In Russia, a burgeoning rap feud is underway, but not between dueling emcees.
A government crackdown on contemporary music that officials claim promotes the wrong values has led to worsening fears about Soviet-era censorship and freedom of expression. In recent months, dozens of rappers have had their shows canceled, and at least three musicians have been detained.
Rap music has emerged as the nation’s most popular musical genre in recent years, and artists have angered authorities with their frank portrayals of daily life and mockery of the government.
President Vladimir Putin acknowledged last weekend that rap is “part of our common culture,” but he said its emphasis on “sex, drugs, and protest” merits governmental oversight. “If it is impossible to stop, then it is necessary to navigate and guide accordingly,” Putin said at a meeting of the Presidential Council for Culture and Art in St. Petersburg on Saturday.
Last week, the Russian parliament announced a counteractive measure: It is holding a rap song competition, but the songs must depict travel in Russia. The winner receives a trip around Russian cities. “We want to give a platform for open discussion and highlight the opportunities as well as drawbacks of this or that town,” said lawmaker Mikhail Degtyarev.
This measure comes after the arrest of a rapper known as Husky last month for an impromptu performance on top of a car after his show was canceled. His YouTube videos have garnered more than 6 million views, and footage of his arrest was widely circulated.
At a solidarity concert calling for Husky’s release, musician Oxxxymiron told a crowd of 3,000 people that rappers should not face blame for the modern world’s “darkness, debasement, drugs, guns … [rap is] just a reflection, not the root cause.” —Mary Jackson