is like hip-hop with a Rain Man IQ, and the implication is that by listening to this stuff we can somehow learn to really party—like Brazilians do.

What is more condescending is how Diplo packages his mix tape’s second volume, Favela Strikes Back, so that it’s more palatable to North American ears. A seasoned hip-hop masher, Diplo fills out the beats and layers the baile over James Brown, Rick James, Prodigy, and Annie Lennox breaks until it’s not even folk music anymore. The tracks don’t have names and the liner notes offer no clarifying information—does Mr. Piracy Funds Terrorism even own the rights?—so it’s impossible to ascertain the identities of the MCs you hear. So between the screamy guy repeating “Idelizia” on track 10 and the pre-pubescent boy’s nasal vowels on track 8, you get a fresh, lively crossover dance record that is, while interesting, kind of insulting to the real Rio baile funk Diplo obviously adores.

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