| December 9, 2011, 5:33 pm
Pinar Karpuzoglu/Nublu Criolo, left, performed Wednesday night at Nublu in the East Village.
“I just hope that New York feels what I feel,” the Brazilian rapper Criolo said just before making his American debut on Wednesday night at Nublu in the East Village. “I hope they feel my heart and soul.” Now 36, Criolo was born Kleber Gomes in São Paulo and grew up (and still lives) in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, the infamous Grajaú favela. It’s a place where “one million people fight for life every day,” he said.
Criolo’s music blends Brazilian rhythms like samba with rap, cumbia, Afro-funk rock and free-jazz horn riffs. Recently chosen as best new artist of the year in Brazil, he seems composed of compelling contradictions: at first glance, his cage-match-ready build is sturdy and lends him a hard, almost ruthless edge. But then he smiles, and his dark eyebrows and black mustache lift, accentuating his grin; he kisses everyone hello. In front of his four-piece band, which included Daniel Ganjaman (electric piano), Duani Martins (percussion), Marcelo Cabral (bass) and Thiago França (sax), Criolo cut deep as he sang balladic lyrics off his recently released record “Nó Na Orelha” (“Tied-Up Ear”) like, “There’s no love in São Paulo” and “Here, nobody goes to heaven.”