Racionais MC's are one of the most important Brazilian rap and hip hop groups. Deeply involved in a movement of awareness of the marginalized Negro population in the working class boroughs of the big cities, the group has criticised the press and the phonographic market (they refuse invitations by big networks) as being part of the capitalist system they combat because, in their view, it promotes drug trafficking, misery, and violence. Their aggressive lyrics and stage persona try to awaken the population out of its state of, as described by them, humiliation. Nevertheless, their success brought them to a major audience and as a result, they were awarded by the mainstream nationwide broadcasting TV station MTV.
The group was formed in 1990 in São Paulo, attracting attention for its first recording effort: the songs "Pânico na Zona Sul" and "Tempos Difíceis," included in the collection Consciência Black (Zimbabwe). Their first LP, Holocausto Urbano (Zimbabwe, 1992), sold 50,000 copies. After many shows during the years of 1990 and 1991 (when they opened for Public Enemy at the Ibirapuera Stadium), the Racionais started to develop community work doing lectures in schools on drugs, police violence (one of their preferred themes), and racism. "Voz Ativa" ("Active Voice") and "Negro Limitado" ("Limited Negro"), from their second LP (1992), yielded them increased popularity and they were the main attraction in the rap concert that took place in late 1992 at the Vale do Anhangabaú (São Paulo). The CD Raio X do Brasil was a decisive step towards success, with Mano Brown winning the Prêmio Sharp award with his song "Homem na Estrada." In the late 1994, though, another show at the Vale do Anhangabaú ended in a riot when the group's members were arrested by the police under the accusation of incitation of violence. The confusion delayed the release of their third album and led them to leave their recording company and to create their own label, Cosa Nostra. They ended up releasing Sobrevivendo no Inferno through it, the album representing the concretization of their success in a broad scale: 500,000 copies sold. With the music videos "Diário de um Detento" and "Mágico de Oz" (1998), they won the Vídeo Music Brasil (promoted by MTV Brasil), and were awarded with the prizes for Best Rap Group and Audience's Choice. ~ Alvaro Neder