John and Juan

Mos Doido

In this week's analogy series, American rapper Mos Def is to Brazilian rapper Criolo, or, in his full name, Criolo Doido/Dumb Creole.

Just as Mos Def used to set the standard for independent American hip hop, Criolo is now setting the standard for independent Brazilian hip hop.

Here's Mos Def:


And here's Criolo:

And here's their sounds.

Mos Def's classic song Umi Says:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcxLFXbECsY]
And of one Criolo's trademark songs, Subirusdoistiozin:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlXXmeTOMSM]



There's a reason why Criolo has that uniquely Mos Def and NY "Lions of Hip Hop" aesthetic - urban, smart, and aggravated. Criolo was abjectly inspired by the OG rappers of yesteryear; in fact, in one of his songs, he fondly remembers dancing to Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya." Much of Criolo's early work had that mid-90's hard-core rap sound, and it had the same concerns. Criolo grew up in the Sao Paolo equivalent of Brooklyn - more BedStuy than Brooklyn Heights -  and at the time found only American musicians willing to talk about ghetto life.

Rap was Criolo's, and Mos Def's, entree into their art. But it's not their end point. They're both the baddest - the most doidao - in their fields, and mostly because they're unafraid of their own evolution as artists. Mos Def has swam in more lyrical directions with newer songs like No Hay Nada Mas, and Criolo is now really embracing his voice as a singer, and not just a rapper. He sings beautifully, in fact. Here's a project he did with National Geographic; like Mos Def's newer stuff, his poetry is front and center: 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bi2sUze9568]

So, who's more doido - Mos Def or Criolo? Well, that's up to the listener. It's not a question of talent, just question of which language you're listening in.

Bill and Aloe

In honor of Memorial Day, this week's cultural analogy stays within the borders of the USA. 
Contemporary soul singer Aloe Blacc is to __________ (legendary soul singer Bill Withers).
The two men have similar stories - living and recording in LA, the City of Angels - and beyond that, their sounds are strikingly similar. 
Listen below - isn't Aloe Blacc the new Bill Withers?

Here's Aloe Blacc's song I Need A Dollar: 
  [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFZP8zQ5kzk]

 And here's Bill Withers's song Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPK9kr4_imM]

Regina and Francisca

This is the second post in my series comparing two different musicians of the HispAnglo (Hispanic/Anglo) world. Complete the analogy: Linda Rondstant is to Gal Costa what Regina Spektor is to __________.

(Francisca Valenzuela).

They don't look as alike as Linda and Gal do, but New York-based signer does have the same look and general aesthetic of Chilean hipster crooner Francisca Valenzuela:
 

Regina Spektor

Francisca Valenzuela

These two reigning queens of North American and South American indie pop even have similar sounds.

Here is Francisca Valenzuela's song "Esta Soy Yo" (This Is Me): [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0dKy_Q4FXA]

which has some of the quirky but epic camp elements of Regina Spektor's song "Us":

 [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fczPlmz-Vug]

And Francisca Valenzuela's song "Peces" (Fishes): 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TyzGG74VlY8]

                       

has some of the same sentimental overtones as Regina Spektor's "Fidelity":

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wigqKfLWjvM]

Next week's analogy:

If Regina Spektor is to Francisca Valenzuela, then Janis Joplin is to...???

Linda and Gal

Who says the US and Brazil don't have much in common? Besides common histories and geographies, some of our cultural icons look alike.

In the case of 70's music stars Linda Ronstadt and Gal Costa, they look startlingly alike.
Here is a young Linda Ronstadt: 

And her music:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58id5JIzFao]

And here is young Gal Costa: 


And her music:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries?index=42&list=PL1DD83DFEAFCE5ECB&hl=en_US]

Gal has the same soft combed out hair and easy-living breeze that made Linda a star. In their times, these mestiza ladies defined music in their countries and throughout the whole hemisphere. The only difference? (According to Gal Costa), when you sing in Brazil, you don't have to wear a bra.

Rick and Jon

Former CNN anchor Rick Sanchez - the one my grandma looked forward to saying, "La foto del diiiia!" every afternoon - has been fired from CNN.

Because he said what he thought.

I thought both Rick Sanchez and Jon Stewart worked for...news networks. And that the idea of the news is a search for the truth. Rick's truth is that the sense of persecution so central to Jewish American identity is no longer relevant, as Jews hold enormous (and hard-earned!) influence over the media, academia, and finance. His truth is that the power dichotomy in America is no longer about WASP or Jew, crucifix or dreidel; it's about white vs. brown. This truth holds that you're not only not going to get into the country club, but you might get pulled over, you might be asked if you're American even if you're born here, and you might even be a victim of a hate crime. And not because your last name is Polish as opposed to British; because your skin is brown.

Jon's truth is different. And that's fine. This isn't just about "speaking truth to power"; it's about multiple truths.

Isn't journalism supposed to want all sides of a story? Isn't it supposed to not just tolerate, but welcome, dissent?

Paul and Julio down by the schoolyard

When all else fails, leave it to Paul Simon. In times like these in which white and Latino worlds so often miss each other - rock vs. reggaeton, praise of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vs. hate of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer - Paul Simon's song "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" reminds us of a different way.

Not that everything was fine in the 60's, but all this song does is describe an easy friendship and sing an occasional shout-out to Rosie, the "queen of Corona." It's nice.

Maybe the modern-day equivalent of this song is Armada Latina, the Cypress Hill and Pitbull re-make of the classic CSNY song "Sweet Judy Blue Eyes." (I majorly heart both. It's hippie and hard-core at the same time. It's like a tofu taco with extra-hot salsa.) But even the name of the song signals a different tone. Instead of "Me and Julio" (plural), its translation is "Latin Army." It's a different sound.