Our favorite self-made Brazilian rapper, Emicida, has had a big year. He played to US audiences for the first time at Coachella, recorded his first professionally produced EP, Doozicabraba e a Revolução Silenciosa, with production help from K. Salaam & Beatnick, and picked up two awards at MTV Brazil’s Video Music Awards, including the prestigious “Artist of the Year” honor.
Today he debuted the music video for “Sorrisos e Lágrimas” (loosely translated as “Smiles and Tears”), the secret track off Doozicabraba e a Revolução Silenciosa. While the album is available to stream and download for free, this secret track was only available on the CD version and is available for online listeners for the first time with the release of this music video.
For the video, Emicida worked with LA-based, Brazilian-American director Gandja Monteiro. The production was a last minute, run-and-gun affair without so much as a concept board, so Monteiro and crew decided to take to the streets of NYC, an environment that feels appropriate given Emicida’s battle rap background. The addition of actress Judy Marte and some subtle but magical post-production visual effects from Bruno Toré give the video a much richer range of textures and tones.
We caught up with Gandja Monteiro to learn more about how the collaboration came about.
The Creators Project: How did the collaboration with Emicida come about? Did you guys know each other previously?
Gandja Monteiro: Emicida and I met a couple of minutes before he went on stage to perform at Coachella. I was watching a band at the main stage when I got a text from my friend Rudah Ribeiro (who was working with Emicida on his first US tour) asking for me to run over to their stage and film the show. So Emicida and I officially met before he performed but we had originally connected over the internet, just days before he left for his trip to the USA. He wanted to take the opportunity of being abroad for the first time to shoot a music video and I was eager to work with him.
What was the concept and inspiration for the video?
The production of the video was pretty crazy. We started shooting the video an hour after they bounced the song to disc at K. Salaam & Beatnick‘s old studio in Astoria, Queens. The initial idea was to do a video for a song off Emicida’s last mixtape, but it suddenly became clear that he needed a video for one of the new songs off his new mixtape, produced by K. Salaam & Beatnick (the reason why Emicida and his team were in NYC after Coachella). A New York video for a New York song. The song and video are both products of multi-cultural collaborations, both centered around New York as a meeting place and breeding ground.
What sort of mood were you hoping to create and how did the music inform this decision?
The real inspiration for the video was the feeling of emptiness and aimlessness in big cities. The entire video takes place at night (that much we planned to do from the start) and that was probably our main move towards creating a concept for the video. The video has a lot to do with my experience growing up in New York, hanging out with my best friends wandering around the Lower East Side at night looking for something to do, doing nothing and everything at the same time. Along with that darker element, there’s the excitement of what can happen when you’re wandering through the night in the big city—that wired up, pulsing energy that never really settles except just at dawn.
Asking my best friend, the amazing actress Judy Marte, to join the cast really added a different level to the video. Judy, another character, a woman, a native New Yorker, gave a great texture that really ties in to the theme of the song “Sorrisos e Lagrimas” (Smiles and Tears).
What was the most challenging aspect of working on this video? You mentioned it was a run-and-gun production…
Working with a small crew is always a challenge—I was directing, producing, operating the second camera, and driving the van. Bruno Toré was the DP and co-pilot, as well as the editor and visual fx artist later on. Juliana Leandra was assistant director, doing playback and everything else that was necessary (most importantly, letting us crash at her place in Greenpoint). And Kate Izor tirelessly color corrected so that we could make the MTV deadline. Although working with a small crew is challenging, it also helps in moving fast, and creates a strong bond between the crew and artist. You wind up investing your time and imagination, replacing a big crew and big budget. And because we didn’t have the usual pre-production time, our post-production wound up being experimental and really intense.
As a Brazilian-American, how do you feel about Emicida’s amazing ascent to fame? Did that at all influence the visual representation for his music you created?
It’s really interesting to see how Brazilian culture winds up crossing over to the US. The image of Brazil that gets exported is often full of clichés and stereotypes that have been around for a long time and are hard to break. It manifests in extremes—either the reference is vintage Brazilian music (like Os Mutantes, Jorge Ben, Tom Zé, João Gilberto) or marginalized ghetto culture (like Baile Funk via Diplo or Fernando Meirelle’s City of God).
Seeing Emicida blow up and get recognized in the US is amazing because he’s a fresh face and his work is new and thought-provoking. His lyrics are intelligent and he presents himself really well—the way he writes represents that. He’s created a persona of a new kind of rap star, a good guy who is street smart and from the ghetto, but is cultured and well mannered—and people have caught on to that quickly. It is as though his ascent to fame is being watched in real-time from abroad. There is no delay in what’s happening in Brazilian culture and the perception of that manifestation by non-Brazilians.
Which of your previous projects are you most proud of? Why?
That’s one of those tough questions but I think my third short film Quase Todo Dia (Almost Every Day) made me proud. It was an amazing collaborative effort, especially between Priscilla Marinho (star of the film), Bruno Toré (editor), Carol Albuquerque (producer) and I. “Meu Tambor” a Marcelo D2 music video that was nominated “video of the year” by MTV was such a good experience, another collaborative accomplishment by a bunch of friends. The Lil Jon video I directed was probably the hardest shoot and edit process, yet very rewarding. This video for Emicida’s “Sorrisos e Lagrimas” really feels like a family project (and it felt that way when were shooting also). When it’s like this—small, personal, when you invest everything you’ve got for the sake of the project—there is a very special energy that takes over and leaves you very satisfied.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a lot of things at once, between LA, Rio, NY and São Paulo (I actually just got back from Brazil today). Two feature film projects (“The Idea of Time” is currently in pre-production); I’m working with Marcelo D2 on a 16 music video project that will be released together with his new album in early 2012. Last week I produced and did 2nd camera for a Damian Marley video, directed by B+. I also have two fashion videos coming out, one of them featuring the model Ashley Smith and fashion photography by Jason Lee Parry. Check out my website and Vimeo page for more.
Want more? Check out our two-part video documentary, “The Rise of Emicida.”