City of God

Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) next to Angélica (Alice Braga).

City of God, the latest release from Xaymaca is out now. You got me now! You figured me out! But, before you write this off as vain, self-promotion, read on and learn about the significance behind the City of God title. And, enjoy an absolute banger, which will be linked in this article (okay shameless plugging out of the way, onto the piece).

Album artwork for City of God by Xaymaca

The inspiration for the song’s title City of God came from the film with the same title, Cidade de Deus (in Portuguese). The Brazilian coming of age film, follows Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), an upcoming photographer, through the favelas of Rio Di Janeiro in the 1960s and 1970s, as he tries to avoid the crime that surrounds him.


Rocket caught in the middle of Lil Zé’s gang and the police

One of the things that I love about the film is the different perspectives that it offers. Sometimes we see the same scene twice but just from a different view. For example, when Lil Dice, later Lil Zé (Leandro Firmino) seizes control of Blacky’s (Ruben Sabino) apartment. We see two different perspectives of the same scene and even in such a short scene, we learn the backstory of the apartment, finding out who was there before Blacky and gaining more of an insight into the nature of the characters.

This focus on different perspectives and stories within stories inspired me because I can see it in my real life. I thought more about relationships and about how everyone has baggage. The way in which I see a person is unique and it’s only through speaking to that person that you learn their story and understand why they behave in the way that they do. This is similar to City of God because everything is connected. A person’s past has influenced them, like when Lil Dice (Douglas Silva) felt snubbed by the Tender Trio, leading to the massacre at the motel.

Now, I don’t know anyone with a past like that but trying see things from someone else’s view helps you to understand them in greater detail, which is why I try to explain how I think in the first verse and highlight some of my key influence, who I have studied.

Xaymaca at the video shoot for City of God

“Work, music, girls / I don’t really know much else”

“Follow Nipsey and his Hussle / See how Meek made it out the muscle / You think small, I think Biggie / I think Jay Z, I think Diddy”


Rocket as he captures a photo of Lil Zé dead in the street

This leads on nicely to decision-making. It’s one thing to accept a person’s history but it’s another to respect the choices that they’ve made. All of the influences that I just mentioned, had to make choices to become the people that they are. Similar to the City of God, they came from testing environments and like Rocket they made it out by working on what they loved, staying focused and showing their value.

Rocket is the most relatable character because he’s trying to live a “normal” life despite the circumstances. He stays in school, wants to lose his virginity and has a passion for photography. This is something admirable in a world filled with drugs and violence.

Apart from a half-hearted attempt to rob a store, in which he gets the number of a sweet one, he doesn’t get involved in that sort of action. Maybe the opportunity for him to really get involved in the City of God wasn’t there or maybe he just knew that that life wasn’t for him. Either way, he was able to make it out legally.

At first we have doubts, as he even says “it was like a message from God: honesty doesn’t pay sucker”. However, in the long run it did, since he ends up working for a newspaper as a reporter, losing his virginity and most importantly staying alive. This was down to decisions that he made, even though he saw people around him take different paths.

I related this to my own life, less with a life of crime and violence, although I know that that is reality for some people, but simply with trying to make the best out of whatever situation I’m in. There are usually a couple of options. The red pill or the blue pill. And even if I do take the blue pill sometimes, I want to have the right regrets – word to Arthur Miller. The majority of the time, I would like to make the right decision (if that even exists) but sometimes I’m going to make mistakes. The key is not to stop.

And, sometimes you get luckily or it is your destiny, like Rocket. It was by chance that a reporter picked up his photos and published them. But, at the same time it was through his choices of taking photos of his friends, to taking photos of Lil Zé’s gang, to getting his photos developed, that got him his break. Everything is interconnected and the mind is mighty powerful.

Looking super-suave in King’s Cross

“In a City of God, oh boy / You can get shot, oh boy / You can get locked, oh boy / But don’t ever stop, my boy”

So, now that you’ve understood my perspective, you have the choice. Do nothing, listen to the song, watch the film, or listen to the song and watch the film.  Like another City of God writer would argue, St Augustine, Christian theologian and philosopher, we can never really know if what we are doing will lead us to the City of God (the ideal realm, heaven – quite ironic how Cidade de Deus represents earthly pleasures and corruption) but I implore you to keep going, whatever choice you make.

Xaymaca Awoyungbo

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