Various Artists

The Inspiring New Sounds of Rio de Janeiro (Verge Records)

Thanks to the Diplo-inspired popularity of "favela booty beats" among U.S. audiences, there's a certain expectation of unhinged rhythmic fire and verbal violence when it comes to Brazilian hip-hop, especially the type emerging from the slums of Rio de Janeiro. This multifaceted compilation from the upstart, "socially conscious" Verge label makes it clear that those rockist, sexually aggressive sounds are but one part of the noise made by Rio beat-bangers. In fact, to ears saturated with the grungy "baile funk" sound, the overall sonic impression left by The Inspiring New Sounds of Rio de Janeiro is one of polished diversity and accessible positivity. In other words, there's no popozuda-poppin' here. Unfortunately, rather than being a sort of backpacker analog to the favela thug party, the artists on Inspiring come off as lite jazz, Brazilian versions of Arrested Development. While these sounds may indeed be emotionally inspiring, they're musically flaccid, thanks to unimaginative production and clunky verbal flows. Even with the rhymes in Portuguese, it's impossible to ignore the mouthful-of-marbles style of rhymers such as Edu Lopes of A Fillial, especially given the thin, predictable "bossa-funk" backdrop he's rhyming over. Even putting aside the putative hip-hop tracks and focusing on the more pop-oriented and traditional songs on this compilation, the glowing, up-with-people vibe of the disc ultimately becomes grating and somewhat disingenuous.

 
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