Racionais MC's is a hip hop group based in São Paulo, Brazil. Mano Brown (Pedro Paulo Soares Pereira), Ice Blue (Paulo Eduardo Salvador), Edy Rock (Edvaldo Pereira Alves) and DJ KL Jay (Kleber Geraldo Lelis Simões) formed the group in 1988. Each member hails from the ring of favelas (slums) around São Paulo locally called the periferia. Their lyrics combine themes of social justice with gangster imagery, a far cry from the idyllic breeziness typically associated with Brazilian music.
Racionias MC's first appeared on the Zimbabwe label compilation Consciência Black (Black Conscience) in 1988. Their songs "Pânico na Zona Sul" ("Panic on the Southside") and "Tempos Difíceis" ("Hard Times") offer a snapshot of favela life with lyrics vividly depicting rampant police brutality, racism, poverty, and crime. The group released their first album, 'Holocausto Urbano' ('Urban Holocaust') in 1990. The EP included the two songs from Consiência Black along with three new tracks dealing with themes of loose women and institutionalized racism. The group played several shows around the city and state of São Paulo over the next two years, including two shows at the FEBEM (Fundação Estadual do Bem-Estar do Menor) juvenile detention center and a special show with Public Enemy at the Ginásio do Ibirapuera.
Racionias MC's gained national attention with their participation in the Ministry of Education's ARAPensado e Educação (loosely translated as "The Rap Thinking and Education) program in 1992. The program included lectures and discussions in schools on a variety of issues affecting favela inhabitants, including drugs, police violence, poverty, and racism. These forums had the dual effect of expanding awareness of Racionas MC's agenda along with their fan base, as residents the favelas in cities across Brazil could relate to the Paulista rap group's experience. That year the group released their second album, 'Escolha o Seu Caminho' ('Choose Your Path'), with the notable tracks "Voz Ativa" ("Active Voice") and "Negro Limitado" ("Limited Black"). Following its release the group headlined the Rap no Vale show at Vale do Anhangabaú in São Paulo.
In 1993 the group saw their notoriety continue to increase. They participated in the National Theatre's Música Negra em Ação (Black Music in Action) project alongside Thaíde e DJ Hum, another prominent São Paulo Hip Hop act. Their philanthropic activities continued as they played several benefit shows for health clinics, youth sports programs, and samba schools. The year also saw the release of their first full length LP 'Raio X Brasil' ('X Ray Brazil'). The album includes several standout tracks including "Fim de Semana no Parque" ("Weekend in the Park"), a lyrical sketch of lowlifes in São Paulo; "Mano na Porta do Bar" ("Bar Doorman"), a skillful remix of Curtis Mayfield's "Freddie's Dead"; and the unexpected harmonica and piano jam "Fio da Navalha" ("Razor Wire"). Mano Brown won the Prêmio Sharp award for "O Homem na Estrada" ("The Highwayman"), one of the album's other notable tracks. A 1994 show at the Vale do Anhangabaú in support of the album ended in a riot when police raided the show and arrested the group. The group was charged with inciting violence.
Legal problems following the 1994 Vale do Anhangabaú show delayed the release of Racionais MC's third album. This led them to leave Zimbabwe and start their own label, Cosa Nostra. 'Sobrevivendo no Inferno' ('Surviving in Hell'), appeared in 1997 and sold 500,000 copies. "Diário de um Detento" ("Diary of an Inmate") and "Mágico de Oz" ("Wizard of Oz") won them awards for Best Rap Group and Audience's Choice at the 1998 MTV Brasil Video Music Awards.