Album Review: Emicida – About Kids, Hips, Nightmares, and Homework [Sterns Music, 24th June 2016]

Inspired by a trip to Africa, Emicida (a play on MC and homicide), has released the album About Kids, Hips, Nightmares, and Homework. On it, he collaborates with African musicians such as Kaku Alves, for many years Césaria Évora’s guitarist, and Angolan semba player Joao Morgado. Brazilian music celebrities Caetano Veloso and Vanessa de Mata also feature; Veloso on “Baiana” and de Mata on “Passarinhos.”

“Baiana,” one of the album’s more sultry songs, is its best. The city of Salvador de Bahia has inspired Jorge Amado’s writing, Gilberto Gil’s songs, Emanoel Araujo’s drawings, and the work of countless remembered and forgotten artists. “Baiana,” features baiano Caetano Veloso. A baiana is likely to practice an African diaspora religion, in a city, as Jorge Amado puts it, where “men dance with the gods” in order to pray to spirits brought over from Africa as slaves and adapted to Brazilian life. We hear Yoruba, meaning the tribe and yoruban culture, in the song, proving that this song is fundamentally about both the beauty and complexity of many baianas.

“Mandume” is much more of a hip hop song and the best of the album’s purely hip hop tracks. It features several rappers and several instruments working to amaze the listener. Its acoustic drumming is an incredible addition.

“Madagascar” is very lyrical. From the very beginning, it features female singing that transfixes. It probably isn’t the best rhythm to rap to and though Emicida does a good job at remaining staying in the beat, sometimes the timbre of his rapping doesn’t match the instrumentation. Kaku Alves is the song’s guitarist.

Emicida’s rapping has both a tragic timbre and tragic phrasing. He has mastered his rapping style but throughout the album fails, in the rhythm and instrumentation, to embody the tragedy of either Emicida’s rapping style or hip hop in general. Brazilian music is well known for its optimism, for example Novo Baianos singing to us “Acabou Chorare” or “No More Tears”, but it has produced a great amount of musical tragedy. Nana Vasconcelos, for example with the album Africadeus, has produced meditative tragic phrasing; his production could look for inspiration in other Brazilian music take with a much more tragic shape.