In Brazil favela, rap battle is sign of returning normality

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — This kind of battle was good news for the impoverished, sometimes violent Cidade de Deus favela in Rio de Janeiro: a rap duel in a local bar held for the first time since the pandemic hit early last year.

Ten local rappers took turns at the microphones as an audience of several dozen cheered and waved their arms to the beat Wednesday night.

It was a sign of a gradual return to normality after almost two years of restrictions meant to slow the spread of COVID-19, a chance to finally celebrate a bit in the “City of God,” a favela made famous by a movie of the same name.

“Many were at home, depressed, and they came here to let it out,” said Fabio de Oliveira, who owns the open-air bar where the contest was held. He said people tell him it “saved my life because I was depressed. Now I come here, I chat, I have friends, I have a family.”

It’s a very local affair. Winners usually get a voucher for a free pizza from the little restaurant next door.

Rap music has an uneasy association with gangsterism in Brazil, with some accusing the rappers of glorifying criminals and illegal activity, but the City of God rappers said they just want sing about their daily struggles and hope for a better future.

Twenty-three-year-old rapper Lucas dos Santos argued the music is a way to draw people away from illegal activity.

“More young people connected to art, more young people connected to culture, less young people involved in crime”, said dos Santos, known as Roque CDD — the initials of Cidade de Deus.

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