In this essay I posit that the stylistic divergences in Brazilian hip hop reveal a set of social and geographical dynamics related to São Paulo, the country's largest city and supposed beacon of modernity. The case of São Paulo hip hop speaks beyond Brazil and potentially contributes to larger discussions of the contemporary city complex including the role of the working-class periphery sprawls on urbanism. This text focuses on the primacy of periferia (periphery) as an ideological and spatial concept rooted in the artistic expressions of the “marginal.” In their activities, hip hoppers articulate “periphery” as not only a place but also as an epistemology, which in turn works to change the meaning of the city for the historically disenfranchised. Not without its limitations and internal critics, marginality secretes a “magic” or at least retains a pull as hip hoppers and urban, working-class Brazilians, in general, look to convince others of their value in exchange for respect.
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