A seminal human rights-oriented rap crew is back after a decade hiatus. The report is translated from Brasil de Fato.
After ten years without releasing an album, rap group Consciência Humana will appear on a record titled “Strong and Firm,” due for release in the latter half of this year. With the participation of famous guest rappers, the group promises to launch new ideas while maintaing the same principles.
“As long as there is injustice and police violence, people, we are going to be on top of it. On the day that this is accomplished, we will stop speaking out,” says group member WGI.
The rap group Consciência Humana rose to prominence in 1991 with lyrics that focused mainly on violence perpretrated by the State — violence that intensified in the periferal regions of the city after the demise of the civil-military dictatorship of 1964-1985.
It was in this context that the group produced Now is the Time, which portrays murders committed by policemen of ROTA, an elite patrol unit of the state military police.
Listen to a news story with the group’s music as a backdrop.
The song, based on actual facts, mentions the names of military personnel who are quite well known in such outlying neighborhoods as São Mateus (Eastern Zone), the birthplace of the rappers. One of these is Corporal Bruno, who participated in the so-called “Death squad” charged with at least 50 homicides. Paulo Counts Lopes (PTB), the former head of the ROTA a sitting São Paulo city councilman, is also singled out by the record.
Consciência Humana has forged a powerful identification with São Mateus. In the song «Law of the Periphery», the group recites the main problems faced by residents on a daly basis. Group member Preto Aplick said that these songs are important ways to create a sense of belonging to community residents.
“The newspapers have had only negative things to say about São Mateus. Only bad things emerge from the community, as opposed to such postive examples as athletes and performing artists. All of a sudden, here comes a group of performing artists, a rap group calling attention to all our problems. The population of São Mateus trusted our word and this meana so much to us.”
Consciência Humana recently granted an interview to the TV arm of Brazil de Fato … The Brasil de Fato team traveled to the São Paulo neighborhood of Itaquera where the Só Monstros studio, owned by the group, is located. Ten years after its last recorded release, Consciência Humana is readying a new CD, «Firme Forte» — roughly, «Stand Strong and Firm» — that signifies a new era in the group’s career. This year, the group will celebrate 22 years in the business..
With ROTA patroling the streets of the urban peripheries, terror was inevitable. Created in the 1970s with the mission of sustaining the military government in power, the performance of the duties left traumatic souvenirs. The track «Aplick» brings back many powerful memories of that time.
“We lived running away from them. That was when I wrote my first song, «Terror in São Paulo». From then on I was listening to the ideas of people I met in the dark of night. I passed part of my life in the street. Then I ran straight into them. And so we began writing this history. In the middle of recording that song, I met Conte Lopes. He invaded the shanties, he shot my uncle in the mouth. It was from that experience that “The Time has Come” was created.
Conte Lopes counts declares war
After the song made the radio and achieved excellent ratings Consciência HumanaConsciência Human was interviewed by the Popular Notice magazine. The group recounted the persecution and killing carried out by death squads with military police as members.
Popular Notice shone the spotlight on massacres which, according to the residents of São Mateus, were commando by ROTA commanding officer, Counts Lopes. The policeman, however, denied the accusations and at one point threatened the members of group.
In the introduction of another track called «Gray Rat Scumbag», an audio insert appears to be a recording of Conte Lopes, saying «listen here, it is Magnus and Capitan Conte Lopes … this is the Magnão we like to see,” referring to the singers in the group. Aplick says that the persecutions had increased since then.
“In the Popular Notice daily, he asked people to stop singing this song during concerts unless they wanted problems. But people continued singing along with this song. We are not stopping. It was then ROTA started to lean heavily on our shows.. ROTA would arrive at the show and said “You are not going to sing that song.” They took up positions in front of the stage ane were against our performing,” Aplick recalls.
For WGI, another member of Consciência Humana, taking the hard line influenced the political context. . “At the time, Conte Lopes was running for the legislature and we were making sure that he he lost votes among voters in São Mateus.