"Whereas in the U.S. hip hop long ago migrated from the ghettos to the gated communities, in Venezuela it's all of the guns, none of the glamour and more of the violence."
This is how American journalist Ryan Duffy introduces part three of the YouTube documentary Venezuelan Body Count produced by Vice magazine.
He's about to start interviewing "El Prieto" (The N***), a Venezuelan rapper who lives in the "Pakistan" neighborhood of Petare, one of Latin America's largest slums and source of much of the violent crime that in 2011 alone killed almost 20,000 Venezuelans (the country's population is 20 million).
El Prieto who, despite of being one of the country's most famous rappers, still lives in Petare complains that the money he makes with his music is barely enough "to eat and half dress." This is a common rap from citizens of an oil-rich country (Venezuela produces 2.5 million of barrels of oil a day and has larger international reserves than Saudi Arabia) in which the highest inflation rate of Latin America combined with a chronic scarcity of basic products makes for a lifestyle that resembles that of Cuba instead of Qatar.
But, despite lacking multi million music contracts and not being invited to red-carpet-clad international music awards, El Prieto's lyrics and videos are so legit that put Jay Z (Barclay's Center and all) to shame. He raps about the violence he sees and lives everyday, with verses about "waterfalls of blood" and "buddies chopping n***s to pieces on the floor." El Prieto's videos, too, are pure cinéma vérité with real guns and real blood from many of the urban battles which casualties have become a day-to-day occurrence to bystanders.
El Prieto's 2011 video "Petare Barrio de Pakistan" has over 3 million views on YouTube. And though he raps about "never being censored" and avoiding media interviews so not to get his art politicized "one way or the other," a remix version of "Petare..." shows El Prieto and his guests rappers wearing Hugo Chavez's emblematic red t-shirt and rapping that crime violence "is not the government's fault."
His newest video, "El Fin del Mundo" (The End of the World), shows a more evolved and international artist as he moves from the slums of Petare to the streets of Madrid and raps about a more global form of violence referencing nuclear bombs, genocide, human trafficking and sexual abuse interposing images of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkell with an overriding theme likely to resonate with millennials around the world as it seems to denounce imperialism.