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Recently, the rapper Husky (Хаски) got his concert effectively banned by the Russian law enforcement agencies, allegedly because his lyrics contained themes incompatible with the "children protection" laws, and had to spend some days in isolation. A whole movement arose with the hashtag #ябудупетьсвоюмузыку ("I will perform my music") and culminated in a concert to support the jailed rapper (who was released a few hours before the concert began).

This isn't a singular incident: more than 20 concerts (link in Russian) have been cancelled since February, mostly after pressure was applied by law enforcement agencies and some other parties to the club owners or organisers. As far as I'm aware, no actual legal actions (e.g. a lawsuit) was taken against said bands, and no definitive legal justification was supplied for the actions of the law enforcement.

Which brings the question: why the recent (relatively) crackdown on the popular groups, and why such dedication to have their concerts (and only concerts) banned? What exactly changed in Russia since February (or earlier?) to start this?

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Most likely, because some apparatchik decided to show their usefulness and/or flex their power by Doing Something About Moral Deterioration of Modern Youth. Same reason people tried to make life difficult for Elvis Presley in USA or (iirc) Lady Gaga in Asia or Aquarium in USSR.

Rappers are an easy target as they are typically more vulgar, offensive, and age-inappropriate than other performers, in Russia or elsewhere. AND it's a Western "Not Russian Soul compatible" import, as a bonus.

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  • I wonder if the "more" perceived negative(s) title does not constitute moral deterioration then what would? Is it even possible to gauge it outside of any societal scope or personal crusade/belief? Albeit I do not know where to ask these questions – SCFi Nov 29 '18 at 19:10
  • Music.SE? :) Literature.SE? (they'd just LOVE that question) – user4012 Nov 29 '18 at 19:11
  • For some reason I think I'd be setting a world record I don't want – SCFi Nov 29 '18 at 19:13
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Nothing changed, really.

Politically, the most substantial thing that has happened was presidential elections held in March. One could argue that the newly acquired confidence that Putin's re-election instilled in the regime is what is driving this, but without direct evidence to support this view, of which to my mind there's none, one would be at risk of committing a post hoc fallacy -- it may sound commonsensical, but if one were to rely solely on common sense and logic, it should be equally plausible that whatever new confidence was acquired should have led to a softening instead of a tightening. Besides, the outcome of election had been all but decided long before, so not so much of a confidence boost there.

Which is why I would argue that what we see is simply the continuation of the regime's attempts to control all aspects of Russians' lives that have been going for years now. But this still leaves the question why rappers and why now unanswered.

Why now is easy -- it's in the last year or so that the Russian music scene has exploded with new performers. Many of them are rappers indeed, but they aren't the only ones. It's an interesting phenomenon in itself when a teen-aged girl who was uploading her own soppy music on social networks for fun just a year or two ago is suddenly catapulted onto the late night shows without any help whatsoever other than her internet fans ceaselessly polluting the web with links to her art.

Why rappers is more complicated. Official reason would most likely be along the lines of the state having to protect the Russian youth from obscene language rappers use or the way of life they can be said to advertise in their lyrics.

But for incidence of Russian mat to be blamed on rappers, there would need to be a shortage of other vehicles by means of which it travels across the Russian society, which there's none of. When officials as high as Lavrov who was caught a couple of years ago murmuring "debily, blya" to journalists (basically calling them idiots but in a more expletive way than the word "idiots" would convey) who were too noisy during the press-conference are known to use mat or when the military half of which is still conscript-based is known to run on mat -- if you understand Russian, watch the video from several days ago where Russian coast guard apprehends Ukrainian gun boats near Crimea, which was shot from a bridge of a Russian ship; like every second word from, apparently, a commanding officer is mat -- you can't really blame it on rappers.

As for the way of life they advertise, Russia would have to not have been singled out as one of the world's worst performers with regard to HIV by WHO, which couldn't have possibly happened in just one year since these rappers appeared on stage. Neither was Russia any more drug-free before them...

All in all, real reasons lie elsewhere and are political. Perhaps, due to their quite limited sense of taboo, it is, among all other performers, rappers in particular who you can't trust with not switching from rapping about gang bangs and shooting drugs to corruption, Putin, Stalin, Navalny, level of abuse in law enforcement and penitentiary systems, etc. Which is what happened to rapper Face. He started with "I'm having sex with 38 girls" in, I think, 2016 and graduated to the themes I've laid down this year. Given that their audience mostly is otherwise politically indifferent Gen Z, a section of society that is very young, active and has all the time in the world to, say, attend Navalny's protests is thus being exposed to what Russian authorities wouldn't want any Russian to give much thought.

Second, rap may be seen as particularly western music genre and cultural influence. For a country that likes to portray itself and to some degree think of itself as non-western, Russians are already heavily westernized -- youtube, facebook, iphone, etc. are natural part of Russians' vocabulary, minister of culture is beside himself that Russians choose to watch Hollywood films instead of Russia's in the movies, and now rap? What's next? Western-style democracy, government transparency? As Russia is finding itself in prolonged confrontation with the West, at some point you need to put a stop to this -- how are you supposed to fight your enemy, when your people are culturally aligned with it?

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Is that really the first time you hear about rapper having trouble with authorities around the world because of lyrics? Article 1 / Article 2 / Article 3 / Article 4 just from a quick search. That's just seems to be part of the genre.

Main reason why this crackdown happened when it did: because there weren't groups like those to crack down on before. So it happened exactly when the fad appeared in Russia. Pretty straightforward, right?

Russia have its own music scene, but also follows global music scene with some delay, so just as idea of "shock and hype xtreme kool rebel band aimed at very young auditory" finally reached us, the same kind of news started to appear here as well.

If you review Meduza's table closely, you will see that it is not simply "popular groups". Pretty much every gig in the list belongs to same bands - very few SPECIFIC popular bands. Check the list of popular bands on Last.fm scrobbling service or any other list of popular Russian bands and see that overwhelming majority of "popular groups" - i.e. way over 90% - don't have any such problems.

So what makes those few have in common? A combination of:

  • Target auditory - they're mostly aimed at minors, maybe up to college students
  • Heavy swearing (which is less tolerated in public media in Russia than in many other parts of the world)
  • Shock and hype lyrics - predominantly very stupid "rebel for cause of rebelling", "live fast die young" or AUE-themed

So they check pretty much every mark on list of relevant law, introduced back in 2012, while explicitly targeting exact auditory covered by it.

And if you check the "reason for cancellation" in this Meduza's table, you can notice that it is often "specified incorrect age rating (i.e. lower than 18+)" - that means those bands explicitly cheated to sell more tickets to minors. Guess what, you break the law - you get the "crackdown".

If you compare them to other popular "rough" bands - pretty much all of them target older auditory and thus have no problems with law and their gigs. And their lyrics have sense too.

I reviewed #ябудупетьсвоюмузыку hashtag. "Latest" page have likes in single digits. Even "Top" page seems to have just a 3 "hard hitters" and even those are within modest 10k-20k range of likes and that's all. It seems you grossly overestimate this "a whole movement". In my personal experience, overwhelming majority supports both "Protecting Children" law and its usage over those specific bands in particular. So government just follows people's popular opinion.

The bulk of answer ends here and below is my personal anecdote. Though it is about my own family, what I heard personally from other people and read on social networks among adults mostly correlates with it.


I myself listen to pretty much everything from Darkwave, Synthpop, K-Pop Girl/Boy bands to Horror Punk and all kinds of metal. I listen to bands that are heavy on swearing too. I enjoy Alestorm's "Fucked with an Anchor" with a smile, I listen to Leningrad, I listen to BAU (whose full name translates to English literally as "Abyss of Anal Oppression"). I listen to tons of Satanic, ethnic, folk kinds of death metal. Old, new - whatever. My wife is a hardcore metalhead too and a big fan of Russian rock and punk, including oldies like Sektor Gaza - another group famous for liberal use of swearing in lyrics. My brother, with a rough 90-ies childhood in industrial district, is a fan of earlier Russian rap and Russian chanson (i.e. prison romance - feel free to imagine the lyrics). But still not me, nor her, nor him, nor pretty much anybody of our direct and not-so-direct relatives regardless of musical taste can hear most of this Meduza's list without wincing in pain for more than a minute. Since those bands target young and easily swayed by hype auditory, our pre-teen son used to bring it from school buddies and blast our ears with those quite often just to see our reaction. Thus he earned a home rule: "it isn't our duty to police you for age ratings, but you get on our nerves with playing this out loud without headphones - your phone is confiscated". It is THAT stupid, shitty and empty of everything except pure hype.

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    Is there factual data to confirm the groups target the teen/pre-teen audience, and that they sold tickets to minors? The reason I'm asking is because protecting "minors" (in quotes on purpose) is an excuse that is the focus of another controversy in Russia, namely the "propaganda of non-traditional relations to minors", which is used rather liberally to suppress even the mention of LGBT. – Gallifreyan Apr 17 '20 at 7:37
  • Bands trying to arrange ratings lower than "18+" for their live gigs is pretty factual - it is explicitly listed in the very table linked in question. Look for words "возрастн*" и "маркировк*" (i.e. "age" and "rating" wildcard represents variable Russian word ending do to inflection). – Oleg V. Volkov Apr 17 '20 at 14:23
  • Now about target auditory: Френдзона (Friendzone)'s official VK info blurb vk.com/frendzona says "Френдзона — is a band from N city, stained with teenage dreams" in their own words. Afisha's review (daily.afisha.ru/music/…) mentions that older version of same text was "«Френдзона» — is a school pop-punk-band from N city, stained with teenage dreams and odor of the cheap cigarettes". That's seems pretty straightforward and from the guys in question themselves. – Oleg V. Volkov Apr 17 '20 at 14:29
  • Comments are too short to list each group mentioned in table, but if you really interested in any one specific - feel free to ask. – Oleg V. Volkov Apr 17 '20 at 14:29
  • I also have to challenge you on "supressing even the mentions". I open news.mail.ru aggregator or zen.yandex.ru aggregator and type "однополый" (same gender as in same gender love/marriage) or "ЛГБТ" and get plenty of news. Zen offers me several channels/blogs right in the search bar. VK.com - biggest Russian SN - isn't different either. Just typing ЛГБТ in their search shows list of many groups with thousands of members. Where do you get the idea that "even mentions of LGBT" are suppressed outside of materials targeting minors? – Oleg V. Volkov Apr 17 '20 at 14:36

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