Vladimir Putin is demanding the Russian government “take charge” of rap music after authorities cracked down on a number of concerts across the country.
“Rap and other modern [forms of art] are rested upon three pillars – sex, drugs and protest,” Putin said at a meeting of the presidential Council for Culture and Art in St Petersburg. “I am most worried about drugs. This is the way towards the degradation of a nation.”
His comments come after Husky—one of Russia’s most popular rappers—was arrested after the cancellation of his concerts. This weekend, Husky attempted to perform an impromptu gig on the roof of a car after his concert at a local venue was shut down for containing what authorities called “extremism.” The rapper was sentenced to 12 days in jail, but was released early following outcry from fans.
The rapper has long been critical of both the Russian government and Putin.
Rappers Gone.Fludd and IC3PEAK have also had recent concerts canceled following pressure from authorities. As artists have pointed out, the recent crackdown shows the Russian government’s fear of art and activism.
“A new generation of musicians and artists who speak freely about various topics has appeared, and it seems that some people don’t like this because they view it as a threat,” IC3PEAK’s vocalist Anastasia Kreslina told Politico. “It seems they are afraid of some kind of cultural revolution.”
As The Guardian points out, this crackdown is reminiscent of the Soviet-era censorship of the arts when popular Western music was banned and rock musicians faced persecution. Putin has long had an antagonistic relationship with musicians. Throughout the 2010s, punk group Pussy Riot has become internationally famous for clashes with the government that resulted in two members getting harsh prison sentences.
In his comments this weekend, Putin acknowledged that he cannot ban rap altogether, but will do everything possible to control the genre.
“If it is impossible to stop it, it should be taken over and navigated in a particular way,” he said. “How to do this, how to take charge and guide in the necessary direction … That’s the most important issue.”
Meanwhile, back in the United States, our own president (who’s a big Putin fan) at least likes one rapper.