FIVE MICS FOR MAYAKOVSKY: RUSSIAN RAPPERS VS THE STATE

Russian television viewers on Sunday evening were treated to the bizarre sight of Dmitry Kiselyov, a hugely influential television presenter seen as the Kremlin "propagandist in chief," rapping.


For background, earlier this month the wildly popular Russian rapper Husky was jailed for doing an impromptu 30-second performance atop a car, after his scheduled gig was cancelled. Following a public outcry and meeting of top officials at the Kremlin, he was released. An overzealous action by the police, was the official line. On Sunday, Kiselyov declared his support for Husky (a "patriot"), and dropped a few bars of Mayakovsky to prove that rap is actually Russian.

The cringe-worthy reversal reflects the government's struggle to deal with Russia's surging hip-hop scene, which is hugely popular among younger Russians but at odds with the Kremlin's nationalistic social conservatism. As a result venues have recently come under growing pressure to cancel rappers' shows.'

The popular blowback against Husky's arrest clearly caught the state by surprise, and the about-face by officials has defused the situation. But with millions of young Russians loyal to artists whose experience is distinctly at odds with the Kremlin's ideal of Russian life, this may over time be bigger than hip-hop.