The Brazilian internet imploded last weekend when a video was posted online of MC Daleste getting shot and killed. MC Daleste, whose real name was Daniel Pellegrine, was a prominent 20-year-old singer in São Paulo’s Funk Ostentação scene. He was shot in Campinas, a Brazilian city of São Paulo State, last Saturday during a performance at a free and open festival at a social housing complex. Right at the beginning of his set, during a segue between tracks, a shot rang out and Daleste fell to the ground.
MC Daleste is the seventh baile funk artist killed in the state of São Paulo since 2010 – five MCs, one DJ and one manager were all murdered under unclear circumstances. But, of all these slayings, Daleste’s murder has created the biggest uproar in the media and social networking sites, partially because he was so beloved. Even though MC Daleste never released an official video, his songs racked up millions of views on YouTube and he garnered hundreds of thousands of followers on Facebook and Twitter.
After his death, several videos surfaced showing the moment of the crime. They were recorded by fans who were in the crowd at the concert and they spread like wildfire all over YouTube and Facebook.
There have been over 4 million views of his death on YouTube already, and judging by the comments a lot of the viewers are celebrating it. Poor black people in Brazil traditionally make baile funk. So there are many who ignorantly view the music as vulgar and consider a death like Daleste's as an inevitable aspect of the subculture. To them, Daleste’s murder just means there is “one less” troublemaker out on the streets. Even the president of the Association of families and friends of São Paulo State Police Officers set off some online fireworks to celebrate.
Even worse, there’s a first-person shooter game simulating Daleste’s death. In the game’s promotional video, which is a modified version of Doom, you can see which cultures and races its creators want to wipe off the face of the Earth. There are references to Globo TV network, the social welfare programme called Bolsa Família, Regina Casé (who hosts a popular multiculturalist show called Esquenta), baile funk’s debauched singer Tati-Quebra Barraco and the country’s Workers Party. All of these elements are unpopular among the traditional white upper class of Brazil. As the video wraps up, the soundtrack is a battle cry by BOPE, a special forces unit of Rio’s military police. Some of the text reads: “Thank God now he’s burning in hell, sitting and spinning on Satan’s blazing cock...”
This vitriol isn't too surprising. It's been there since the funk ostentação genre started a decade ago. It all began on the outskirts of São Paulo, where the people took up baile funk music imported from Rio’s nightclub culture. Rio’s sexual lyrics and beats entangled with America’s 50 Cent-style gangster rap gelled together to become known as funk ostentação or “ostentation funk”.
The rise of funk ostentação was happening alongside a growth in Brazil’s economy and newfound social mobility for its lower classes. That mobility has led people from the poorest areas of the city to have access to computers, the internet and social networks. Daleste himself produced his first tracks in an internet cafe in his hood, Penha, East zone of São Paulo.
When this growth started, São Paulo’s baile funk was “proibidão” or “strongly prohibited”. The music focused on the lives of its musicians. It was filled with lyrics about urban crime life, the power struggles with the police, guns, drug dealing, organised crime and death.
That direct link with the crime world made me interested in the deaths of those like Daleste. I decided to check on how the investigations of the other six deaths in São Paulo’s funk ostentação were going.
The killings started on April 10, 2010, when MC Felipe Boladão and his DJ Felipe were shot to death by two individuals driving a motorcycle outside Felipe’s house in Praia Grande, a coastal city in São Paulo state. They were waiting for a ride to perform in Guarulhos City.
Also on the state’s coast, MC Duda do Marapé was killed by at least nine shots in Santos in April, 2011. He was 27 years old. Witnesses report that two people on a motorcycle started the shooting. A .40 caliber bullet shell casing was found in the crime scene, next to the city bus station, which was a place known for heavy drug dealing and use.
Jadielson da Silva Almeida, who is known as MC Primo, was executed with 11 shots in front of his two kids at São Vicente’s Jockey Club when he was 28 years old. He was parking the car in his house when he was approached by two men in a white car. That happened on April 19, 2012.
Nine days later, the next victim was MC Careca, also in Santos. He was executed with .12 caliber shots to the face, next to a hair salon where he worked. It was reported that Careca had received a death threat during Primo’s funeral.
The deaths of these MCs drove people’s attention to a wave of murders in the Baixada Santista area. Three cops were arrested, but they were found not guilty. At the time, the state of Sao Paulo was living in tension.
The body of a manager known as Japonês do Funk (Ricardo Vatanabe, 42) was found in his office in Santos on November 28, 2012, strangled with a wire. In addition to investing in baile funk artists, Japonês also worked in real estate, owned a nightclub in São Vicente and ran for city councillor twice.
The police arrested seven men in February accused of taking part in a “crime court”, where criminals try and sentence people who break their code of conduct. One of the men involved in his death was a man named Marcelo Garcia.
I checked with São Paulo’s State Department of Public Safety about the status of all these investigations. They acknowledged that all of these cases are unsolved with no new leads. Peculiarly, Duda’s case was taken to trial with an “unknown perpetrator”, which, as you can tell, means absolutely nothing.
Daleste’s murder will be investigated by the Homicide Unit of the General Investigations Division (DIG in Portuguese). They still don’t have information about any suspects. Several baile funk MCs in São Paulo and Rio paid tribute to Daleste, such as MC Pocahontas, MC Rodolfinho, Guimê and Leo da Baixada. Fans also did their honours online. A demonstration calling for peace in the baile funk scene is being organised for tomorrow (Tuesday 16th July) at Vale do Anhangabaú, in the city of São Paulo. But who knows how many more MCs' deaths it will take for the police and the elite of Brazil to stop taking these precious lives for granted and get to the bottom of these murders.