Diplo has often been dismissed as a neocolonialist. At best, the globe-trotting DJ from Philadelphia is a musical tourist, visiting the urban centers of the world, sampling (in both senses of the word) the music from their ghettos, and then bringing it back to the U.S. in his record crates.
With Baltimore club music, he extracted the sound of the one-time U.S. murder capital and made it palatable to middle-class hipsters. With his Brazilian baile funk mixes, Favela on Blast and Favela Strikes Back, he's taken it to an even greater extreme, removing from one of the world's greatest slums (the favelas outside Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo) a party music that can now be heard at any hip American club. But, beyond snippets of the source material in his remixes or DJ sets, what we get is art-school approximation—Spank Rock rather than K-Swift; Bonde Do Role rather than DJ Marlboro. Meanwhile, the original producers remain largely irrelevant to the casual listener; Diplo is the favela (sorry, Seu Jorge).
Bonde Do Role, the first band signed to Diplo's Mad Decent label, act both as intermediaries in the DJ's import business and as subjects of his authority as a producer. Diplo has described them as "a sort of baile-funk Beastie Boys," and that comparison's apt: Bonde Do Role are art-school interlopers on the favela funk scene in the same way the Beasties were punk appropriators of New York hiphop. They have their Rubin-esque producer and label boss in Diplo, and their songs are structured around sampled rock riffs à la early-period Def Jam over booty beats in a studied copy of authentic Brazilian funk's own lo-fi sampling. The result is momentarily gratifying if ultimately insubstantial party music.
What's interesting about Bonde Do Role is their tenuous relationship to the favela blasts that inspire their music. Global free trade works both ways for the band; their American producer laces their tracks with American and British rock, while they take their musical style from the ghettos of their own country.
Sub Pop signees Cansei de Ser Sexy, whose affiliation with Diplo is limited to their shared tour bus, offer a different take on globalized pop music. They claim as their scene not their native São Paulo, but rather the internet, and this positioning is fundamental to their success.
"There are not [other bands like CSS in Brazil]," says vocalist Lovefoxxx. "Pop culture is what bonds our taste. Sofia Coppola, Cindy Sherman, Terry Richardson, Michel Gondry, Grace Jones, and Timbaland [are all influences]."
By looking outward for influences and contemporaries, CSS avoid limiting notions of place and authenticity. As citizens of the digital world, their synthesis of English and Portuguese lyrics, international pop-cultural references (such as Death from Above and Paris Hilton), and various musical styles makes perfect sense.
Rather than imitate the sound of the favelas, CSS originate a singular electro-punk style that owes as much to Le Tigre and Bis as it does to Brazil. "Patins" is riot-grrrl punk with a catchy chorus and "Let's Make Love and Listen to Death from Above" combines loose disco bass and guitar with echoing synth bleeps and adorably broken rapping.
CSS share Bonde Do Role's privileged art-school background, but they're quick to dismiss potential class criticism.
"We understand all the social issues, all the punk issues. We never thought, hey, let's make this punk band. But it turned out we had to do everything punk style, do-it-yourself."
CSS live shows are reportedly wild affairs; dancing, stage diving, partial nudity, and flung panties all regularly occur. Brazil (and especially baile funk) is famously uninhibited, but CSS's aggressive sexuality combines the hedonism of funk with critical theory and feminism.
"We have carnival, so people feel more comfortable with nudity," says Lovefoxxx. "But Brazil has that Latin culture of submissive women serving the house, their men, and family. It's okay if they do that in thongs, but they still have to be doing that as their men told them to."
CSS succeed musically and retain artistic authenticity by engaging the whole world of sounds and aesthetics available to them. If Bonde Do Role are neocolonial subjects, then CSS are the realized ideal of globalization: an entity unbound by geography or national politics, flourishing in a global market of firstname.lastname@example.org