Larry Rochter reports, in the New York Times, on the Brazilian government’s subsidy of hip-hop:
This is one of Brazil’s Culture Points, fruit of an official government program that is helping to spread hip-hop culture across a vast nation of 185 million people. With small grants of $60,000 or so to scores of community groups on the outskirts of Brazil’s cities, the Ministry of Culture hopes to channel what it sees as the latent creativity of the country’s poor into new forms of expression.
The program, conceived in 2003, is an initiative of Brazil’s minister of culture, Gilberto Gil, who will be speaking on digital culture and related topics on Wednesday at the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference in Austin, Tex. Though today one of the country’s most revered pop stars, Mr. Gil, 64, was often ostracized at the me’ve become a multimedia laboratory. Getting that seed money and that studio equipment has enabled us to become a kind of hip-hop factory.
Hip-Hop can be a very powerful force that should be embraced and allowed to spread but hip-hop can do so without the backing of the government.
Government subsidization may lead to unintended consequences there is no reason why hip-hop should be any different. The government by sponsoring music and artwork effectively endorse a particular style.
Brazilian rap, at least as it has developed in poor neighborhoods here in the country’s largest city, tends to be highly politicized and scornful of lyrics that boast about wealth or sexual conquests. In contrast, the funk movement in Brazil, also imported from the United States but centered in Rio de Janeiro, is unabashedly about celebrating sex, bling and violence.
There is no objective way for the government to recognize which style of rap music is preferable. Endorsing either the political or materialistic rap music would endorse the values and ideas behind the music decisions that are best left up to the people through market forces.
As a part of this hip-hop outreach by Gilberto Gil, Brazil’s Minister of Culture, record companies have also been giving tax breaks for producing rap records. This may create the unintended affect of record companies producing rap instead of other more indigenous forms of music.
The New York Times story briefly mentions some hip-hop enthusiasts such as Manu Brown have decided to resist the government support.
The four elements of hip-hop can prosper in Brazil without the government’s assistance.