Funk feud? Rivalry between singers Ludmilla and Anitta escalates after Ludmilla is booed and called ‘monkey’ at Prêmio Multishow award ceremony
By Marques Travae
Depending on what era you grew up in, when you hear the term ‘’funk feud’’, images of George Clinton, Rick James and Prince may come to mind. That’s because if you wered a funk fano f the 70s and 80s, you saw your fair share of shade and rivalries between funk groups and singers. For example, in the lyrics of the George Clinton-led Funkadelic song from 1975, ‘’Let’s Take It To the Stage’’, George Clinton mocks numerous other groups and singers of the funk, including, seemingly calling them out in a challenge.
In the song, he refers to James Brown, whose nickname was “The Godfather of Soul” as ‘Godfather’ and ‘Grandfather’ and ‘James Clown’. He then takes aims at perhaps the top-selling black band of the era, Earth, Wind & Fire, calling them “Earth, Hot Air & No Fire”. In the same song, Kool & the Gang is called “Fool & the Gang”.
The self-proclaimed ‘King of Punk Funk’, Rick James developed a reputation for beefing with fellow performers, having well-known feuds with groups such as Bootsy’s Rubber Band, Zapp and perhaps the most well-known rivalry with the then up and coming Minneapolis genius, Prince. One has to wonder if, behind these feuds, there was just a desire stir up controversy to sell more records and concerts tickets, good-natured swag or just jealousy. Years later, Rick James would later reveal how much he admired Parliament’s ground-breaking 1977 P-Funk Earth Tour.
In the mid-90s, the infamous East Coast/West Coast feud led to the California based Death Row record label boss Suge Knight dissing his New York rival, then known as Puff Daddy, head of the Bad Boy label, when accepting an award at the 1995 Source Hip-Hop music awards show. We all know how that infamous beef ended, with both labels losing their best-selling artists being gunned down, one in 1996 and the other in 1997. Of course, years later, I would come to discover that there was far more behind those murders than simply a rap beef, but moving on, I wonder if we need to keep an eye on a feud between two funkeiras (funk singers) in Brazil.
To be sure, what is considered ‘funk’ in 21st century Brazil has absolutely nothing in common with the heavy bass lines, wah wah guitar and syncopated horn arrangements of the 70s and 80s, but one particular rivalry in funk carioca has gotten just as heated.
A few weeks back, I shared with readers a growing rivalry/feud between Rio-based funk singers Ludmilla and Anitta. There had already been a rivalry between the two, but then the beef escalated with the eventual release of the song ‘’Onda Diferente’, coincidentally, featuring an artist who was involved in the 90s Hip Hop beef, Snoop Dogg, who was featured as a guest rapper on the joint. The beef between Ludmilla and Anitta is rooted in the songwriting credits, which Ludmilla agreed to share 50/50 with Snoop for his participation in the song. Anitta managed to get her name included as songwriter on the song even though she had nothing to do with composing the hit.
Things recently took an ugly turn when Ludmilla and Anitta competed for an award at the recent 2019 Prêmio Multishow awards show held at the Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro of which Anitta was a co-host along with comedian/actor Paulo Gustavo.
The Prêmio Multishow is the perhaps the most celebrated of all Brazilian music awards. It’s held annually and show on the Multishow TV network, with its first edition taking place back in 1994. It rewards the best Brazilian music of a given year through a system of audience voting and, since 2011, a special jury, that includes journalists and insiders of the recording industry. This year’s ceremony might go down in history and not for a good reason. With fans of the two funkeiras already choosing sides in the feud, things go tense when Ludmilla took to the stage after winning her first award of the night.
I’m not sure if it was planned this way or Anitta chose not be near Ludmilla when she made her way to the stage, but her attitude apparently displeased Ludmilla who didn’t mention her musical partner’s name in her thank yous. Although there applause when Ludmilla appeared onstage, we can also clearly hear a part of the audience booing the singer. According to some source, the boos came Anitta’s fans. To make matters worse, someone in the audience was also heard calling Ludmilla a ‘macaca’, meaning ‘monkey’, Brazil’s favorite racist insult directed its black citizens.
The tension reached a fever pitch when Ludmilla took to the stage to win her second award of the night. Beating out other nominees for the Melhor Cantora do Ano, meaning best female singer of the year, Ludmilla was chosen over not only Anitta, but also Ivete Sangalo, Iza and Marília Mendonça.
Visibly shaken, the artist broke down in tears onstage before composing herself enough to make her acceptance speech.
In a few lines, the artist said:
“Sorry for the emotion, I wanted to thank God first, it’s a cry from a very big, long struggle that was stuck inside me,” Ludmilla said. She continued, first discussing the struggle for women to succeed and then directly addressing the haters in the audience.
“Never let anyone tell you what you are. I just wanted to say to all girls, women, never let anyone say what you are if you have a dream fight like a girl who will succeed. I would like to thank my fans, my family and even the booing. Thanks for the booing, it always makes me think about what I’d like us to do or not do to people.”
As it turns out, Ludmilla was the first black woman to win the category of best singer of the Prêmio Multishow. Anitta has already taken home 13 trophies at the 26 year award ceremony.
Ludmilla would later speak on the issue of being called a monkey by someone in the audience:
“Someone called me a monkey in the video, but we don’t know who that person was exactly. Man, until when will this happen? Look, things, for me, and I think for most Brazilians, have never been easy. And with prejudice and judgments because of skin tone, you only complicate things.”
It’s important to remember that this is not the first time that Ludmilla has been called a monkey, remembering the incident in which a journalist called her a monkey on a live television, as well as attacks on social networks see (here and here) and other discouraging comments by other public figures.
Having frequently been a target of such attacks, even with her success, Ludmilla constantly has to deal with this dirty little secret that many Brazilians continue to insist doesn’t exist. Further commenting on the topic, the funkeria said:
‘’The desire to diminish people is such that they don’t think about the consequences of their actions. I just wanted to make it very clear to you racists that besides justice being slow, here people who practice racism against me have not yet been punished, that doesn’t mean that the punishment will never come, or that it is far from it. Good thing I have my God and a family that won’t let me crumble before racists.’’
In terms of Anitta, the funkster HAS in fact issued statements on the feud, first requesting that her fans chill on their attacks on her rival. Back in September, during the controversy over the ‘’Onde Diferente’’ joint, Anitta stated the following:
“When I get attacked by other fan clubs I feel so sad. I wish ours were an example of not doing that. No matter what anyone did to me. We never have to return the same coin or do it to anyone. Focusing on making our work positive is much better. But today I come for a specific case. Don’t trip on Ludmilla for having felt happy and exciting with the composition that has reached places she has always dreamed of,” she said.
Seeking to calm fans who took issue with Ludmilla demanding that Anitta remove her name from the songwriting credit, she stated:
“I am also a composer. I wrote ”Bang”, ”Show das Poderosas”, ”Zen”, ”Vai Malandra”. Some just others with friends. But ”Onda Diferente” was a song created by Ludmilla. The reason why I dropped out as a creator of the song was due to the production and structuring. Remember when Ludmilla started singing that some fans would scold her saying she was imitating me?! I asked all of you to not do this and I was very happy with you respecting my request. The more people we are doing cool work, the further we can go. You don’t have to imitate it. Each one is unique. And even if imitating it would be a good thing, because it means you like my work.”
The singer also suggested the best way for her fans to move on.
“Ultimately, I learned that when we spend our energy releasing anger in this way that we only produce it for ourselves. I learned that it doesn’t matter or what they do to me or how much it hurts me. The best thing is to go over this over and focus on all that is positive. I love when you all defend me from things. But don’t attack anyone because it makes me feel so bad. I love you always for such loyalty. Let Ludmilla celebrate her professional joys. It’s all good.’’
She then urged fans to not waste energy on such negative things and focus on the cool stuff. Anitta also came out in defense of Ludmilla after learning of the racist incident at the award ceremony. Verbally supporting her fellow funkster, she had this to say on the incident:
“It is unacceptable for anyone to see themselves having the right to call a black person a monkey or try to reduce her as an inferior human being. Do better. This is a crime and absolutely abominable.”
Don’t get me wrong, I give props to Anitta for at least speaking on these issues, but to me, they don’t come across as genuine. It comes across as her seeking to do the ‘right thing’ just for the public. As I mentioned before, I find it a little suspect that Anitta, the host of the event, didn’t greet her for the victory nor did she speak on the incident while hosting the ceremony. It’s not like she couldn’t have.
Let us remember that when singer Nego do Borel was onstage with Anitta at a show earlier this year, and the audience started heckling and booing the singer for what they saw as transphobic remarks, Anitta immediately addressed the audience’s treatment of the artist. That being the case, why didn’t Anitta do the same for Ludmilla when the incident happened?
So, how should we see this whole feud? Is it just a ‘cat fight’? Is this another example of a mixed person taking advantage of certain ‘white privileges’ afforded them that aren’t given to indisputably black people? Anitta’s chameleon like ways in toying with with racial identity have long been criticized by the black population and, as we can see, she certainly isn’t having the deal with the racist attacks that Ludmilla has to consistently deal with.
Does Anitta get a ‘’pass’’ on the issue of race? Can the two artists get over their dfferences? Whatever the case, let’s hope this thing can get worked out. In Brazil, it seems as if human life has less value than that of flies and with so many people choosing sides in this rivalry, we don’t want to see things escalate any further. Fans of Hip Hop know how ugly these things can get and what they can lead to. The world of Brazilian funk may be wise to learn from that.