Don Blanquito: Bringing the Funk to Brazil's Rough Music Scene

How a Jewish kid from LA with three college degrees became a popular rapper in Rio de Janeiro.
3:00 | 01/11/14

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Transcript for Don Blanquito: Bringing the Funk to Brazil's Rough Music Scene
xt1 plain He's a guy with los angeles from nba who went into the slums of rio, rapping in portuguese. Once known as alex cutler, he's now don blankito. How did it happen? And why? Here's my "nightline" co-anchor, dan harris. Reporter: We are on the dicey outskirts of rio dejaneiro with an unusual guy. An ebulient american with a business degree. He starts rapping in fluent portuguese. ♪ this is don blankito. A name that roughly translates into sir white boy. He has followed a wild, gutsy past from an affluent american upbringing to becoming one of the biggest figures in the roughest music scenes on earth. Alex cutler was raised by a doctor dad and a stay at home mom. He also had a nanny who taught him how to speak fluent spanish. He attended a posh boarding school then went off to get his degree. At one point during his travels, he met a cute girl in the miami airport who told him she was from brazil. So he came to rio looking for others like her. Just a crazy bend of this hot blood, you know? That's why the chicks are so hot. While pursuing a certain variety of female companionship, he fell in love with the city itself. She got a gringo for a cell. There were no police. It's crazy. He moved into what's called a favella. One of scores of shanty towns that dot this city, run by violent drug lords. Here on the streets, he learned how to speak portuguese. What do your parents think? it's totally left field. But it is what it is. Have your parents come to your home? My mom came here and visited me. We went into a pharmacy on the corner and the pharmacy got held up literally with my mom in it. You've got to be kidding me. Reporter: But cutler adored the people who lived in rio and he also adored their distinctive art form, funk music. Don't be confuseded here, brazilian funk bares zero resemblance to the american version. ♪ Reporter: It is a genre born and bred in these lawless flavellas. Think of that jumbo drum as what's going on in the chest of everyone walking through this urban jungle. Reporter: Much of it glorifies violence and drugs. Some of the songs are even banned by the government here. Funk shows were originally hosted by the gangs themselves as an excuse to party and to sell drugs. And they have been known to turn very violent. When there was, you know, hard core drug trafficking and hard core violence, it was a cry. You know, it was a cry out. Usually either promoting the drug traffickers or a cry against it in talking about, you know, life is a struggle, life is harsh. But now things are getting better. There's a middle class booming. The economy is getting better. People aren't just rapping about the stress and the hardships of life but also about sexual things. Sexual things. Don blankito's specialty. Funk delivers a lot in a little message. Peren't trying to get deep. This is booty on the flow. You know what I mean? Get down, grind, shake your ass. You want to send a hard message which is catchy. Reporter: He's become something of a local celebrity. He hands out condoms to fans. I a actually gel these out. It's asparagus flavor and expires in 2016. It says if the condom breaks I'll be the godfather. It's all good. ♪ I go crazy with my baby ♪ Reporter: He's even made it on to several prominent talk shows. Do people here think of you at the vanilla ice as funk. That's cheesy. More like the eminem of funk. Reporter: He has managed to hustle his way up a very tough ladd ladder, performing at shows where shots have been fired. The first time you got on stage in front of a crowd of -- it was like 8 mile, but it was in portuguese. 3,000 black dudes looking at me. My portuguese was up. But you just do it. I've done hundreds of shows and I still get that, you know, that adrenaline rush. That's the beauty of it. There's no drugs involved, no alcohol. It's a pure rush. And you're commanding the stage. ♪ Rio rio rio ♪ ♪ I love you so much. I can't lie ♪ my checking account definitely does not compare to some of my friends that wept into real estate, goldman, and at the end of the day, they have empty souls. One life to live, one life to live, you know what I mean? Reporter: As much unlikely success as he's had, he still cannot make a living through funk, so cutler has a day job for an american company that produces corporate events. And as much as he likes rapping up a the ladies, he is no longer single. He's married to a brazilian woman who's about to have their first child. ♪ It's something real special growing up in l.A. ♪ still he nurses dreams of bringing funk to america. I think it's very aggressive for the u.S. Culture to accept or embrace. I think there needs to be a more subtle intro to the u.S. Some kind of a lubrication, like a ky to ease it in. Reporter: So you're the ky? Isle be don ky. Reporter: When you know gets the sense that whether he becomes a big star or not, don blankito is very happy with what he's achieved. There seems to be two lessons from your story. One is -- follow your dreams. Jimmy: And tw Reporter: And two is -- wear condoms. Reporter: And third is don't judge a book by its cover. 100%, man. 100%. You never know what you're going to get, man. Reporter: For "nightline," this is dan harris. Jimmy: Their baby is now 2

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