Note from BW of Brazil: We first brought you news about this trio of cuties back in late January. They’re Alice, Mariana and Jennifer, collectively known as the rap/funk trio Pearls Negras. They are from the Rio community of Vidigal and after taking a liking to theater and then rap music, endless hours of practice and rehearsal, they eventually starting to make a name for themselves. Well it looks like these ladies are about about to blow up in a big way: their style is taking them from the slums of Rio to stages all over Europe. Of course, they’re style is not going to appeal to every music fan, but they will surely appeal to young folks into this genre. For a Brazil that routinely ignores its young, poor black community, its great to see them gain international exposure. Not to sound negative, but it’s very telling that it took a European man to pick up on the girls and give them their big break. After all, Brazil seems to be permanently stuck on pale skin as the standard for success (and if you’re not white, you have to be “whitened”). Very interesting the dynamics here. A European man gives three black girls from Rio a chance at stardom outside of a Brazil that routinely ignores its darker-skinned population. It’s also Europe where the girls may have a bigger chance for success singing in Portuguese rather than in the US where mainstream success is generally only for those who speak English.
Check out the girls’ success story plus a few music videos, interviews and mixtape below.
“Pensando em você”
Pearls Negras, rap trio formed in the Vidigal community of Rio, prepare for shows in Europe
by Soraya Batista and Extra – top photo by Cassia Tabatini; other photos by Vanor Correia
Alice Coelho (18), Mariana Alves (17) and Jennifer Loiola (17) are packing their bags to take a journey to France, England, Spain, and possibly other places in August. After releasing the music video for “Pensando em você (Thinking About You)” in January this year and making headlines outside the country, the girls from Pearls Negras will cross the ocean for the first time.
Short interview w/English subtitles
They’re bold, unattached and not afraid to speak their minds. They’re Pearls Negras, a female rap trio born in Vidigal and is now they’re about to conquer Brazil and the world. The group, was discovered by a British label and they have their bags ready for tours, first to São Paulo and then Europe.
The Pearls Negras came about within the walls of the theater project “Nós do Morro” (meaning “us from the hill”). The invitation to venture into rap came from producer Jeckie Brown. A rapper and actress, Brown had the idea to teach rhyming and rap and invited the members of the group, who were already doing theater. Alice and Mariana were enchanted by the sound of rap and got interested in the rhythm, starting Pearls Negras (at first calling themselves Pérolas Negras, “perolas” being Portuguese for pearls). Jennifer was the last to join the group and, after an initial awkwardness, soon showed her whole personality.
“Jackie invited our theater class to take a class of rhyme. We decided to take it more seriously and formed the group,” Mariana accounts. And they really did. For Alice, for example, it was in rap that she found herself. In addition, the singer says that rapping is important because it is necessary “to have vision, wisdom, you have to have romance and poetry to be intimate with the words to make the rhyme.”
Pearls Negras – “Guerreira”
“We really started from scratch, to get where we got. They had to learn to rhyme, rapping, the question of rhythm. In these five years, they played shows at prestigious houses in Rio until they did a show at Morro do Alemão, where an English producer liked their sound,” explains Jeckie, who is a producer and considered the ‘madrinha’ (godmother) of the girls.
She says that the producer worked for Bolabo Records and proved to be quite interested in recording with the group. Although skeptical, the rapper and the girls accepted the invitation and recorded a few songs which were well accepted by label reps. Some time later they returned to Brazil to record the music video “Pensando em você”, at Morro do Vidigal. The video already has over 300,000 views on Youtube.
It was through the Bolabo Records label that they released the mixtape “Biggie Apple” with seven tracks last December. The songs were produced by David Alexander, but the authorship of the rhymes is the girls. For them, the recording of the clip and song is a dream come true.
Girls reconcile music with work in theater and television
“It was incredible. David arrived with the whole team, makeup artists, hair stylists and costume designers to make our look in the clip. We tried several wigs to know which matched more with our face. The clothes of each had been separated, each with a different style,” Mariana says.
After a tour beginning in São Paulo this past spring, in the middle of the year (probably August) the challenge will be even greater: the girls will do shows in Europe.
“It’s great because, rather than representing Vidigal, we’re taking Rio. At shows, there’s funk, we dance passinho, we show carioca (Rio) culture,” says Alice, who has already known Mariana nine years, since the time they were in a theater workshop in Nós do Morro – the group that already revealed talents like Marcelo Mello Jr., Roberta Rodrigues and Thiago Martins.
Rolling Stone interview (in Portuguese)
“The record hasn’t dropped, but we’re all calm. We’re thinking that everything will happen at the right time,” says Alice.
The tour should be reconciled with their studies and acting career that the three girls are still doing. Along with “Nós do Morro”, they appeared in various plays and have participated in films and television commercials, plus the miniseries Suburbia, on Globo TV last year. Currently, Alice is participating in the forthcoming 6pm novela, Meu Pedacinho de Chão written by Benedito Ruy Barbosa.
Lyrics and inspiration
Rapping in a community where funk is the beat that prevails is not always easy, but girls can take this from the lyrics. Mariana says that many people are strangers to the fact that they have chosen such a diverse rhythm from the reality of Rio.
“We also liked funk, only that it’s also cool to be different. We came to make the difference. Prejudice is just in the fact that young girls sing rap, but we have demonstrated that we came to win our space,” she argues.
The lyrics of the songs produced by Pearls Negras discuss all sorts of situations, from the day-to-day girls to the reality of Rio’s morros (literally “hills” meaning favelas/slums). But the favorite theme of the trio is the protest in a style of rap.
“We like to put this in a lot, because people think everything is quiet and sometimes it’s not. We also like to talk about love, this beautiful place where we live, which is Vidigal. But our line is really protest, we like to talk about the reality of things,” said Mariana.
The girls’ great inspiration is undoubtedly their mentor Jeckie Brown, although they also admire other artists of national rap such as Flora Matos, Karol Čonka, MV Bill and Marcelo D2. Among the international artists, they dig Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and Ciara.
The girls see Jeckie (right) as a counselor and ‘Godmother’
“We get inspired by these artists, in the style of singing, in the attitudes. They are divas, we look for this in them,” says Jennifer, the shyest of the group. They proudly tell that are already recognized inside and outside of Vidigal and that they even serve as inspiration for girls of the same age group.
“There are girls who are inspired by our way of dressing. There are girls who come to talk to us on Facebook saying that we help them to have personality, to create a rap band. This is very gratifying, we’re thrilled,” says Jennifer.
Despite the long period of coexistence, the trio says that there was never any kind of misunderstanding between them.
“Apart from our coexistence on stage, we have a friendship outside, we talk and go out together. We have to have unity, it’s not a trivial job that you rehearse and that’s it. We’ve been together five years, we grow together and change together,” says Mariana.
“There’s no singing on stage with a person with whom you have some friction. One needs the other, and if one makes a mistake on stage, the other goes and comes in,” adds Alice.
Before embarking for Europe, the girls will continue with shows in Brazil including an appearance at the Bar do Raff in Vidigal. But that does not mean they’re not eager for international travel.
“We talk about this every day. Of the places that we’ll know, the purchases we’ll make, the kind of hairstyle we’ll wear,” says Alice, who also speaks excitedly of another aspect of the trip: “We’re thinking of the gatinhos (hot guys) that we’ll meet there too, right?”, she says, laughing.
The expectation for the future of Pearls Negras is the best possible. The trio wants to continue with their work singing and wowing audiences.
“We all we hope to conquer our space, our audience; that every show we get our message across. Getting here was not easy, but thank God we got here and now (the thing is) to stay. I’m sure we’ll do it because we’ve battled a long time, we are innovative. In each state or country we want to make people think, ‘they deserve it’,” concludes Alice.
Pearls Negras – Biggie Apple [Full Album]