Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that if he can't ban rap music outright, then he can at least control it.
Is rap music a problem for the Russian government? According to President Vladimir Putin it is. He says the use of 'swear words' and drug slang in rap culture is the reason why the government should regulate it.
In recent months, Russian musicians have come under immense pressure from the authorities, with a string of concert cancellations and arrests causing an outcry from music critics and human rights advocates.
Putin first said he wants to ban rap music. Then he said he wants to control it.
“If it is impossible to stop, then we need to lead, and in an appropriate way, direct (rap and hip-hop)," Putin said during a St. Petersburg meeting with cultural advisers.
Putin’s latest comments have triggered criticism, with people taking to Twitter to express their disappointment.
Putin says Russia must control 'degrading' rap music and he practiced such artistic control on Pussy Riot. *Photo from Pussy Riot 2017 performance in Olympia, WA. pic.twitter.com/T3ycTGyeml— Tina (@TinaBurrell12) December 17, 2018
Vladimir Putin really hates rap music — and wants to do everything he can to bring Russia's rap scene to heel pic.twitter.com/6C2CFjnR7u— Magne Ove Varsi (@movarsi) December 17, 2018
Rappers arrested, concerts cancelled, videos banned
The latest flare-up came after Russian rapper Husky, whose real name is Dmitri Kuznetsov, was arrested and sentenced to 12 days in jail. The government has cancelled his concerts several times.
After his December performance in the southern city of Krasnodarand was cancelled over ‘extremism’, Husky decided to perform on top of a car for his fans.
The video shows police pulling him down while he is singing on the roof of a car.
“I am guilty of getting on top of the car,” Husky said in a video shared on social media.
“I was put in a situation in which I owed people who’d bought tickets to see me,” he added.
Tanya Lokshina, Associate Director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch told TRT World that Husky's arrest was "arbitrary."
"Husky sang to his fans in the street after yet another concert of his was prevented from happening through the intervention of the authorities. In this manner, he tried to show respect to his fans who had already gathered by the concert venue," she added.
The 25-year-old rapper is known for his lyrics about poverty, corruption and police brutality. His arrest triggered a secret concert in solidarity.
Freedom of speech issue?
Putin recently met several artists and music producers at the Council for Culture and Art in St. Petersburg, where he expressed his discomfort with the music coming from the hip-hop genre.
"You said that rap (rests on) three pillars: sex, drugs and protests. Of all of these, drugs are the most worrying," Putin said. "They are the route to a nation's degradation."
"This story is emblematic of the over-all situation in Russia where the Kremlin strives to control every form of expression - from speech to music, from online to ‘on stage,’" Lokshina told TRT World.
Music producer and member of the advisory council Igor Matvienko Matvienko proposed creating a parental advisory guidance system for concerts.
Likening swear words to body parts, Putin jokingly said: "We have all sorts of body parts, and it's not like we put them on display all the time, whether it's hot or cold.”
Electronic band IC3PEAK saw six of their concerts cancelled and one of their music videos banned by the Russian government. Band duo Nastya Kreslina and Nikolay Kostylev were arrested after they arrived for a gig in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk.
The band say the real reason for their arrest is their art and call it a government crackdown on freedom of expression. As a result, they started throwing secret concerts, The Guardian reported.
“It’s almost like during the Soviet Union, when bands used to have their gigs in secret,” said band member Kreslina.
On November 30, rapper Gone.Fludd announced two concert cancellations, citing pressure from "every police agency you can imagine", while the popular hip-hop artist Allj cancelled his show in the Arctic city of Yakutsk after receiving threats of violence.