Russian musicians are being forced to cancel their concerts across the country, which makes now the perfect time to listen to their music
On November 30, the rapper Gone.Fludd announced that two of his concerts in Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude have been postponed, citing pressure from “every police agency you can imagine.” And this isn’t an isolated affair: for the past several weeks, under various pretexts, law enforcement has canceled concerts by Allj, IC3PEAK, and Friendzone. After venues were pressured into shutting down his concert in Krasnodar, the rapper Husky was sentenced to almost two weeks in jail for ignoring police orders (he was later released, apparently thanks to the Kremlin’s intervention). Concerts in Russia are fairly easy to stop, but the music itself is thankfully more resilient. Meduza offers the following recommended listening in a time of rising censorship.
A native of Ulan-Ude, Dmitry Kuznetsov is a former Moscow State University journalism student and perhaps the most poetically gifted of Russia’s young rappers. He’s also the genre’s most politically controversial performer. This performer once criticized Vladimir Putin in a song released on Putin’s birthday, while last year he traveled to the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and transformed separatist field commander Motorola’s poems into a rap song. (Admittedly, in Husky’s best loved songs, politics is just one aspect of the generally chthonian horror of Russian life.)
This is one of the best groups to come out of the “slaughterhouse” hard rave parties that were popular in Moscow in the mid-2010s. As a duet, Nastya Kreslina and Nikolai Kostylev have a haunting, piercing, and powerful sound with a lot of bass, a lot of high frequencies, and tons of energy. At first, they sang in English (attracting a decent number of foreign listeners), and last year they switched to Russian. This year, they released several songs about the reality of life in Russia, which is when the group’s concerts started running into trouble.
He might be the most popular young rapper today, but in Allj’s case the hip hop seems to be turning into mainstream pop music, with a glossy house sound, lyrics about boozing and partying, catchy refrains, and all the rest. You may have heard his song “Rosé” (it was all the rage in Poland this year, for some reason), but it was apparently other compositions that made Allj the subject of public outrage and led to the cancellation of some of his concerts. For example, the Novosibirsk blogger Alexander Bessonov fabricated a whole story about a teenager and drugs around the song “Ecstasy.” From start to finish, the entire thing was made up.
With cartoonish but effective pop music made by and for high schoolers, this soulful boy-girl duet has aggressive guitars and a hip-hop groove. Friendzone’s songs are obviously designed for a specific target audience, and you can hear that in their music, but their songs are nonetheless well crafted. And apparently they’ve done such a good job capturing modern adolescence in their lyrics that parent groups and activists are now up in arms.
Kreed is known for his cover of “Million Roses,” his duet with Philipp Kirkorov, and a litany of inoffensive songs about love. A typical Old School Russian pop singer, Kreed’s main distinction is being younger than most other crooners, and it’s strange that he’s been getting censored. It could be due to the fact that Kreed is still technically a rapper, and he’s signed on Timati’s “Black Star” label. Whatever the reason, Kreed’s concert in Dagestan was canceled in October, after he started receiving threats (the music critic Khabiba Nurmagomedova might have played a role in this). They also postponed his November concert in Surgut, where police say Kreed's organizers failed to make the proper preparations.
Twenty-four years old and raised in Murmansk, Gone.Fludd follows the canon of the so-called new school of Russian rap: a fast beat, heavy bass, refrains full of memes, and lyrics full of sex and mumbling. But he brings something all his own to the genre, as well. For example, Gone.Fludd has his own slang with terms like “superchuits,” which was the name of his last album, and means something like “very good.” On January 30, the rapper postponed his December concerts in Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude until spring 2019, citing pressure from “every police agency you can imagine.” The authorities are apparently demanding that he raise the age restrictions on his shows to 18 years or older (which, based on the letter of the law, would actually be logical).
Translation by Kevin Rothrock