Tver, Russia — most recently on Friday night rapper big baby Teyp (Tape Big Baby) came on stage in a crowded club in this ancient city not far from Moscow, starting with his long tour.
The audience, mostly teenagers, enthusiastically shouted his name, jumped and danced to the energetic, bass-filled music.
Just a year ago, big baby Teip was known only to inveterate fans of rap music. But in November he released his first Studio album “Dragonborn” (Dragonborn), placing it in social networks and streaming platforms. On Russian radio, he was introduced only partially, and on TV music videos did not show at all.
But three days later he went platinum. Tracks from “Dragonborn” more than 300 million times replayed in the main social network and streaming platform Russia “Vkontakte” and in the music charts of the Apple he was holding a few months. In the blink of an eye aspiring rapper by the name of Egor Rakitin turned into a celebrity. Today he wears on the street large sunglasses to avoid being recognized.
“I’ve never invested money in advertising, said Rakitin, who was born five days after Vladimir Putin became in 1999 the President of Russia. Today you can make good money by streaming videos online.”
A few years ago, such a rapid rise of the big baby Teyp in Russia would be impossible, because the industry of pop music in the country vigilantly guarded loyal to the Kremlin cultural officials. Veterans of the music production workshop acted as controllers for the TV channels and radio stations, making sure that the artists won’t rock the boat. Without television and radio performers could not gather large audiences for their concerts.
But like everywhere else, in Russia the Internet has become for young people the dominant force in the music industry, and it changed the situation. In April the number of subscribers of one of Russia’s leading paid streaming platforms “Yandex. Music” reached 1.7 million people, doubling in just a year. Together with people who use the service for free, the number of users is 20 million per month.
With the support of such sites alive and energetic rap culture in Russia flourished, existing independently from the state, his aesthetics, and desirable values. There were new stars, trying himself in different genres and derivatives of violating prohibitions.
“Rappers are not trying to bend over backwards to get on TV, as this would mean complete rejection of the references in their lyrics, drugs, profanity or sexual comments,” says 40-year-old editor of a website “Flo” (The Flow) Andrey Nikitin, for many years, watching this trend.
Rap seizes the minds of the Russian youth, because those who are less than 25 years, gradually cease to support Putin and begin to criticize him, as indicated by many surveys.
It seems that the Kremlin is alarmed. In 2018 has been cancelled dozens of concerts, and in November of the Krasnodar police detained the rapper, Dmitry Kuznetsov (aka Husky) when he tried to arrange an impromptu performance on the roof of the car because the performance with his participation was canceled.
In December, Putin convened the Advisory Council on culture and ordered his administration to develop a program to increase the state’s role in pop music. Now it will issue grants and to open a music Studio across the country. The government has said it will weed out unwanted content on the Internet, but have been unable to find an effective solution to this problem.
“The impact of hip-hop is huge,” said 34-year-old rapper Oxxxymiron (Oxxxymiron), is the founder of the independent hip-hop in Russia. According to him, the core values of hip-hop spread in modern Russian culture through music, visual art, film, dance, manner of dress and so on.
“Russian young people are more cosmopolitan, is on the same wavelength with today’s Western and world trends, more receptive to other nationalities and traditions, and deep understanding of social and political issues on the other side of the Atlantic, said Oxxxymiron, aka Miron Fyodorov. Inevitably, it will change the attitude of this generation to himself, to society and to the world.”
Early in the century rap in Russia was a very narrow genre. For a huge country toured the group’s hip-hop such as “Caste” and “CENTER”, but they never penetrated into the mainstream. The media in their reports spoke disparagingly about Russian rap, believing it to be provincial, and paid more attention to indie music, which basically was fond of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
The turning point came in 2015, when it was released a few revolutionary albums, including records Oxxxymiron and Kazakhstan-born rapper Hook (Skryptonite). Around the same time rapper Boulevard Depo (Depo Boulevard) founded the band Angirasa (YungRussia), which began to give concerts throughout Russia. Some musicians because of its composition, including the rut. Flood (GONE.Fludd) and Faraon (Pharaoh), were the big stars. In 2017, the trio of rappers, including, Oxxxymiron, gathered at their concerts full stadium “Olympic” in Moscow, the largest indoor Playground in Russia.
Most rappers in his poems avoided direct political statements, and asked questions, far from the glorious past of Russia, which praises the public culture. The celebration of the victory in world war II and the victory of Soviet sport, which are popular topics in movies and on television have little in common with the daily life of young people. Hook, for example, offers a look at the grim post-Soviet reality of rural life, thoroughly impregnated with alcohol. A concept album Oxxxymiron “Gorgoro” is a multidimensional story about the strained relationship between an ambitious writer and a power-hungry mayor of an imaginary city.
After the conflict with the West over Ukraine, Russia was in isolation, but the Russian rappers do not limit themselves to their own circle, and find inspiration in foreign culture, borrowing much from her.
Big baby Teyp, for example, blends American slang from the video games with the Russian text, which has a lot of foul language. Rapper Feys (Face), famous for his unbridled, violating all taboos music inspired by the American rap movement Soundcloud (SoundCloud).
In 2017 the authorities of the Novosibirsk, Omsk and Perm cancelled the concerts of the Faith, citing the demands of local organizations for the fight against drugs. In the southern city of Belgorod, the organizers asked the rapper to sing the Russian national anthem before the concert. Faith refused, and the concert was cancelled.
After that, Faith decided to record a ruthless and violent album in the punk style, which “will destroy the power, as did the group “EN. VI. A.” (N. W. A.) and “Public Enemy” (Public Enemy)” what the rapper said in an interview. In September, he released the album “Ways are inscrutable”, which is full of unapologetic criticism of today’s Russia, which Face said: “the freedom of speech here, life is Russia”.
This album turned rapper, who grew up in the industrial city of Ufa, a favorite of opposition activists and liberal journalists, but was puzzled by his young fans, which was largely his usual vulgar old style punk.
The impact of the Internet and rapidly flourished rap was so powerful that he began to pay attention to even the supporters of the traditional cultural mainstream.
Influential music producer Igor Matvienko, who is allied with Putin earlier urged to ban rap music, said in an interview that the music industry “has changed completely” and that it is “irreversible changes”.
But there is a positive side, said Matvienko. “For the first time in my life I realized — and it was a real revelation to me — that the Russian youth began to listen to Russian music.”
“If you go to the Patriarch’s ponds, you will hear the Russian tracks, loud sound which can be heard from passing cars,” he said, speaking about one of the richest areas in the center of Moscow.
“Perhaps, in ideological terms they are not very good, — said Matvienko. — but they are in Russian language.”
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