Russian rap: turning rants and raves into culture

Vladimir Putin wants Russian bureaucrats to regulate the nation’s rap music. What could go wrong?

Robert PriceOver the weekend, news reports circulated that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants Russian bureaucrats to regulate the nation’s rap music. Without regulation, Putin says, Russian rap – obsessed as it is with “sex, drugs and protest” – could lead Russia down “a path to the degradation of the nation.”

Putin showed ample wisdom by advising against the outright ban of rap. That would have been overreach. Instead, he wants cultural leaders to “lead” and “direct” the development of Russian rap.

I think this brilliant idea is long overdue. Russian rap is honestly all over the place. Rappers rant and rave about all sorts of things – whatever strikes them as important, it seems – leading to a stunning incoherence within the genre. Obviously, this is a travesty – or as the leadership class might put it, an opportunity.

Besides the thematic fragmentation of the genre, much of the ‘music,’ as the president rightly points out, indulges in profanity and celebrates dissent. There is no doubt that if Russian rap is allowed to develop without morally upstanding, centralized leadership, the entire nation could degenerate to the level of the United States, a place where artists tend to say whatever they like, and without consequence.

Let me be among the first to congratulate Putin for his foresight and excellent leadership on this point of Russian and – let’s be honest – international culture.

What Russia’s cultural bureaucrats decide to do about the country’s rap remains to be seen.

I don’t want to brag, but I’ve written a bit of poetry in my life and I feel at least a little qualified to offer a few humble verses that I hope will inspire Russia’s cultural czars to produce rap that celebrates all that needs celebrating in Russia.

Righteous Russian Rap

If you wanna lay down heavy tracks
that blow your mind and break your backs
hire the very creative people in the Kremlin
to engineer rhymes about docile
proletariats who do as they are instructed
and pay righteous honour to President Putin who,
as everybody should already know,
is a very handsome, intelligent and likeable man.

Rap can be state-managed and still be good.

Real artists comply as they know they should.

Yo, boy, check out these rhymes!

They be so hot they be like crimes.

Who says career bureaucrats
can’t execute metered, rhyming stanzas
that impress on commoners the correct opinions
about nationalism, morality and art,
thereby encouraging them to pay the necessary respect
due to President Putin, who enlightens us with his wisdom
and fulfils us with his humour?

He’s actually very funny. Word!

Rap is better when it’s managed by the state.

This is a policy we cannot overstate.

I admit, this rap is rough. But I think it captures what expression can become when the state oversees it.

It’s a huge opportunity.

Troy Media columnist Robert Price is an assistant professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga.

russian rap

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