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WHAT IN THE HONEST FUNK? My Eye-Opening Experience with Baile Funk in 2021

  1. 2021 has been quite a strange year in a lot of aspects, but, to be more specific, personally, I have had an absolutely weird as hell year with music. That says a LOT because for years, all I have done is seek far and wide for the most forward-thinking music on earth. I guess me finally being done with college gave me the free time I have always wanted to really delve into certain music scenes, and good lord have I fell into some deep ass holes throughout the year like I’m at Camp Green Lake. There’s been new stuff I’ve discovered like the astonishing emergence of Dariacore, but there’s also been many things I have finally had the chance to sit down and fully appreciate like the ever-flourishing left-field Jersey Club scene (Yes these are shameless plugs). But out of everything I have scoured the internet for, there has been a giant strange force towering over me all year residing in South America.

To start off, Brazil, as a country, gets quite a bad rap on the internet in my opinion. Even though I think that a lot of them are funny, these “You’re going to Brazil” type memes have always baffled me because shit, give me some time to learn Portuguese and send my ass over there because Brazil is one of the largest music hubs on the planet today.

What we are here for lies in the Southeast region of Brazil. What started in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro around the 1980s, funk carioca, or more simply baile funk, began as a Brazilian admiration for Miami bass and hip hop music that was influenced by the traditional Afro-Brazilian/American sounds of the region, like samba music. The repetitive bassy Florida beats coupled with infinitely enthusiastic MCs, either anthemically rapping or singing like they’re Stevie B, gave southern Brazil an unfathomably large canvas to advance their music for the decades to come. Throughout those decades, as it was seen as music coming from poorer black communities in Brazil, funk and its culture has always been subject to unjust demonization that is still seen in the country today. Despite the multiple attempts to stop funk in its tracks, funkerios still persevered, and later on, the strictly Miami bass beats became more Brazilian and a lot more minimalistic, with the ever-famous "Boom ChaCha Boom Cha" drum pattern (Don’t laugh at me - you know what I’m talking about) taking shape into the genre, and as the 2000s rolled around, baile funk, once just exclusive to the country, grew as artists from outside the continent took direct influence from it and shared it upon the world stage.

As a kid who lived in the middle of nowhere south Louisiana, hearing M.I.A’s Bucky Done Gun on a NBA Live game at 9 years old was the first time I had ever listened to anything resembling baile funk. The repetitive horn sample with the booming digital-like drums was seriously an obsession of mine, but I had no idea what it was called or where it was from. It was just a M.I.A. song to me.

As I got older and more “online,” I learned more and more about baile music (Big shoutout Sango) and gained an immense appreciation for its sound and culture. In its essence, nowadays, it is purely party music! Baile is just people going to local dances in Brazil and having a good time. Everyone is dancing, chatting, and getting fucked up. That’s what music is about! It’s not about sitting in your computer chair like The Thinker trying to point out that the audio isn’t really 320kbps and where this will be in your topsters. It’s about big ass speakers and having fun. Always has. Always will.

Throughout the 21st century, baile funk has grown constantly, more recently thanks to popular music channels like Canal Kondzilla and GR6 Explode plus internet boosters like TikTok. Since then, the strictly Rio baile sound has mutated in various sorts of ways. This was due to the influence of two other large cities in the Southeast: São Paulo and Belo Horizonte; the 3 cities currently serve as the 3 pillars of baile funk, where each have their own distinct characteristics.

Rio funk is probably the “purist” funk to some, as it retains most of the original funk motifs and sounds, like the easily recognizable baile funk drum pattern. In my opinion, it is the type of funk the average non-Brazilian has probably heard before. That doesn’t mean that the folks in Rio aren’t pushing the sound. Nowadays, the standard tempo is usually around 130-150 BPM, but in some instances in Rio, they can get up to around 170-200 BPM; on top of that, this funk can get LOUD. The music is very frantic at those high tempos as well. Out of the 3, I think Rio funk is the most varied, because of how barebones and minimalistic the parameters are (which is something I think can be said about all funk). It always invites creativity, which is why baile funk is such a fun and deep music scene to dive through. These guys at Baile da VJ below show how it’s done in Rio.

Travel 6 and a half hours north from Rio and you hit Belo Horizonte (BH), where they have an immensely unique sound to their funk coming from the area. Throwing away most drums and replacing the beats with minimalistic, ethereal soundscapes, BH funk consists of short, playful, pitch-manipulated samples, with crooning and moody MCs shining on top of them. It’s all about the ATMOSPHERE here. The songs can gauge from brooding and ominous to beautifully chilling at times, due to the distinct production. It is such a pleasant and experimental branch of the baile sound that, despite its already prominent popularity, has loads of potential to grow in the years to come. Fun fact: This one video a few years ago of these guys dancing that people put a whole bunch of songs over actually came from a BH baile from 2018!

Now, if you instead go west from Rio, you will approach the giant that is São Paulo. Honestly when you get close, I would not be surprised that there is a giant Party City sign to welcome you there, because São Paulo funk is like if the movie Project X was a music genre. There’s 2 big types of SP funk, one being an astronomically popular offshoot of Rio funk whose lyrics focus on cars, women, and other expensive shit called Funk Ostentação, but today I want to focus on the other kind.

While BH focuses more on subtlety and precision in their sound, São Paulo’s rave funk scene is like getting hit in the head with a shovel; it is just in-your-face the entire time. The big defining feature of SP funk is the synths used in there, and how LARGE it all sounds - almost like cheesy EDM music you would hear at some festival in the middle of nowhere. A lot of songs are mixed to the point where there’s just distortion and chaos throughout. The synths here sound like either it was made on a Sega Genesis or Megatron was cooking up in the studio (Note: There is literally a speaker system at baile parties over there called Megatron lmao). The music here only has two moods: ear-piercingly loud, shattering every window around the block or beats deep enough to wake up the beasts that live inside of our Earth. It’s insane music. In my opinion, SP rave funk is my favorite, due to its culture surrounding it and how it focuses on the party aspect of funk. But that is no diss to Rio and Belo Horizonte, as their party cultures are just as great and similar! Going back to São Paulo, you got a huge car/motorsport culture there (Shout out Interlagos - best racetrack on the entire planet); everyone there at the bailes are getting all jacked up on Red Bull and whiskey while wearing polarized Oakley sunglasses. In those enormous crowds, you also have a trove of people just bobbing umbrellas around like it’s New Orleans???. I don’t know what started that, but I need to go so fucking bad, you have no idea.

The baile parties in Brazil almost seem crazier than the music at times. I’ve seen videos of raves inside of WW1 trenches and parties with fucking Pennywise dancing on top of speakers. What a strange place, but I love it so much. It is so nice to have parties with DJs not acting as the focus, but to have the music as the centerpiece instead as it always should be. It gives me the same vibe as British raves in the early 90s. All about the music. Funny enough, my curiosity of funk culture got the best of me earlier in the summer, as while I was talking about how cool bailes were, a part of Brazil twitter found out and decided to make fun of me about how I was like a caveman who just discovered fire for the first time. I had so many people personally tell me to come to Brazil (lmao) and trust me, I’m going to go one day to experience this.

But overall, despite me spending so much time listening and learning about baile funk this year, I still don’t think I have fully grasped everything like I wanted to. There is like an unfathomable amount of music released by so many baile funk Soundcloud/YouTube accounts daily so it feels like I am trying to constantly catch up, which is understandable because I’m someone who should not even be aware of most of this music! But, look out next year for some really in-depth pieces on each of these scenes, because I really want to show everyone how diverse and inventive this culture is. It truly is one of the few music scenes on Earth right now that seriously feels like true “future music.”

So to cap this off, I would just want to share some of my favorite baile funk tunes from throughout the year. I tried to get a little bit from all 3 of the pillars so you can see the difference between the distinguishable scenes. Keep in mind that this list is not from a Brazilian perspective, but instead from the perspective of a chronically online 20-something curious Cajun thing that lives in the backwoods of Texas. So, if there is any Brazilian who somehow reads this and is puzzled by my choices, let me know, as it would be an honor to be ridiculed and educated by my fellow Brasileiros again. Nothing but love! But, it’s time to get your best Lacoste fit ready because here are my favorite baile tunes from 2021:

FBC & VHOOR - BAILE

Now, here I am already lying to you by recommending a whole ass album and not just a song, but hear me out! Belo Horizonte’s MC FBC and local producer VHOOR’s collab album BAILE last month is seriously one of the best releases of the year! It is a love letter to the classic Miami bass and Freestyle sound that helped give birth to baile funk back in Rio altogether. It gives a newer generation a look into what Brazil was like in the 1990s, before the prevalence of the internet. An impossible, but still familiar world to some. The production here seriously brings me back as a small kid going through my mom’s freestyle tapes, marveling at the the lush sound of the horns and synths, plus the energetic pace that the analog drums held throughout. And even almost 2 decades later, that same timeless sound still gives me wide eyes and makes me want to buy the biggest speakers ever to annoy my neighbors. While being timeless, FBC and VHOOR give so much modern life to this album. For example, on something like Melo Do Vacilão, while keeping that same Miami bass feel, producer VHOOR adds a lot more to the sound, like UK drill-influenced 808s slides. Also for any Portuguese speakers (wish I could say myself!), the lyrics tell a love story of someone who meets a girl at baile party, which further explores themes of poverty, police brutality, and corruption, all aspects of life that were and still are very real for many Brazilians living in those same neighborhoods today. At only 27 minutes, BAILE is seriously a good investment of your time and a HUGE omission from so many end of year lists this year.

MC Fael Halls, MC DDSV Prod. DJ C4 - Black Lança

There is so much about rave funk that just baffles me. Like what’s up with the clowns, why are these the sounds chosen, and why the hell does it go so hard?!?? São Paulo producer DJ C4 has made one of the most addicting beats I have heard this year with Black Lança. The head-scratching beat sounds like a physical robot singing and vibing along with their friends. The metallic hits of the cold synths combined with MC Fael Hall’s smooth soft voice singing the chorus “Usou Black lança/Tua bunda balança” (lança is a party drug of choice at many bailes in Brazil - correct me if I’m wrong) feels like something that shouldn’t even be around for another 10 years. An invigorating tune that truly shows the absurdity and true party nature of São Paulo.

DJs LK DA ESCOCIA, JEFFINHO, & PEDRIN - QUANDO O GRAVE BATE FORTE VS 170 BPM

Now this, oh my god….. This is a Rio funk remix of a hugely popular rave funk/house inspired track that is just so good. (Try explaining that someone who don’t got a clue…..) The original song by Alok, MC Don Juan, and DJ GBR feels like something made for a night club. Thumping bass, a slow enough tempo for everyone to dance to, and MC Don Juan’s voice forceful enough to carry an entire dance floor. What the Rio producers do in this remix just breathes a whole new life into this popular tune. The remix is like being strapped to a roller coaster, and you’re just waiting to finally get over the big hill. Once you hit the peak, the steep decent down triggered by the punchy and quick bassy drums is just exhilarating. It keeps going and going and makes you want dance for your life. As all music should..

MC Mazzie and MC RD Prod. DJ Wizard and DJ NpcSize - ELE TE BOTA SOCA SOCA

Here’s another look into the strange world of São Paulo rave funk. First off, DJ Wizard and DJ NpcSize are not of this planet. The synths here feel like a noxious gas that would just linger throughout any room, and them being played constantly throughout the 3 minutes of this song feels like some type of force field has enveloped the entire town that you’re living in. That plus the repetitive juxtaposition of MC Mazzie’s high playful voice with MC RD’s direct low delivery makes you think that this tune has nicotine in it. I really can’t stop playing this one. It’s music that sounds like it was made in space, and I wouldn’t want that any other way.

This is also the tune that made me aware of the even stranger world of anime funk edits, something I should not even be aware of!! I feel like this is something that is also huge on Tiktok, but I’m not on Brazilian Tiktok at all, so don’t take my word for it. All I know is that this is some of the weirdest shit I have seen on the internet. The day I got recommended a ELE TE BOTA SOCA SOCA funk edit, I had to get off the internet for a little while because sometimes I am just baffled with what I get myself into. What a strange world the internet is, man.

MC FAHAH and WESLEY GONZAGA Prod. DJ WESLEY GONZAGA - GONZAGA DEU FUGA 2

I think out of everyone I have listened to throughout Brazil this year, Belo Horizonte’s DJ Wesley Gonzaga has been one of the most interesting and intriguing artists, for sure. With that vibrant blue hair, he looks like a cartoon character from the late 90s, but Gonzaga’s claim to fame in the funk world has been his producing ventures, where he has been one of the most popular BH producers around. All of his beats show how raw the BH sound can get, like for example, look at something like BRANCA DE NEVE, where you have these ear-shattering horns that sound like the worst alarm ever created, but you don’t ever want to press the snooze button! Gonzaga’s production is very aggressive, but at the same time, so atmospheric, which is what makes him so good.

Nowadays, Wesley Gonzaga is doing double duty as a producer and somewhat of a MC, which can be seen in Gonzaga Deu Fuga 2, a track with fellow BH rapper MC FAHAH. Gonzaga’s beat here sounds so mysterious throughout: that plucky high pitched sample sounds like the noises a game would make when you are selecting things throughout the menus. MC Fahah’s monotone delivery serves as a great contrast to the playful sounds, but then Gonzaga comes in with this melodic, emo-like crooning, where the beat changes to something a bit more majestic, but still has that barebones and empty feel that a lot of BH funk tunes have. The whole experience feels like you’re standing alone on the street in the middle of the night, lights from buildings beaming all around, with the song slowly looming behind you. Really need Wesley Gonzaga to release a full length next year. What an artist.

MC 2Jhow Prod. DJ Serpinha - ESPIRRA O LANÇA

Now this one is just hypnotizing. SP producer DJ Serpinha teams up with Rio artist MC 2Jhow to make one of the most intoxicating tunes I have heard all year. All you have here is a constant booming drum beat (my GOD that low end) and MC 2Jhow’s silky mysterious voice, which carries this whole track. In the chorus, 2Jhow’s voice just travels through the song like a thick smoke. Everything feels hazy, and gets even hazier and more hypnotic when he brings out the high pitched crooning. It’s almost dizzying, and I can’t imagine how this sounds and feels at an actual baile in person. Also this video of these guys dancing to it on a roof is so hard.

MC Charli do XCX - Good Ones (umru, Aaron Cartier, DJ RAMEMES, warpstr, Milkfish & Mu540 Remix)

I’m not even going to lie here. I am not a fan of Charli XCX’s recent output. Never was a fan of the 80s revival stuff, but this remix of “Good Ones” here makes me forget all about that. At over 7 minutes, you have a wide array of some of the craziest artists you can find on Soundcloud. (Big shout out to Aaron Cartier with their take on funk this year) The real standouts here on this remix are Rio native DJ RaMeMes with some of the most crisp baile drum patterns you will hear, Soundcloud weirdo Milkfish noisily coming in and throwing in Skrillex just for the fuck of it, and SP’s DJ Mu540 topping it all off by accompanying Pabllo Vittar with a funky ass bassline and then putting it into overdrive by showing what rave funk is all about. There is just so much going on in these 7 minutes, you feel like you have to pause halfway and take a breather. Shows the beauty of collaboration through the internet and seriously is one of my favorite remixes of any song this year.

MC MAGRELLA Prod. DJ ANDERSON DO PARAÍSO - PATY TREM BARBIE

The more I listen to BH funk, the more I think that this is the craziest music on earth. Belo Horizonte’s DJ Anderson Do Paraíso is an absolutely insane producer and has this very occult/horror-ish feel to their beats, and that can be seen in Paty Trem Barbie. The ominous violin sample that lingers in and out throughout the song paired with MC Magrella’s sultry voice sounds so strange and haunting, but you seriously can’t get enough of it. Like seriously, try to listen to any Anderson Do Paraíso song and you can get what I mean. Putting his stuff in my “Spooky Baile Funk Haunted House” playlist just in case I need that one day.

MC Faelzin Prod. DJ L Martins and DJ Arthuziin - Tom De Voz

Now that I have shown you the scary and spooky side of BH funk, I have to of course show you the beautiful paradise side of it, and good lord does this song feel like paradise. BH producers DJ L Martins and DJ Arthuziin made a beat here that feels like the bluest waves washing up on you slowly on a beautiful beach. The whispery vocal samples that travel around you here feel like cool breezes that wash over your skin. Just everything about this feels so free and uplifting. Like a McDonald’s sprite! In addition, the song itself sounds like something you would hear when you wake up 20 years in the future. There’s seriously nothing that sounds even close to this outside Brazil. Like I said earlier, funk is true future music.

MC PR Prod. DJ Mimo Prod. - MEGA LOVE DA KEYSHIA COLE

There’s just something so appealing to me when funk producers decide to remix tunes that are a lot more recognizable for gringos like me, and even though this only came out a few weeks ago, this Keyshia Cole funk remix produced by SP DJ Mimo Prod. absolutely FLOORED me. Despite the usual chaos funk remixes bring, this one still retains the intimacy of the original juggernaut of a track, but still gives it that funk flair with the almost-beatbox-like drums that accompany MC PR’s cold and careless voice. This one has been on repeat since I heard it. A mystifying remix. Using the remix talk to shout out these Bruno Mars and Linkin Park rave funk remixes that I still don’t believe are real. Funk is a beautifully strange thing, everyone…

MC LARANJINHA Prod. DJ GORDÃO DO PC - ROCT POT 02

Since we were previously on the topic of recognizable tunes, I just had to add this one from prominent BH natives producer DJ Gordão do PC (always got love for my fellow gordões no matter where they are) and MC Laranjinha, which takes the blueprint of Soulja Boy’s classic “Crank Dat” and makes a hell of BH funk track. The sample use of Soulja Boy going “uhhhhhhhhh YOUUUUUUUU” is so genius here. That, plus the iconic short steel drum hits and MC Laranjinha’s infinite personality shining make this tune impossible to not move to. Need a Zan With That Lean funk remix so bad…..

DJ RAMEMES - 30 MINUTIN BAFORANDO LANÇA 001 - BEAT SERIE GOLD 200BPM

Earlier I mentioned Rio producer DJ RaMeMes being on that Charli XCX remix, but I still feel like that still doesn’t do justice with how much I have enjoyed his music this year. Whenever he’s not remixing stuff from Donda or putting TikTok earworms through the wringer, DJ RaMeMes is making some of the craziest mixes I have ever heard. Earlier this year, he put out a TWO HUNDRED AND T E N BPM funk mix that felt like I was being disintegrated the entire time. It is just some jaw-dropping shit that my brain can barely process. While I think that that mix is incredible, I think his slower 200 BPM mix (like that even makes a difference!!!) from September is otherworldly. The frantic pace of all of the tunes, that sometimes is halted by this large distorted bass monster raining down on you, is just something that you have to experience all the way through. It seriously feels like some type of caffeine that can be transferred through your ears because this mix makes you feel like you can take on the world yourself. DJ RaMeMes just proves his nickname “O DESTRUIDOR DO FUNK” so right.

LASTLY, SOME RAVE FUNK BEATS!!!!!

For my last little space, I just wanted to talk about a few of the sleepless nights I had this year going through so much baile funk on YouTube. A lot of producers just upload a lot of beats onto their accounts, and it is seriously some of the most overwhelming experiences I have had with music in my life. You’ll come across like 10-15 of them that are just okay, but then there’s just one that just throws you out of your chair. Especially more in the rave funk scene (Just thought of the concept of “rage funk” and now my stomach hurts), I have come across so many demented beats that I couldn’t just not share, so here are a few:

Here, DJ Menor 7 and DJ Wizard make something here that feels like a combination of some alternate universe blog-house offshoot and music that came from a lost Streets of Rage game from the late 90s. The fun that can be had thanks to rave funk is endless.

That one seems a bit tame, so I have to show you how crazy this can get, and DJ GH7 is totally the type to garner a “what is wrong with you” out of anyone. This track entitled “ROCK DOS NOÍA” is just so violent, with these synth hits that feel like two giant metal vessels crashing into each other. Here, everything around you is breaking, and all you can do is run for your life.

While not as insane, SP’s DJ Rafinha Dz7 is just a monster. Like seriously, listen to anything they are involved with, as well as anyone involved with Club Da Dz7, as they’re one of my favorite funk contributors in all of Brazil. Here, with MONTAGEM SINISTRA CLUB DA DZ7, Rafinha channels some type of evil deity to create this sinister beat (as the title suggests). It’s just music that I just want to put on my speakers at home to drown out anything around me. Imagine hearing this on those big ass speakers at the bailes. I’d probably shatter into a billion pieces like I was made of glass. Loud music will always prevail above all.

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All in all, I think a lot of the fun in this, for the average reader who knows nothing of baile, comes from going through and discovering the different artists. I recommend to try to follow a few accounts out of curiosity and see where the fun takes you. That’s what so incredible about discovering music: The possibility of hearing something for the first time and it just bewildering you. That is what keeps my love for music stronger and stronger by the day. But, I hope you got to hear at least one thing you have never heard before, whether you like it or not. My selections here do not even scrape the large surface of what baile funk truly is, so seriously let your curiosity guide you to explore more of this massive genre of music.

Below I have a playlist of a lot of the tunes mentioned here, plus I added a few more great songs that show why you should keep an eye on baile funk in Brazil, as it is seriously one of the best music scenes on the planet right now.

Till next time….

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