It is hard to know where to start when reviewing Via, the most recent album released by the Costa Rican hip-hop/rap artist NAKURY (born Natasha Campos). Usually you start with the music, but NAKURY is so much more than her music and this album is so much more than its songs, that even as you listen to her addictive music, you can’t help but internalize what she is saying as well as what she is singing.
Nakury has been a model, a beauty queen, a dancer, and a graffiti artist. Today she is a rapper, a hip-hop poet, an event founder and producer, and an activist. At 28 she has lived what seems like several lifetimes and the wisdom and experience of those lifetimes inhabit the poetry of this huge, 16-song album.
Released on the independent label LacteoCoasmico, Via fuses rap and hip hop in Spanish with boombap, backbeat, electroncia, and Nakury’s unique voice which moves easily from urgent highs to rap lows. Produced by Barzo, who appears on some of the songs along with guests Guatemalan rap artist Rebecca Lane, Costa Rican singers Kumay Sawyers, Guadalupe Urbina and Yogi Beatbox. This all comes together in an album that is a musical adventure, a social critique, and a kind of poet journalism about the state of a world in which everything is too fast, too thoughtless, too machismo. As she says in the album’s first single, “Necessario”, No soy sólo un brick in the wall – I am not another brick in the wall.
Nakury is forever searching, looking for herself and the meaning in the world, a theme that inhabits every song. In the haunting, synth-enhanced spoken word “El Viaje” she tells us Cada persona es un universo, /las comparaciones son odiosas – every person is a universe, comparisons are hateful. In “Despierto: she moves to syncopated rap, seducing our ears while we join her search. She raps Laberinto sin salida, como barco a la deriva – we are in a labyrinth with no way out, like a ship drifting. It doesn’t matter, her voice is hypnotic, the beat takes hold.
Kumary Sawyer joins her on “Evolucion” a down and dirty rap brightly colored by the dual female voices and carried by strong beats and synths as the words gather momentum through the song. Oh oh oh oh, ¿cuál es la evolución? ¿ser parte de la solución o del problema? they rap, knowing that we are all part of the problem but we can connect and work together to make change on the individual and the world level. She follows in “Agárrate” with a very clear-eyed statement about the work it will take to make change. The song features Guatemalan activist artist Rebecca Lane and, like “Evolution”, builds on the power of dual female voices to create raps that groove and think simultaneously.
Grounded solidly in the concept of community and the need for skills to move forward in a diverse world, “Escencia” tells us Amar la diversidad de nuestra comunidad, trabajar en equipo es toda una habilidad — Loving the diversity of our community, working as a team is a real skill.
But there is peace in this album. NAKURY is from Costa Rica, a country famous for its lush forests, sparkling beaches and progressive environmental policies. She ends the album with “Origenes”, featuring renowned Costa Rican singer Guadalupe Urbina, whose melodic paean to the restorative power of nature float through a jungle of electronic beats and synth accents.
Na NAKRY’s songs echo her past, how she “kicked off the high heels” and left the world of modeling and Miss World pageants that her parents put her in. She went out on her own – a rebellious act for a young Latina- to pursue her art as a tool to change the concept of woman in Latin society and push back again abuse. She has lived, and is living her music. She founded the production company UNION BREAK, which produces one of the biggest hip hop festivals in Central America. She is directing the upcoming documentary “Somos Guerreras” (We Are Warriors), produced collectively with Rebeca Lane and Audry Funk. And her music speaks for itself and women throughout the Latin world.
NAKURY is part of a movement to redefine the model of the Latin woman, joining others like Francisca Valenzuela, Alice Bag and Miss Bolivia (Paz Ferreyra), using music, poetry and art. In Via, NAKURY is using rap – and has produced an album that is flowing, addictive, and unforgettable. Latin Grammy judges, take note. It would be a crime if Via was not nominated this year.