Alarmed by the growing popularity of rap among Russian youth, President Vladimir Putin wants cultural leaders to devise a means of controlling, rather than banning, the popular music. Putin says “if it is impossible to stop, then we must lead it and direct it.”
But Putin said at a St. Petersburg meeting with cultural advisers on Saturday that attempts to ban artists from performing will have an adverse effect and bolster their popularity.
Putin noted that “rap is based on three pillars: sex, drugs and protest.” But he is particularly concerned with drug themes prevalent in rap, saying “this is a path to the degradation of the nation.”
He said “drug propaganda” is worse than cursing.
Putin’s comments come amid a crackdown on contemporary music that evoked Soviet-era censorship of the arts.
Husky, a popular Russian rapper, had been sentenced to a 12 day prison sentence after he performed on top of a car parked on a street; the rapper, whose real name is Dmitry Kuznetsov, was charged with hooliganism.
Husky is a frequent protestor of Russian state authorities and the police's infamous brutality, and regularly uses his lyrics to mock and deride the state and its agencies.
While he was due to perform in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar last month, local authorities threw a spanner in the works when they warned the club he was to appear in that his performance had "extremist" elements.
This forced the rapper to switch venues at the last minute, where again, the gig was halted after the club had its power shut off. The rapper's fans poured on to the streets, quickly followed by Husky himself, who climbed on to the roof of a parked car and began performing a song, to the cheers of his audience.
Police personnel present at the scene moved in to arrest the rapper at the conclusion of his song, but had trouble taking him away as the crowd surrounded their vehicle, demanding their hero's release. Authorities finally managed to escort Husky away, without resorting to the violence the rapper often protests against.
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.
Other artists have been affected as well — pop sensation Monetochka and punk band Friendzona were among those who had their concerts shut down by the authorities last month. Putin's comment could maybe, possibly, perhaps have a trickle down effect on leaders of other nations, who may be over-concerned with cultural affairs.
While Putin enjoys an almost unpredented popularity with the general Russian populace, and it seems his social media savvy has not gone unnoticed in other countries either. And his calendar, featuring the great leader in all manner of manly poses (see what we did there?) in convenient photo-ops, has become another weapon in his social media arsenal, having recently sold out in Japan.
The Guardian reported that the popularity of Putin's calendar in Japan has only been increasing by the year, especially in the run-up to the holiday season.
(With AP inputs)