The Best New Artist recognition was a bit late in coming. Criolo was 36 when he received it, and he'd been performing in the favelas and inner city of São Paulo for over 20 years. He'd been writing rhymes and songs even longer. Having grown up in a mud-floored shack on the rough outskirts of this ultramodern mega-city of 11 million inhabitants, Criolo (whose given name is Kieber Gomes) had found in music - especially hip-hop - the means both to express his rage at the poverty and crime around him and to rise from his disadvantaged origins. He became a leader of São Paulo's hip-hop underground and co-founder of a cultural center that drew DJs, MCs and fans from all over the city to its weekly freestyle rap throw-downs. He released his debut album in 2006. But Nó Na Orelha is definitely his breakthrough achievement, thrusting him, seemingly overnight, from the underground to national stardom and now international attention.
He's come a long way from his musical base, too. The styles displayed in Nó Na Orelha range from hip-hop to samba, tropicalia, afrobeat and reggae, and Criolo proves himself to be an affecting singer as well as a skilled rapper. His subjects are also varied, and his poetic take on them reveals an incisive intelligence and encompassing conscience. As Caetano Veloso says, ''From his direct and enigmatic verses emerges a political discourse that seems intimately personal.''
Favela star boldly goes where hip-hop's rarely gone before. FIVE STARS. --Songlines
The album is, by turns, angry and tender, urgent and chilled, tough and vulnerable. It is unusually diverse, but perfectly cohesive, and bliss from start to finish. --All About Jazz