Russian Rappers Are Giving Up on Putin (Op-ed)

The other affected rappers ostensibly have been stopped from playing in various Russian cities for similar reasons — after calls and letters to the authorities from concerned parents and morality activists.

When Husky was barred from playing at a club in the southern city of Krasnodar, he jumped on top of a car (he would later say that he thought its owner had encouraged him to do it) and started rapping.

“I will sing my music, hey, the most honest music, hey!” he intoned as hundreds of fans went wild, but police pulled Husky off the vehicle and he was sentenced to 12 days in prison. By the time a court in Krasnodar lifted the sentence four days later, Oxxxymiron and two other rappers, the strongly anti-Putin Ivan Alexeyev a.k.a. Noize MC, and Vasily Vakulenko, banned from Ukraine for playing concerts in annexed Crimea, had organized a concert in his support at one of Moscow’s biggest clubs.

“Darkness, debasement, drugs, guns are part of the modern world,” Oxxxymiron told the capacity crowd of about 3,000. “It’s not we, rappers, artists, who invent and spread them. Very different people do it. When one hears rap is to blame, no, it’s just a reflection, not the root cause.”

Turning Political

It’s a short step from quarreling with the morality police to writing anti-government raps. This year, Ivan Dryomin, a.k.a. Face, previously not known for politicized lyrics, unexpectedly released a transparently political album.

“Since my birth, there has been no freedom in this country,” he rapped. “Here, bought judges ruin people’s lives, World Cups are just a reason to skim off cash, but nobody gives a *** among the grey apartment blocks.”

In October, the rapper canceled the tour he’d planned to promote the album without a public explanation. If he’d tried to go ahead, it’s likely that the authorities would have treated him much as they reacted to IC3PEAK, which has had concerts canceled in multiple cities. The group’s recent video shows the singer, Anastasia Kreslina, pretending to pour kerosene all over herself against the background of the Russian government building in Moscow. “All of Russia is looking at me,” she sings. “Let everything burn, let everything burn.”