Meet the 13-year-old rapper taking Brazil by storm
MC Soffia started to rap when she was only six years old. By 11, her name was well known in her native Brazil, and by 13, the artist was listed as one of BBC’s 100 Women of 2017. The young rapper was also featured in the recent BBC documentary Levelling the Playing Field — for which she composed the song “Esporte” (“Sport”) about boys and girls having the same rights in the sports world — and was interviewed for beauty brand Avon’s documentary Repense o Elogio (“rethink your compliment”), a commentary on gender roles.
MC Soffia’s work largely focuses on empowering black girls — a message that is meaningful given the social reality for this population in Brazil. For example, black women in Brazil have incomes that are 59 percent less than their white male counterparts, and while 7.3 percent of white Brazilians are illiterate, the number rises to 14.7 percent in the African-Brazilian community. These disadvantages are especially troubling considering that African-Brazilians compose 53 percent of the country’s population. What’s more, despite composing the majority of the population, black Brazilians are rarely represented in the media.
MC Soffia recently told the FBomb via email about growing up in Brazil, how she approaches her music, and her thoughts on being black and female in Brazil.
How did you first get into the music world?
I’ve always liked the songs my grandmother sang to me when I was a baby, and my mother always took me to cultural events [that] had musical shows. My maternal grandmother used to take me to saraus.
How do you approach your music? What is your creative process like?
Inspiration [can] come out of nowhere. My mother and I start to write when it comes around.
In my school we are free to research the subjects we want to. My mother would present subjects that she wanted me to learn more about and then I would research them [at school]. Later, at home, we would talk about what I’d discovered. The subject that impressed me the most was how black people were enslaved and brought to Brazil in slave ships. I read about the bad things they faced and cried.
Who are the musicians that influence you?
In Brazil: Karol Conka, Ludmilla, Iza, Tassia Reis, Linicker, Linn da Quebrada, MC Carol, Xenia França.
In the USA: Beyoncé, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Oshun, Erykah Badu, Princess Nokia, and Alicia Keys. Beyoncé is my major inspiration because she is a black woman who is known worldwide.
Your music often addresses racism. Have you experienced it personally?
At school, I was called names by the other girls I [thought were my] friends. I got very sad then. It was very odd, as one hails from the ‘hood like me and the other lives near the school. At first, they offended me for no reason. Later it grew even more aggressive: They attacked my hair and my skin color. When this happened, I ran away from them. They came after me and apologized, but a couple of days after I thought about their actions and got real saddened. I could [have] taken [the problem] to the “bullying and racism [matters]” group in my school, but [my friends] kept saying they were sorry, so I forgave them. From then on, they didn’t call me names anymore.
I didn’t tell my mother [when it happened]. I asked my mother what [to do] if someone came up to me saying that I have bad hair, but without telling her what I was going through. She has always given me advice, as we talk a lot. Now I love my hair and I always praise it in my songs.
Do you believe Brazilians are educated about racism? How can schools better prepare students about this subject?
There is the 2003 law 10.639 (which is older than me) that states that African history and culture are to be taught in [Brazilian] schools. So if institutions followed [that law] we would have a great advancement, [but they often don’t.]
Here in Brazil, people [with lighter skin] say that they aren’t racists [even when] they are. Black people face a lot of hardship. In Brazil, black people aren’t just defined by his/her origin, but there is also colorism: light-skinned blacks have advantages over dark-skinned ones. People value others based on the skin tone and not their skills. Some look down on me and don’t believe what I’m capable of.
How do you think the Brazilian media deals with race and diversity?
We are still fighting a lot for more space. Today we have a little bit more, but black people are the majority [in Brazil], and I believe that there should be [fair representation] of blacks and whites. If there is a channel just for whites, then [there should be] one for blacks and another for blacks and whites — and so on.
Black kids are also still underrepresented. It is getting better for adults, but black kids are still a minority in the media. I sing and I’m not always on TV. More black children should have protagonist roles in kids’ soap operas. I can’t recall any black girls being in these shows besides me, and there are very few others if you look at other kids’ soap operas.
Do you think you address topics in different ways than older artists do?
I’m writing my beliefs. I rap, and rap has this role of exposing inequalities, to [allow an artist to] speak their mind and about their feelings, [and encourage people] to put up a fight and resist. [Rap] hails from the ‘hood, and while there are white [rap] artists, blacks will always tell their realities.
I feel glad to represent black girls from the ‘hood and be a reference to them.
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