Covered in tattoos and gold jewelry, MC Guime took the stage at a Sao Paulo club where patrons pay up to $4,500 for the VIP area, his lyrics fitting right in with the ostentatious surroundings.

"Top of the line! Nike Shox sneakers, Oakley shorts, Oakley shirt, look at us!" he belted out, celebrating some of Brazil's more popular brand names to a crowd of the playboy children of the country's elite.

The club usually puts on shows of safe, traditional Brazilian country music, a far cry from the thoroughly aggressive dance music known here as funk, which was born in Brazil's favelas, or slums. Guime flew through the set, delivering a frenetic ghetto beat and conspicuous-consumption lyrics about clothes, cars and champagne.

Two years ago this kind of lifestyle was little more than an aspiration for Guime. Since then, he's become the most famous face of funk ostentacao, or ostentation funk, an explosively popular new take on the genre that replaces themes of crime, poverty and social protest with a full-throated celebration of consumerist abandon.

It's a transformation familiar to historians of U.S. hip-hop, which gave birth to its bling phase in the 1990s and whose reigning king, Jay-Z, still excels at economic braggadocio.

But in Brazil, where tens of millions of people have risen out of poverty as the country surfed a boom powered by sales of commodities to China, the gospel of shopping is a relatively new phenomenon for ordinary people.

Popular music's exaltation of wanton spending and ostentation has made some uncomfortable, from members of the upper classes to left-leaning social movements defending the poor in the country, where the average salary is still just $780 a month.

"I personally think ostentation funk is crude," says Gaia Passareli, a Brazilian music journalist and former host on MTV Brazil. "It goes too far venerating objects and distorted values."

Guime, born Guilherme Aparecido Dantas to a poor family in the broken-down outskirts of the city, understands the critics. But if the reality he affirms is perverse, the 21-year-old says, don't blame him.

"Before they complain about us, they have to complain about every TV channel, and all advertising, because we grew up seeing this, and how can I deny that we always wanted a nice car, if we grew up seeing that those respected in society have nice cars?" says Guime, his face dead serious behind sunglasses.

"Every day, on TV, the rich family is happy and the poor family is sad. How am I not going to want what they're allowed to have?"


In a country still marked by extreme inequality, Sao Paulo is home to Brazil's business elite, many of whom commute in helicopters to avoid the traffic below. Outside the gilded center, periferia neighborhoods stretch for miles and miles, marred by graffiti and poverty.

Guime grew up in Osasco, one of these neighborhoods, and began working when he was 11, at a street food stand.

"I always had various small jobs. That's why, thanks to God, I never went hungry at home," he says. "But we never had any more than was really minimally necessary."

It was only later that he realized music was a much better way to make a living.

For much of its existence, Brazilian funk has been firmly underground and countercultural, often openly despised by the elite, its lyrics focused on poverty, social protest, love (often sex in explicit terms) and the reality of crime in Brazil's favelas.

The genre was born in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, a mash-up of Miami bass, a sub-genre of U.S. hip-hop; Brazilian lyricism; and increasingly frenetic beats.

One earlier famous funk anthem (reprised often by Guime), "Funk da Felicidade," proclaimed, "All I want is to be happy / here in the favela where I was born / be proud of myself / and know that the poor have their place."

But this message was largely set aside as the genre took on ostentacao themes.