Rap battles. The world has changed a lot since the East Coast rap scene of the 80s, so much that it’s the Russian Riviera’s call for MCs and emerging rappers that can draw millions, and this time round, 40 years on the first diss fights on stage, Russian Rap is creating a new type of music, and it is doing so on the Internet. In August 2017 one of the battles between Russian rappers organised by companies like Versus and #Slovosp saw an unparalleled online response: Oxxxymiron and Slava KPSS totalled more than 13 million views on YouTube in just two days.
We will be looking at the why rap in Russian deserves more attention than you’d imagine and the artists who are making their music emerge outside of the country.
Combine St.Petersburg and Oxford in one person, combine English literature and grime in one rap artist, that’s when you start thinking about who Oxxxymiron is and why he managed to make people want to know about Russian rappers. Miron Fyodorov is his real name and after settling down in East London spend a lot of time moving around countries with his family he then enrolled at the prestigious university in Oxford, where he also became president of the local Russian community.
Amongst Oxxymiron’s best songs as well as the famous battle mentioned earlier are contained in the 2015 dramatization of his life in London in Russian television series ‘Londongrad’, the theme song being the one expressing his success from ‘the underground to TV screens’’.
What will come up if you Googled ‘Husky rapper’ is the news of how he recently spent 12 days in prison after ignoring a band and performed from the roof of a car to fans. His latest concert was in fact cancelled by the authorities as ‘the event contained extremism’ – one of his earlier songs openly criticised Russian president Vladimir Putin. Now, we are not saying this, but we are, what if US rappers were jailed every single time they mention Trump in their songs? Russian rap might be more relevant than you’d think because of the different political environment it comes from.
Completely the opposite direction is instead Pharaoh, who amongst Russian rappers has already gained million of teen fans in the country. He ‘moans’ about the downsides of success and boasts about sex and money – but without forgetting to show us a bit of that Post-soviet vibe through the opposite of what a glamorous appearance should look like. He’s only 21 and started it all out from some homemade videos.
He does rap in Russian although showcasing a bit of a Kazakhstani accent, but Scriptonite is for sure one of the most relevant artists on the Russian rap scene. Adil Adil Zhalelov emerged with “VBVVCTND”, a song on the post-Soviet derelict grey buildings where nothing actually rarely emerges from.
Although he got beaten by Oxxxymiron in the most online Russian rap battle ever seen, there wouldn’t be a rap scene of battles in Russia without Slava KPSS. He is famous for his offensive language, which is no news for anyone who has ever listened to a rap song, but he stepped a bit over the line when he mocked the Chechen diaspora.
Ivan Timofeevich Dryomin made his debut on the scene in 2015 gaining a position amongst the best Russian rappers out there. Face is also known as one of the most controversial faces of Russian rap, somebody who can really lead youths in Russia to something different than bling-bling as Swarovski custom-made Rolls Royces:
I know what it means to grow up in Russia – I grew up on the outskirts of a provincial city, Ufa, so I have a right to talk about it. I know what it feels like when you survive on your grandparents’ tiny pension, what it feels like when your mother gets religious and literally loses her mind because of it.
He said to Dazed.
Sergey Kruppov is the name behind the Russian rapper who chose to go by the acronym ATL – apparently as a tribute to the code of Atlanta airport (USA).
She is a female Russian rapper, although she doesn’t actually rap in Russian but in a language called Tatar, from the Tatarstan, and English: she is married to Little Big frontman Ilya Prusikin (you read more about them here). She is working on he debut album set to be released in 2019.
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