Some albums are game-changers in a genre. Take OutKast‘s Speakerboxxx / The Love Below or Primal Scream‘s Screamadelica, they observe, study, and then flip what an album can mean to a genre or moment in time.

From the very first listen of Rubel’s Latin Grammy-nominated third album As Palavras, Vol. 1 & 2 (Release Date: May 3rd, 2024), you can feel its transformative force for the MPB genre. Here we see one of Rio’s brightest stars, fusing the contemporary with the classic, soaking up the richness of Brazil’s musical heritage. The result is a marauding 20-track epic, incorporating traditional styles such as forró, MPB, pagode and samba with modern baile funk, rasteirinha and hip-hop.

The album exudes a sense of freedom and creativity, playfully and provocatively juggling the familiar with the forward-thinking. The tracks are divided across two records, navigating feelings of love, heartbreak and discovery, whilst balancing themes of violence, passion, irony and affection. Collaborating with some of the country’s most esteemed artists such as Gabriel do Borel, Liniker, Luedji Luna, Tim Bernardes and Ana Caetano, Rubel takes this fusion of styles, subjects and flavours to the global stage.

The grand, forró-blending, choral opener, ‘Forró Violento (Instrumental)’ sets the tone for the album, with references and links between tradition and modernity everywhere to be seen. From the Ana Frango Elétrico produced, funk flexing, samba-soul brilliance of ‘Não Vou Reclamar de Deus’, to the album’s title cut ‘As Palavras’, in collaboration with Tim Bernardes, that melds MPB influences with electronic elements and hip-hop touches.

Photo Credit Bruna Sussekind

Across both sides of the album, Rubel’s story-telling gift is given space to shine. ‘Torto Arado’ featuring Liniker and Luedji Luna, beautifully references the racial injustice, tragedy, hope and ambition found in one the most celebrated Brazilian novels of recent times by Itamar Vieira Júnior. Elsewhere, ‘Na Mão do Palhaço’ manifests a satirical march about a suicidal conservative middle-aged man, who is rescued by the miracle of the carnival.

At times the album is gentle and intimate with tracks like ‘Toda Beleza’ featuring Bala Desejo, or the ode to friendship ‘Lua de Garrafa’, composed with the legendary Milton Nascimento. At others, the grooves hit harder, with sounds from the favelas laced within. ‘Put@ria!’, explores the universe of baile funk, with BK’ and MC Carol trading off on the mic, as ‘Rubelía’ moves between reggaeton, funk, and hip hop. The latter is a tribute to a key influence of the album, Spanish star Rosalía and her parallel mix of current with classic.

Ultimately though the beauty of this album lies in its concept. In the midst of a country divided, ‘As Palavras Vol. 1 & 2’ sets out to bring together genres and generations, grounded in rhythms and words that have helped define Brazil through the ages.

Limited neon pink vinyl variant available, both cut at 45RPM and include 6-panel foldout poster, CD also features 28 page booklet.