Already a staple of U.S. hip-hop culture, cyphers have just started to break in Brazil. In underground music scenes like rap and Brazilian funk, cyphers have been promoting artists (both veterans and beginners) in a completely new way. This is especially true for marginalized communities, who have used cyphers as a powerful tool to fight invisibility; by rapping together, they have better chances of being heard.
With that in mind, five young rappers from São Paulo decided to create Quebrada Queer, Brazil’s (and maybe Latin America’s) first LGBTQI cypher at the beginning of 2018.
Claiming to be the only openly LGBTQ cypher in the world, Quebrada Queer was born from the urgency to address Brazil’s most critical issues, such as LGBTQIphobia, racism, and social inequality.
Sick of discrimination, rappers Guigo (26 years old), Harlley (20), Lucas Boombeat (24), Murillo Zyess (23), Tchelo Gomez (26), and DJ Apuke (the crew’s musical producer) realized, after several informal talks, that 2018 was the time to get loud and embark on a new project.
“As solo artists, we were all struggling to gain visibility and take our work to the masses, very much because of [discrimination] in the hip-hop industry,” says the group, whose musical references include Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, and Todrick Hall.
For Quebrada Queer – “Quebrada” is São Paulo slang for periphery – music is a way of empowering people. As queer folks in the world’s LGBTQI murder capital (in Brazil, a queer person is murdered every 19 hours, according to several studies), the group couldn’t be any more intrepid. “Doing art in our country is already an act of resistance. And when you are black, [marginalized], and LGBTQI, resistance is the only choice,” affirms Guigo.
As the pioneers of Brazil’s queer cyphers, they believe they’re responsible for paving the way for the next generation. “We hope the future LGBTQI artists feel welcome and safe when they step into the industry,” says Guigo, referring to their role in increasing LGBTQI representation in rap music.
As the crew puts it, queer folks “still scare people,” no matter how many of them have entered the music business. Though there is a history of queer artists in hip-hop, their continued lack of representation would also explain why the community still faces prejudice.
“It took me a long time to see myself as a rapper. Most of the LGBTQI community has never connected with rap music because there seemed to be a barrier separating all LGBTQI people from the genre,” Guigo declares.
In June, Quebrada Queer officially launched their cypher on the Brazilian YouTube channel Rap Box, one of the most prestigious digital platforms for Brazilian hip-hop. The video of Quebrada’s first cypher has already amassed over 2 million views.
Sharp and forthright, Quebrada’s debut work shows how queer Brazilians have been trying to survive. “Can’t you deal with it?!/ Take it!/ We are alive/ We are on the map/ You little piece of ‘White People’s Problem’/ You don’t move me at all,” spits Lucas Boombeat. The end of the cypher sounds like an ultimatum: “Accept it, put up with it, or freak out!” raps Tchelo Gomez.
Quebrada’s first cypher resonated positively with audiences. “People who had ‘given up’ on rap music said they felt connected with rap music again,” they say. At the same time, the group had to face criticism from all sides – including LGBTQI individuals who found Quebrada’s rappers “way too straight.” After all, “speaking out as black, poor, [marginalized] gay artists bothers many people,” they add.
Battling all the negative criticism with glamour and impeccable raps, Quebrada released their second cypher and first music video, “Pra Quem Duvidou” or “For Those Who Doubted” in December. A viral hit on Spotify in Brazil, “Pra Quem Duvidou” is also a Best Music Video nominee at Rio WebFest 2018, one of Brazil’s most important audiovisual festivals.
“I think that, in the future, we will reap very good things from what we are working on right now,” says Murillo Zyess, who has already announced to be excited about Quebrada’s upcoming cypher, “#SER” (“#TO BE”).