This is part two is a two-part series which will be looking at Husky’s newest track “About Love” and the relationships between music, text, and music video aesthetics. Check part one for “theory,” “textual life,” “musical life,” and “musical life.”
Buryatian rapper Dmitry Kuznetsov, otherwise known as Husky, released his first 2023 track entitled “About Love” (O Lyubov). In this post, I will conduct a preliminary analysis of the music video, text, and musical of Husky’s new song and musical aesthetics in-line with the theories of multi-semiotic analysis (Baltar et al, 2022), music video analysis theory (Baxter et al. 1985, Cook 1998, Taylor 2007), as well as multimodal discourse analysis, or MCDA (Cara 2017).
Table of Contents [to find each section, use your browser’s search function]
- Video Life
- Collective Analysis
- Final Conclusions
As per the trend recently in many of Husky’s work, there is a growing trend to orient the rapper towards his far-Eastern heritage, distancing himself from the conventional, Western-colored rapping circles which most Russian rappers find themselves within. Hailing from Ulan-Ude, the capital of Buryatia in the far-Eastern regions of Russia, Husky shares more of an ethno-cultural relationship with Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and China then he does with Europeanized Russia. This relationship also extends to India as evidenced in one of Husky’s tracks, Revenge, where the usage of the harmonium and Hindustani musical tradition finds itself embedded into the very fabric of the musical texture itself. This, of course, is not made public and it took quite a bit of work for me to figure that out. Thus, a much needed investigation into the reasons and aesthetic dimensions of Husky’s choices are needed, as well as what it means (STAY TUNED…This will eventually become an article but a blog post will be made first).
The music video, as noted in the description, was shot in Ulan-Bator, the capital of Mongolia. This is heavily significant because some of Husky’s closest relationships are with far-Eastern personalities like Yosef Minor (@yosefminor) among many other people. Further, one of the main elements in many of Husky’s songs are rooted in calling out his home, something that clearly holds a great deal of significance for him. The American hip hop scholar Murray Forman in his 1997 book, “The ‘hood comes first,” goes to great lengths to argue for the centrality of spatial connections and the family (or hood) in the delineation of rap identity and personas via hip hop aesthetics. Not just space however in terms of geographical dimensionality but the very idea of space itself. By decentering, but not isolating, himself from the main epicenters of the Russian hip hop machine, Husky confirms Forman’s thesis:
“The prioritization of spatial practices and spatial discourses underlying hip hop culture offers a means through which to view both the ways that spaces and places are constructed and the unique kinds of space or place that are constructed..”Forman 1997, pg. 3
Of course, this can extrapolated but it’s most important to focus on the centrality of ethno-cultural individualism along the lines of Eurasianism and the purposeful distancing of the Russian rapper from the European and Western hegemony. For a later time. It would take far too long to deconstruct every single semiotic of meaning in the music video right now but the Eurasian Steppe is the location of the music video, with Husky playing the part of demon and narrator as the life of this baby develops. You can see the clash of culture, the traditional versus the modern, and the desire for happiness with the slow but continuous march of life’s battles. Husky plays the part of the grim narrator, a Virgil-inspired character who presides and leads the viewer through the tumultuousness of life. The child grows up from infancy, gets his hair cut, marries a woman, and they have their own child as the sun sets of the Steppe. What does this all mean? With the credits written in traditional language, we are met with the evening sky, the progression of life well spent. More research is needed to decode the music video but one gets a sense of existential peace and harmony.
What immediately strikes me as odd about the video and the track itself is the lack of utilization of any folk music, textual references, or any overt symbolic or aesthetic elements in the track itself to what is depicted in the video itself. This disparity in orientation could be explained by the dependency of the music video on the comprehension of the music, as both the music video and the track seem to stand on their own two feet and are capable of telling independent narratives that are not intertwined with each other to such a degree that one cannot be understood with the other. That being said, the liturgical nature of the track’s intro does gain a new dimension with the visual narrative being drawn out. However, as a critic I would have wanted more integration of the Mongolian culture into the musical aesthetics, either instrumentally or musically in order to compensate for the appreciable gap between the video and musical life. But perhaps this is intentional, Husky making a track which is contextualized one way with the video but capable of standing on its own without the video for a more generalized application in the lives of his listeners and fans?
Another obvious through-line is the blurring of technological advancement, modernity, and traditionality, indigenous culture, ethnic practices, and cultural divides. At one point, the superhero Spiderman shows up as the costume the small child chose. This produces a myriad of questions which would need to be contended with by the researcher. Namely, where did the boy learn about this character, why did they pick this one, and most importantly, where did they purchase the costume? Other questions arise with the presence of cars, the location itself, the isolated nature of the location, the mythology that Husky’s character is embodying, and especially the haircut scene. Why was the style chosen, where did the blade come from, and what is the significance of hair in the cultural biome which the video takes place? These questions seem to be unanswerable if one focuses on the music alone, nor does the text offer any clues. This is why an analysis of the music video seems to be complicated, as the musical aesthetics and the text give you nothing to work with. Perhaps this is one of Husky’s many elements in his codified ambiguity which seems at the heart of his image as a rapper? One cannot accurately understand his motivations or intentions behind his art, and instead one must read between the lines, evidenced in his track, “God of War.” The music is a repeated melody and ostinato essentially, with the text offering little by way of ethno-cultural articulations. However, there must be a relationship there. Perhaps the video really is made to recontextualize seemingly antithetical, and relatively generic, music and text. But there is nothing generic, one must admit, about Husky’s artistic identity which begs the question,
“What was Husky trying to accomplish here?”
A minor-tonality, relatively simplistically designed, track about the desires and complexities of love, Husky’s relationship to love and life itself, which accompanies a video that focus on Mongolian indigenous life. An enigma of the highest order, I sense that the idea of fate, existentialism, amor fati, and live the good life seem to be at the heart of Husky’s new track. As if to say, “This is how one lives a good and meaningful life,” Husky’s focus on uplifting his audience and raising their consciousness seems to strike again. By focusing on the provincial pleasures brought about by a good family life, strong social connections, and a one-to-one relationship with the Earth, Husky suggests an alternative way to live in modern society. Dipping in only when needed but maintaining your distance at all times, Husky provides us with an alternative image of modernity itself. The preservation of indigenous and ethnic practices in the face of quickly developing and relatively frightening post-modernity is displayed in the music video with esoteric obscurity. By focusing on love instead of life or something more general, Husky is opening the door to a deeper, all around more profound, type of love. A love which is far more interpersonal in nature, one which focuses on the other as much as self.
A double-edged sword, love threatens to consume us if we are not careful. Yet, we must not scorn or ignore love’s potent call either.