Criolo built his reputation in the São Paulo hip-hop underground. Alongside DJ DanDan, he’s been financing and hosting the Rinha dos MC’s, an infamous local freestyle battle. His first record was released in 2006, quickly becoming a favorite for local hip-hop heads. The songs focus less on favela culture and more on daily life in less crime-ridden streets. His career has taken a turn lately, as he attempts to incorporate singing into the potted style of Brazilian rap.
Even as his reputation widens, he remains linked to São Paulo street culture. Disgusted with public conflicts between drug dealers in his neighborhood, Criolo recently organized a weekly samba session to help smooth things over. We filmed him at the Matilha Cultural in downtown São Paulo, a cultural center than includes a gallery, movie theatre, and a show space. Criolo was nervous about the turnout, but obviously the concerns were unfounded; there was a line around the block.