By Sibel Tinar, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – One of the distinct sounds of Rio, Baile Funk can be heard blasting from the many favelas of the city, even from long distances due to its unmistakably distinct beat. Bailes, or the big dance parties are accompanied by Funk Carioca, the catchy dance music originated in Rio with roots in Miami Bass, whose MCs are local musicians who almost always were raised in, and most likely still residing in the favelas.

Alex Cutler has been performing as a baile funk MC in Rio de Janeiro as MC Don Blanquito, photo courtesy of Alex Cutler.

There is, however, at least one musician who stands out as an exception to this long-standing Carioca tradition: Alex Cutler, a.k.a. MC Don Blanquito is a funk musician, but he is neither coming from the favelas, nor is he Carioca, or Brazilian for that matter. The 29-year-old Los Angeles native with three college degrees is struggling to make it in the baile funk scene in Rio, all for the love of the music.

Cutler (or Blanquito) first came to Rio in 2004, and immediately fell in love with the city and its culture, which kept him returning over and over again, until it became his second home. “I found my soul here”, says Alex, who eventually moved to the city in 2007, started recording funk songs, and doing shows.

Having already rapped in English and Spanish for years, it was not the Portuguese that posed the biggest difficulty, but the tough and competitive culture that accompanied the music scene.

“The biggest challenge has been being a white boy in the middle of a million Brazilians”, says Blanquito, “I only do shows in the hood, the baixada, favelas. Being accepted and respected by the crowds and locals has taken the longest time, however, now I can actually say that I’m considered as MC Don Blanquito as opposed to an Americano trying to be a funk singer.”

MC Don Blanquito has done countless shows in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, photo courtesy of Alex Cutler.

The road to recognition and acceptance has not been an easy one by any means, as Blanquito had to do more than a hundred shows for free, take buses in the middle of the night from dangerous places, perform in front of drug traffickers, and spend the rest of his time trying to promote his music, in order to be able to establish himself in the scene and make a name for himself.

About this constant struggle, Blanquito shrugs: “I hang in favelas next to the DJs until 8AM to get into their squad and have them play my music. I’m tired, want to go home and sleep, but without pain, success doesn’t come.”

“I think there is definitely a place in the Carioca society for a gringo, I’ve proven that”, says Blanquito, who now gets the respect and recognition in the funk scene that he has been fighting for.

This is not to say it has always been a smooth journey for Blanquito, who admits there have been many times that he wanted to give up. “I get all ready for a show, take a bus at 2AM to a far away place, and then I don’t even get to sing; but I can’t give up”, he tells us. “Funk is just cruel like that. You have to keep your head up and be a warrior.”


  1. Hahaha, ‘I only do shows in the hood’… another gringo trying to be an adventurous tough guy in the favela… something to brag to his friends back home about…

  2. @Zezinho- Exactly
    @Julie- You’re a hater. He’s working hard at his dream, he doesn’t have to be where he is, that is what matters, it shows his dedication to achieve his goals. And he gives English lessons to my friend so he works too.

  3. @Zezinho – damn straight.
    @Julie-don’t judge someone based on where they came from. He works hard and is following his dreams, not everyone can say that.
    @Amanda-while doing my MBA, I went to Panama for a consulting practicum with Alex, we’ve been good friends ever since. While other members of our consulting group came up with theories of how to impact Panama’s tourism and environmental issues, Alex and I made a real grass roots impact, coming away with the only true action taken to help clean up and preserve the Soberania National Park

  4. @ Ricardo – Baile funk gets played all over Rio – in Zona Sul favelas also (as well as clubs in Zona Sul and Lapa)…

    So to only ‘only do shows in the hood’… sounds like some gringo trying too hard to be a ‘tough guy’…

    @ Julie – Exactly… Bel Air is such a pretentious part of Los Angeles… kind of like Leblon…

  5. @Diego- Sure bro, but who starts off in Leblon as a funk singer? NO ONE! Like Hip Hop, people make noise in the hood first, then it comes over to the nicer areas, exactly like in Rio. In Rio Funk starts in the favella’s then makes it’s ways to Lapa and Zona Sul. And with UPP in Zona Sul, this is even harder to do. Do some research.

    @MP- no doubt.

  6. @ Diego- Vidigal and Rocinha are the most commercial favela’s in Rio De Janeiro and will have UPP in 5 minutes. Rocinha is also not Zona Sul, regardless. They are also both full of gringo’s and tourism. Santa Amaro is also the size of a peanut. Your story sucks and so do your weak ideas. Blanquito is real deal.

  7. I don’t think the trafficantes would tolerate him in their favelas anyway… hence, as it seems from his YouTube video clips, he only does shows in non-favela locations such as Olimpo and Rio Sampa, etc…

  8. @Diego- check out “papo do blanquito.” also, if you know anything about favela’s, traficantes aren’t too fond of filming shows. Diego, with all due respect, it’s pointless to keep informing you on Rio, maybe you should move to another city since you seem to know so little about the place you live in.

  9. Sorry Ricardo, i simply don’t share your enthusiasm for some white boy from the US… coming to Brazil and paying prostitutes to appear in his film clips…

    Although i like funk, i just don’t dig this guy…

    (And i don’t care if you want to classify Rocinha as being ‘Zona Sul’ or ‘Zona Oeste’… ).

  10. And did you even see that YouTube link i posted..? If a local funkeiro from the favela does that… i can try to forgive him… as he is a product of his upbringing in a machismo culture (and it’s his own country at least)…

    But when some rich foreigner comes to Brazil and acts like that, treating these girls like prostitutes (which they likely are)… i think it’s shameful and exploitative…

    It’s not like he’s attempting some kind of political or social message… but more to brag to his friends back in suburbia USA…

  11. The song is about bunda! What should he put in the video, butterflies? Most funk is baixaria. Real -funk is way more degrading to women than the video he made. Anyways man, you suck and so do your ideas. Abc.

  12. Did you even read what i posted earlier..? I said that if some dude from the favela without the benefit of a proper education writes degrading lyrics… that’s one thing. But if some rich educated white dude from suburban USA creates this kind of music – it’s a completely different thing. Even worse when it’s in another country and treating the women so poorly – throwing them a few reais to pretend that they’re horny in the video clip….

  13. @DIEGO: The fact that you go out of your way to write negative comments about Don B everytime he’s mentioned clearly shows that you’re a pathetic cornball. Seriously, get a life. Haters like you make me sick! So what if he’s well educated. I wasn’t aware that well educated people didn’t like fat asses. I’m well educated and I love me a fat booty! Don B isn’t the soft, rich, white boy you’re making it seem that he is. Please believe me when I tell you that this dude lives his lyrics! Don B does it for the people, not losers like you anyway! You my friend should ditch the chip on your shoulder and get with the movement! Now go play somewhere, SON….

  14. It’s good this guy’s doing what he wants. Diego, you’re taking things a bit too far homie, don’t take this stuff to heart.
    Yeah this guy’s a little corny, in fact most people in Rio who try to emulate hip hop culture in the U.S are a little corny. I like baile funk, it has it’s own style, it’s cool, but when they try to borrow too much of our style or swagger that’s when it get’s a little corny.
    This Don Blanquito is geeky as hell, but let him do his thing, man.

    Rarely have I met people in Rio who really know something about hip hop, where it came from and how it started. There are a few mind you. Had a great conversation with someone about Gangstarr when I was in Rio just last week. Had me in shock haha!

  15. @Jerome- Bro, Brasilians try to emulate US hip hop culture all of the time and they do a very poor job of it. Blanquito at least grew up with a real US hip hop culture and understanding. So many haters out here, pretty sad.


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