I came across this rap-based subgenre during some research for another conference paper and it got me thinking about its presence in Russia. Are there thrash rappers in Russia and if so, what kind of music are they making and what is their history? To answer these questions, in a somewhat, simplified manner given the time, I will first define what thrash rap as a subgenre is and then its presence in Russia.
What is Thrash Rap?
Thrash rap can be understood as as the convergence of thrash metal (a harder variation of rock) and rap. Thrash metal is identified in its high levels of aggression and fast tempi, with excessive usages of riffing and virtuosic displays of technical prowess. There’s also an emphasis of the bass register and the downbeat, meaning lots of drums and bass-focused instrumentation. From a scalar point of view, chromatic scales and lots of semitonal movement is used as a way to increase the tension/resolution feel, although it’s mostly connected with the atraditionality of the metal genre. It’s one of the more technical subgenres in the metal universe, and when coalesced with rapping, becomes something very interesting.
Thrash rap is but one element in the larger genre of rap metal. Finding its roots in the 1980s, tenish years after the emergence of DJing thanks to DJ KoolHerc in the Bronx, metal was picked up pioneers of rap including the Beastie Boys, Cyprus Hill, and even Run-DMC. Rap rock was already a thing by the time but thanks to innovators like Urban Dance Squad and then more commonly Rage Against the Machine, rap rock was getting harder as a genre. Towards the end of the 1980s and early 90s, rappers like Public Enemy and the group P.I.D formalized the rap/metal synthesis. The golden era of rap metal, however, is the twenty year period from the 1990s to the end of the 2000s. During this time, rap metal had successfully entered the charts and become a desired genre. Groups like Rage Against the Machine were now joined by other groups and artists like Faith No More, Biohazard, Sepultura, and even Kid Rock (a major influence on the rap metal scene at the time). Towards the end of the 90s, the genre of rap metal began to change a bit as teen pop and nu-metal started to gain traction.
Starting in the 2000s, genres like pop punk and alternative metal were changing the scene entirely. Nevertheless, rap groups like Cyprus Hill used metal textures alongside their ‘Old School’ rapping (Skull & Bones). Other rappers like B-Real and Sen Dog also split off to make their own rap-metal/alternative metal groups, further cementing rap’s influence in the metal and rock space. P.O.D would release their 1999 album, “The Fundamental Elements of Southtown” to critical acclaim, while other groups like Linkin Park and Crazy Town shook up the scene with their nu-metal sound. The former’s albums, “Hybrid Theory” and then “Reanimation,” were instrumental in showcasing the potency of the rap/metal convergence. By this time, however, there was genre splitting all over the place and any attempt to given an accurate reading on one genre is to do a disservice to them all. Nu-metal had shaken up everything and come the 2010s and 2020s, the lines between rap, metal, and rock are as unclear as they ever before. The Suicideboys and even Kendrick Lamar are accredited with using metal in their sound.
Following the 2000s, the emergence of many subgenres were seen:
- Trap metal
- Punk rap
- Emo rap
- Soundcloud rap
- Industrial hip hop
- Digital hardcore
Russian Thrash Rap
Without more research, I won’t be able to say for certain when thrash metal began in Russia nor how the genre of thrash rap ultimately came about. Such topics are for a separate research project but what I can say is that there are numerous artists who are accredited with being thrash rappers. Some names include Daboor, Chevy Baby, Klara Unitasova, Lil Angel$, and Kapitan Demo. One basic plot point is the year 2009, the year that (at least Lenta.ru notes) is the beginning of Russian thrash rap. As they note, the reasons why rap became so popular during the 2000s and in to the 2010s was the accessibility of the genre among youth. While rock needed a large amount of knowledge and expertise in order to make a song, rap was a low-tech art form. In their words,
“much lower threshold for entering it: to play rock, you need to at least acquire a musical instrument to record rap – a microphone is enough”
Coming out of this ease of access thinking was the genre called childish rap (or patsansky rap). However, the way Russian thrap is thought of, it is more synonymous with childish rap than a stand-alone genre. Several names belong to MC Anyuta, the group Bad Boys, Sland, and Dan-B. It must be stressed that whether Russian thrash rap can be identified or not, it was a child of digitalization and the supremacy of the Internet in mediating cultural communication and subcultural development. Rather than blossoming from the musical world, Russian thrash rap is more so a byproduct of the mainstreaming of rap and the continued accessibility of the genre and the lifestyle via online portals and community infrastructure. What’s even more interesting is that the pop rapper Morgenshtern is considered in this article to be a thrash rapper, leading to a need for closer interrogation of what it means to be a Russian thrash rapper at all.
Apparently, there is a Russian thrash rap series, “Bonus.” Whether it really is thrash rap who knows but the quality is associated with it regardless.