Russian authorities are cracking down on young rappers, including 25-year-old Husky. (YouTube: Huksy)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked his government to “take control” of rap music, as a new wave of provocative hip hop music sweeps the country.
Authorities have been cracking down on rappers who they see as threats to the country’s culture, but Mr Putin says banning them from performing will only make them more popular.
“If it is impossible to stop, then we must lead it and direct it,” he declared at a forum in St Petersburg over the weekend.
So what’s the big problem with rap music in Russia, and how does Mr Putin plan to control it? Here’s what we know.
What’s the problem with rap music in Russia?
Three words: sex, drugs and protest.
Mr Putin is worried rap music is corrupting the minds of young people with its offensive language and depictions of promiscuity and drug use.
“Drugs are the most worrying. They are the route to a nation’s degradation,” Mr Putin said at the forum on Saturday (local time).
Mr Putin says the “drug propaganda” is worse than the offensive language. (AP: Alexei Druzhinin)
But this new wave of rap music has also become a form of protest against the Government.
Many rappers are gaining popularity by channelling the frustrations of young people, rapping about politics, poverty, corruption and police brutality.
One of those is Husky, a 25-year-old rapper whose songs mock the Government for expecting absolute control over its citizens.
“I will sing my music, the most honest music!” one of his songs says.
He was arrested last month and sentenced to 12 days in prison.
What did Husky do?
Husky, whose real name is Dmitry Kuznetsov, was arrested after staging an impromptu performance in the southern city of Krasnodar in November.
He was supposed to perform a concert there, but the show was shut down after local prosecutors warned the venue that his act had elements of “extremism”.
Husky then moved his concert to another club, but was thwarted again when the power was shut off and everyone was forced outside.
He then climbed onto the roof of a car surrounded by hundreds of fans and began chanting the lyrics to his songs, before being taken away by police.
In court, Husky said he was forced to perform on the street because his concert had been cancelled without explanation, and he was willing to pay compensation for any damage to the vehicle.
“I acted in such a way because … I felt an obligation to talk to the people who had bought tickets,” he told the court.
In the end, he was sentenced to 12 days in prison for hooliganism, but was released four days later, just hours before hip hop artists planned to protest his detention at a solidarity concert in Moscow.
How many others have been affected?
On November 30, rapper Gone.Fludd announced two concert cancellations, citing pressure from “every police agency you can imagine”.
The popular hip hop artist Allj also cancelled his show in the Arctic city of Yakutsk after receiving threats of violence.
And it’s not just rappers who are being targeted.
The Russian punk band Pussy Riot also use music to protest against the Kremlin. (Reuters: Denis Sinyakov)
Pop sensation Monetochka and punk band Friendzona had their concerts shut down by the authorities last month, while “dark rave” duo Nastya Kreslina and Nikolay Kostylev have had several concerts cancelled on their national tour.
“We have received no official statements, no letters, nothing. These are just ratty methods of fighting against art,” they told The Associated Press.
So what does Putin plan to do?
Mr Putin says the Government needs to start taking a different approach.
He says heavy-handed measures can often be counterproductive, and has asked his cultural leaders to devise a new way to control, rather than ban, rap music.
“How to do this, how to take charge and guide in the necessary direction … that’s the most important issue,” he said.
This is not the first time Russia has cracked down on the music scene.
During the Soviet-era, Communist Party officials drove rock musicians deemed an ideological threat underground.