2018: An Important Year for the Politics of Russian Rap

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2018 was a pivotal year with regards to the politics of Russian rap. Late in the year, many artists, especially rappers, had their shows cancelled throughout Russia, receiving accusations from government officials ranging from spreading drug propaganda to using obscene language. This move by Russian authorities to repress the rap scene forced a confrontation with rappers that culminated in the arrest of rapper Husky in Krasnodar. His detention spurred many rappers into action against the Russian government, as they organized a benefit concert for him that Aleksei Navalny attended. This intense negative reaction caused the Russian government to change its strategy, as it tried to adjust Russian rap to fit its narratives about mainstream Russian culture and reject the subversive elements of the art form like drug-related and political language. This paper seeks to understand the political side of Russian rap from the perspective of both rappers and the government. To accomplish this, the paper contains two analytical sections. The first section analyzes the policies and motivations of the Russian government by using primary source material from different actors including Vladimir Putin and other officials. It argues that the concert cancellations were not a part of the Kremlin’s strategy and that Putin’s personal intervention signaled the extent to which the government was worried about distancing itself from the policy of cancellation. The second section will gauge the political trends in the Russian rap community of the time, using textual analysis of rap lyrics to paint a picture of the political messaging of influential pro- and anti-Kremlin rappers surrounding the crackdown on rap. This section will serve as a counterpart to the first, using the artistic expression of rappers to illustrate their political philosophies, including their views on the nature of the Russian state, their opinions of the behavior and polemics of powerful figures in Russian politics, and their takes on controversial social problems about which the Russian government is concerned. This second section argues that political rappers employ a rich fabric of references and allusions to powerful political actors in order to praise or criticize them and that Russian rappers often oppose the government, sometimes as a direct result of the 2018 crackdown.


Type of resource text
Date created June 4, 2021


Author Newman, Steven Kyle


Subject CREEES
Subject Center for Russian East European and Eurasian Studies
Subject Russia
Subject rap
Subject politics
Genre Thesis

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Newman, Steven Kyle. (2021). "2018: An Important Year for the Politics of Russian Rap." Stanford Digital Repository. Available at: https://purl.stanford.edu/bq826cj6184


Masters Theses in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies

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