News, Culture & Society

Kremlin should take the lead on rap music, not shut it down says Putin

Vladimir Putin tells the Kremlin to control rap music in Russia rather than shut it down amid Soviet-style crackdown on the arts

  • Russian President said rap must be ‘lead and directed’ in St Petersburg yesterday
  • He told cultural leaders that rap is built on ‘three pillars’ – protest, drugs and sex
  • Putin said popularity must be controlled before it leads to ‘degradation of nation’

Vladimir Putin has instructed the Kremlin to get a grasp on the rising popularity of rap music by ‘controlling’ the genre rather than shutting it down.

During a meeting of cultural leaders in St Petersburg on Saturday, the Russian President said they must come up with a means to ‘lead it and direct it’ before it causes the ‘degradation of the nation’.

Putin is said to be alarmed by the genre’s growing popularity and believes it is founded on ‘protest, sex and drugs’ – the three pillars that he says could bring the country down. 

Putin at the meeting of cultural leaders in St Petersburg yesterday, where he called for leaders to ‘control’ rap music

The strongman was particularly concerned about the glamourisation of drug use – but didn’t really mind the use of swear words.

His comments follow a spate of concert cancellations by venue owners and local authorities across Russia and the brief arrest of a popular rap artist, Husky. 

The crackdown has sparked considerable discussion in recent months, especially among young people.

Putin said such heavy-handed measures were often counterproductive, and suggested an alternative approach.

‘If it’s impossible to stop something, you’ve got to take charge of it,’ he said during a live broadcast of a meeting of his advisory council on culture and the arts.

‘How to do this, how to take charge and guide in the necessary direction… That’s the most important issue,’ he said, adding that the question would be discussed further by members of his administration and the culture ministry.

Russian rapper Husky, whose songs have at times been critical of the government, said his concerts were under pressure because authorities objected to lyrics they found offensive.

After his concert was cancelled in Krasnodar, southern Russia, he tried to perform from the roof of a car instead, leading to his arrest for hooliganism.

His 12-day imprisonment led to a public outcry and the rapper was released early, thanks to the intervention of members of the presidential administration.

Putin on Saturday was responding to a statement about rap concert cancellations made by music producer and member of the advisory council Igor Matvienko. 

Russian rap artist Husky (pictured), who criticises the government in his lyrics, was imprisoned for 12 days after one of his concerts

Russian rap artist Husky (pictured), who criticises the government in his lyrics, was imprisoned for 12 days after one of his concerts

Among other suggestions, Matvienko proposed creating a parental advisory guidance system for concerts.

Addressing Matvienko, Putin said: ‘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.’

Putin also addressed the question of how to regulate the musical genre’s use of censorious language.

He said that he had talked about swearing with a linguist. ‘She told me personally that it’s a part of our language. It’s just a question of how you use it,’ he said.

Matvienko also suggested guidelines on the use of swear words online and in the media, but Putin said this was a sensitive matter as such words are part of Russians’ common culture.

Likening swear words to body parts, Putin joked: ‘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.’