It isn’t everyday that you meet a man like Alexandre Barreto.
And this is the reason why. When you talk about the rap community in the U.S. you tend to think of drugs, promiscuity and opulence, and uncharted violence comes to mind. It’s a completely different scenario in Rio de Janeiro; the slums of Brazil aren’t that different from the slums of Los Angeles. Gang violence abounds, drugs and poverty is a daily way of life.
Alexandre Barreto – better known as MV Bill, rap artist – grew up in this environment. And he’s a rapper. It’s easy to imagine how an individual like him can be easily drawn into the world his music is usually associated with, especially given that the city he hails from, Cidade de Deus (CDD), is a festering cesspool of the Brazilian drug trade. Watch the movie named after the city. You’ll see what I’m talking about.
But rise up he did. For MV Bill, rap became his ticket out of the slums. If he’d played his cards carefully, he would have found a way to move up in the world, and make his way to the outskirts of Hollywood as a musical sensation. Considering the situation in CDD, one wouldn’t take that against the rap artist. After all, nobody wants to keep on living in a slum all his life. But rather than focusing on the negative aspect of his art form, MV Bill instead used his influence to foster an anti-drug advocacy in the local community.
It started out with his lyrics. MV Bill utilized his words to document the so-called war of the favelas (the Brazilian slums) where rampant drug trafficking is continuously harming the children of the community, turning these kids into victims of child abuse. But what MV Bill considers the real crime here is what the drugs are doing to the children. Early onset drug addiction is not a laughing matter in Rio de Janeiro, but the presence of the drug cartels operating within the slums end up using the children as peddlers, exposing them at an early age to the various narcotic substances damaging the local society.
MV Bill’s Brazilian rap form seeks to bring awareness to the plight of these children. His aim is to help them find the courage to lift them out of the drug circles, and to focus their energies on more positive, uplifting activities. In this manner, it is MV Bill’s mission to use his music as a weapon to put an end to the root of violence in cities like CDD. He is Rio de Janeiro’s resident cultural hero, out to make a difference one verse at a time.