Brazilian rapper Djonga combines aggressive, socially charged rapping with smooth, melodic backing inspired by the samba and funk music he grew up with.
Born Gustavo Pereira Marques in 1994 in the southeastern city of Belo Horizonte, the son of a civil servant, he grew up in the impoverished São Lucas neighborhood, where he hung out with the motorcycle-racing kids after school. He grew up listening to the samba and funk musics that were an important part of the Afro-Brazilian culture from which he came, along with Brazilian rock, and only got into hip-hop later in his teens, when he was introduced to it by a girlfriend. Music helped him learn self-acceptance, and he saw it as a medium to effect social change. After recording his 2017 debut album, Heresia ("Heresy"), he planned to give it away for free, but friends persuaded him to sell copies for five reais (about one U.S. dollar). The album sold well and convinced him he could make a career in music. The albums O Menino Que Queria Ser Deus ("The Boy Who Wanted to Be God") and Ladrão ("Thief") followed in 2018 and 2019, respectively, sending powerful messages representing the dispossessed. Eloquent and thoughtful, he combined his career with a university course in history, though he eventually dropped out just prior to graduating. He released every album on March 13 in a complicated homage to his home soccer team, Atlético Mineiro: the club's emblem is a rooster, which has the number 13 in the illegal gambling game Jogo do Bicho ("the animal game"). After becoming a father for the second time, he introduced more melody on his fourth album, 2020's Histórias da Minha Área ("Stories from My Area"). A sentimental homage to his childhood, it contained more elements of the samba and funk music he grew up with and even saw him singing on some tracks. ~ John D. Buchanan, Rovi