Putin's war on rap unites Russia's hip hop artists

In Russia, a rap war is raging, but it's not between battling MCs.Russian President Vladimir Putin, w...

Posted: Dec 18, 2018 2:54 PM
Updated: Dec 18, 2018 2:54 PM

In Russia, a rap war is raging, but it's not between battling MCs.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has previously commended rappers for bringing societal issues into the limelight and invited a popular artist to perform at his presidential inauguration earlier this year, has said that rap is part of the country's culture and that it is up to the government to manage it.

Arts and entertainment

Concerts and musical performances

Continents and regions

Eastern Europe

Europe

Music

Music and dance

Musical styles

Political Figures - Intl

Rap and hip-hop music

Russia

Vladimir Putin

Arrests

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Criminal law

Law and legal system

Law enforcement

"This is part of culture, this is part of our common culture, so it needs to be treated with great caution," Putin said at a meeting of the Presidential Council for Culture and Art in St. Petersburg on Saturday.

"If it is impossible to stop, then it is necessary to navigate and guide accordingly," Putin added.

The Russian president was responding to a debate about official efforts to crack down on rap artists -- actions that have raised concerns about freedom of expression in the country.

Related: The battle inside Russia's rap scene

Cancellations surge

Since October, at least seven performers -- most of them rappers -- have had their concerts canceled because of law enforcement raids or other pretexts, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The Calvert Journal -- which is published by London-based non-profit Calvert 22 and features analysis on contemporary culture in Russia and the region -- reported that a wide range of gigs had been canceled throughout 2018, ranging from punk shows and small festivals to larger, more influential hip hop and rap outfits.

In November, the high-profile arrest of one of the country's most famous rappers catapulted the country's rap conundrum into the global spotlight.

Dmitry Kuznetsov, aka Husky, was arrested and jailed on charges of "minor hooliganism" after performing for fans on the street in the southern city of Krasnodar.

Husky, 25, was sentenced to 12 days in prison for rapping from the rooftop of a car after his concert was canceled at the last minute.

The venue where Husky was scheduled to perform pulled out due to a warning from the local prosecutor's office who said the rapper's lyrics were going to be "checked for extremism," according to HRW, citing local media Lenta.

Another venue opened its doors to Husky at the last minute, but as the rapper began to perform, the venue's electricity was cut, prompting him to perform to fans who had spilled out onto the street, HRW reported.

Husky -- who often raps about poverty, corruption and police brutality -- wrote on Russian social media platform Vkontakte that several of the scheduled concerts on that tour had been canceled by authorities who allege that his lyrics promote sexual debauchery and are religiously offensive.

Following his arrest, prominent rappers Oxxxymiron, Basta and Noize MC organized the "I'm Going to Sing My Music" charity concert in Moscow.

Oxxxymiron, whose real name is Miron Fyodorov, said on Twitter: "This is not just about Husky but about all of us and the future of music in our country."

Just hours before the event, Husky was released from prison and the charges were dropped.

The gig drew a packed crowd of hip hop devotees and activists, including opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who claimed that Husky was released because the Kremlin wanted to avoid the concert turning into a "manifestation for freedom of speech and creativity."

Margarita Simonyan, the Editor-in-Chief of Russia's state-sponsored television network RT, said on Twitter that a few Kremlin officials found out about the case and personally intervened. "When two or three people at the President's Office are outraged by a particular occurrence, things usually turn out well," she said.

'Degradation of the nation'

Husky's arrest has ignited a national debate about the future of Russian rap and the role that the Kremlin could play in further shaping the art form, an evolving genre that is widely popular with the country's youth.

Earlier this month, the State Duma, the country's lower chamber of parliament, announced it would hold a rap competition on the subject of Russian travel, which has drawn parallels to Soviet-era censorship of the arts.

The Duma also invited a group of popular rappers to a roundtable discussion about the controversial concert cancellations.

There, veteran rapper Ptaha, real name David Nuriev, warned against any proposed censorship of rap lyrics and suggested that the genre had become a scapegoat to hide social problems affecting young people in Russian society.

"I think it is necessary to be engaged in raising kids, change the education system, the upbringing system in principle, it must be changed. Just a bunch of conservatives sitting there and blaming artists, rappers and other people for something they failed to solve themselves. I am just shocked," he wrote of the meeting on Instagram.

In remarks posted on the Kremlin website this weekend, Putin said that "rap and other things that are modern forms of expression rest upon three pillars: sex, drugs and protest," and said he was the most worried about rap lyrics that glorified drug use.

"Of all this, of course, drugs are the most worrisome. This is an obvious thing, this is the path to degradation of the nation," he said.

Putin added that he had spoken with a researcher who specialized in obscene lyrics.

"I was told that it is part of our language," he said. "But the question is just how to use it. We have all sorts of body parts, but it's not like we put them on display all the time."

While the Kremlin plans to provide a guiding hand to its rappers, it's clear that some rappers will refuse to take it.

In November a defiant Husky said: "I could write, as they say, stop putting pressure on me, I do not call for anything and do not insult anyone. But no: I insult specifically you, I the servant, and I tell you to go disappear somewhere forever and for good with your cool little ideas."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 587049

Reported Deaths: 9287
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion810691296
Lake44121665
Allen31797541
Hamilton28178303
St. Joseph26684369
Elkhart24057340
Vanderburgh18519213
Tippecanoe17305121
Johnson14398284
Porter14342159
Hendricks13793241
Madison10509212
Vigo10432171
Clark10151129
Monroe9029108
Delaware8782129
LaPorte8721153
Kosciusko784677
Howard7834137
Warrick636790
Hancock633297
Bartholomew624294
Floyd6098105
Wayne5903156
Grant5799109
Dubois541670
Boone531467
Morgan512388
Marshall492484
Henry491164
Cass469060
Noble458757
Dearborn454544
Jackson413145
Shelby401178
Lawrence379475
Clinton363639
Gibson355056
DeKalb336363
Montgomery333851
Harrison326042
Knox325439
Miami308243
Steuben304940
Adams294435
Whitley292325
Wabash291645
Ripley290845
Putnam282447
Huntington281257
Jasper280733
White265738
Daviess260772
Jefferson248538
Fayette241348
Decatur241282
Greene232460
Posey230026
Wells228547
LaGrange223461
Clay216432
Scott216437
Randolph207540
Jennings191335
Sullivan188531
Spencer179917
Fountain178625
Washington175018
Starke170741
Jay162021
Fulton158829
Owen157837
Carroll151315
Orange150533
Rush148118
Perry145327
Vermillion144333
Franklin142533
Parke12788
Tipton127332
Pike113125
Blackford107022
Pulaski94637
Newton89020
Brown85530
Benton84110
Crawford7479
Martin69213
Warren6537
Switzerland6175
Union6063
Ohio4647
Unassigned0374

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 821507

Reported Deaths: 10135
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin96935704
Cuyahoga81526972
Hamilton60913438
Montgomery41445399
Summit33096726
Lucas29981591
Butler29513227
Stark24608400
Warren18792139
Lorain17916207
Mahoning16710335
Lake15255135
Clermont15053104
Delaware1374277
Licking12595132
Trumbull12352301
Fairfield1211380
Greene11532132
Medina11033165
Clark10557264
Wood9901154
Allen9481126
Portage8802105
Miami880173
Richland8748116
Marion7305113
Tuscarawas7095174
Columbiana7047124
Pickaway699850
Wayne6729162
Muskingum665342
Erie5866117
Hancock537090
Ross526087
Scioto514862
Geauga478255
Darke456089
Ashtabula437268
Union429228
Lawrence428951
Mercer423387
Sandusky419062
Seneca411755
Auglaize410959
Huron409138
Shelby408521
Jefferson400466
Belmont392840
Washington367940
Putnam363672
Athens36229
Madison337928
Knox334922
Ashland329138
Fulton324243
Defiance317078
Crawford311968
Preble310034
Brown294419
Logan291829
Ottawa280534
Clinton278143
Williams268966
Highland261318
Jackson255243
Guernsey239425
Champaign239227
Fayette224529
Morrow22194
Perry220517
Holmes217562
Henry208847
Hardin203032
Coshocton197120
Van Wert196244
Wyandot189949
Gallia189126
Adams165515
Pike163416
Hocking161923
Carroll148016
Paulding139021
Noble117540
Meigs102421
Monroe95227
Harrison8578
Morgan78227
Vinton65613
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 20°
Angola
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 22°
Huntington
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 24°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 22°
Lima
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 24°
Seasonal Monday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events