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The Latin Grammy-nominated Brazilian singer Anitta may be a global pop star, but her success has come with a share of hardships.
"I've suffered a lot of prejudice in my career because I came from these places, these humble, poor places" said Anitta, who was born in Honório Gurgel, a lower class neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro. "If I can do something to try to make the next people who come after not go through the things that I went through — for me, that's amazing."
"I think the universe brings back whatever you send to the people," she told NBC News.
Part of what the universe brought Anitta back was an unexpected surprise from her manager a few weeks ago when he asked the singer to approve the mix of her latest single "Me Gusta" featuring Grammy-winning rapper Cardi B and Puerto Rican singer Myke Towers.
"I didn't know anything," said Anitta. "And when I was listening, it dropped her [Cardi B's] voice and I was like, wow! ... That's a perfect match."
Anitta, 27, born Larissa de Macedo Machado, has become the leading artist of a new generation of Latin American music by blending, as she says, "Latino sounds with Brazilian culture with pop American radio" since she broke through in Brazil six years ago.
"I feel so lucky and it's been a while since Brazilian culture doesn't come to the world. I think last time Brazilian culture was big, was Bossa nova, which is a long time ago," she said, referring to the music genre that became popular in the 1960s for its samba and jazz influences.
Anitta has been able to forge a path in the male-dominated genre of Latin urban music and is now using her stardom to spotlight underrepresented communities in Brazil.
The singer is currently working on her fifth album, which also marks her debut at Warner Records in the U.S. The album is expected to drop sometime this year.
"In every track you are going to feel a little bit of Brazil," she said. And her new song "Me Gusta" is no different.
The bilingual track "has two very big rhythms from ghetto parts of Brazil," said Anitta. "Funk, which is a rhythm that was born in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, I was born in a place like that." The other one is pagode, a sub-genre of samba, prevalent in the Brazilian state of Bahia which is the first place the Portuguese came to Brazil to explore — and where they also brought slaves from Africa, Anitta said.
Anitta pays ode to this history in "Me Gusta's" music video, which was filmed pre-pandemic in Bahia's capital city, Salvador, the same place where Michael Jackson did the music video for his hit "They Don't Really Care About Us."
The artist said she brought in an expert on Afro-Brazilian history to advise her on how to best showcase those roots while also highlighting the beauty of women, Afro-Latinas and people from LGBTQ communities who live in the area.
"We are transforming this place into a positive thing, exalting all the good things these people have," said Anitta, adding that she was doing her best to send a message of empowerment without offending anybody.
"I understand it's music for people to have fun... . But in the video, from behind, we have a message," said Anitta. "We are exalting all types of women and saying how much we like it when they do whatever they want to do."
Anitta will perform "Me Gusta" live for the first time on NBC's "The Tonight Show" with Jimmy Fallon on Wednesday, Sept. 23.