Putin’s Kremlin now wants to take a leading role in rap music

“If it’s impossible to stop something, you’ve got to take charge of it.”
“If it’s impossible to stop something, you’ve got to take charge of it.”
Image: Reuters/Yuri Kadobnov
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Russian president Vladimir Putin says clamping down on the country’s rappers isn’t working. Maybe it’s time for the Kremlin to try out some of its own rhymes?

Russian authorities have cracked down on rappers critical of the political regime, saying the performers are promoting sex, violence, and drug use. Some raids have reportedly involved the FSB security service (the successor to the KGB), and the interior ministry’s anti-extremism unit known as Centre E. Some young Russians are rebelling against a government seen as forcing conservative ideology on all aspects of their lives. Human Rights Watch has called out rap as an endangered forum for free expression in Russia.

Putin said blunt tactics like concert cancellations and arrests can be counterproductive. “If it’s impossible to stop something, you’ve got to take charge of it,” the Russian president said during a live broadcast covered by Reuters.  “How to do this, how to take charge and guide in the necessary direction … That’s the most important issue.” The concern will reportedly be discussed further by Putin’s administration and the culture ministry.

Of Russian rap music themes like sex, drugs, and protests, Putin said drugs are the biggest concern. “They are the route to a nation’s degradation,” he said.

The Kremlin’s rap battle crescendoed after the brief detention of Husky, a popular rapper whose concerts have been targeted by authorities. Venue operators were warned that shows by Husky (his real name is Dmitry Kuznetsov) have elements of “extremism,” according to a Guardian report. After electricity was shut off at a concert venue in the southern city of Krasnodar, Russia, Husky left and climbed on top of a car and performed until he was detained. Videos of the scene quickly spread around the internet. Support for the rapper may have surprised Russian officials, prompting his quick release to avoid fanning a cause célèbre.

Putin may have been a fan of an earlier rap track called “My Best Friend is President Putin,” by rap star Timati. But other rap has been less flattering of modern life in Russia. A musician called Face put out an album called ”Ways Are Unfathomable” that described Russia as “one big prison camp,” according to Politico. Some of the lyrics took shots at the Russian Orthodox Church, which is seen as an ally to Kremlin. Videos made by Husky have mocked the Russian political regime.