Hip-hop Research

Rap/Graffiti Connections: Miss-T and Basket

In my research preparation for a conference on the role of girls and women in popular music (my theme being women in Russian rap), I remembered that I had found out about a connection between the first famous Russian graffiti artist (Basket) and the rapper Miss-T.

In short, Miss-T was part of a 2000s girl group called “Distant Light.” However, I suspect at some point Miss-T wanted to go solo. But at this point she had received help on lyrical skill and technical points from Master Sheff who then pointed her in the direction of rapper Legalize (husband to female rapper Simone Yori Makanda). However, somewhere the relationship didn’t quite work and soon she needed some more help. Reaching out to (now well-known) graffiti artist and then member of the group Bad Balance, Miss-T asked Basket (or in Russian Баскет) for help in shooting a music video. In this post, I want to explore some of these details and illuminate myself on what this famous collaboration really was.

The Important Part

Miss-T’s journey to rap is not the traditional way. Rather, after having visited American, she became incredibly interested in the Russian hip hop scene. Sometime after, she connected with someone named Trek (not sure who this is). Nevertheless, after some communication Miss T and her group were sent to a training course to learn about breakdance, rap, and the art of hip hop. Here is where Miss T’s connection to Basket comes in. Miss T was sent to the “Bad B Hip Hop School” which, if I understand correctly, just means that she studied with the members of Bad Balance. According to her old website, she learned how to graffiti with the laissez-fair style of teaching by Basket. As the website notes,

” She bombed the walls of Moscow with graffiti, for which she got into the police. Basket just showed the walls, gave out balloons [cans of paint], and in the morning checked the result.”

What she actually learned, I’m not entirely sure. A search for evidence of this bombing (or illegal spray painting one’s initials or insignia on trains, walls, etc) gives you nothing. So this relationship is all but a memory for those involved and her art may still be there somewhere in Moscow to this day. However the relationship between Basket and Miss T goes a bit deeper.

Recording a Music Video

After having gone through this training of sorts, Miss T went back to Sheff and said that she still needed help with lyrics. So he pointed her towards Legalize who, although a notable rapper in his own right, didn’t quite make texts that were mutually enjoyed. What these were I have no idea although Legalize’s 2003 track entitled “Dr. BLEFF calls her out in overt detail. It can be assumed that their relationship was not a good one, and soon after she was pointed in the direction of Basket.

The video was aired on the television show “12 Angry Spectators,” although I’m not sure what the video is called. More research is needed to uncover what the track was called but the process inspired Miss T to finally branch out on her own. She would soon release the track, “I am Miss T,” and her name would forever be imprinted within the annals of Russian rap history. The track was even recorded on the compilation album, “Hip-hop info No. 8” (2001).

That’s all for now. While small, the relationship is historically important for the legacy of female Russian rap!

Wiki With Me

Wiki With Me: Felix Mendelssohn’s “Oedipus at Colonus” (1894)

A new work to me, the ten-scene opera entitled “Oedipus at Colonus” (Op.93) follows the Greek tragedy written by Sophocles during the 1st century, included in his “Three Thebian Plays.” Recently, in 2010 the work had its contemporary revival and its now recorded for future generations.

For some context, the work was a commission by Frederick William IV of Prussia in order to encourage Berlin audiences to pay more attention to the classical works of Greek theatre, particularly tragedy. Featuring two soloists, a double male chorus, and an orchestra of 15 instruments, the opera is a captivating and highly sophisticated look at the horrors that befell Oedipus at the end of his life. To summarize, Oedipus (Rex) is a figure doomed to fate and try as he might, he ends up killing his father and marrying his mother unknowingly. At the knowledge of this, he claws his own eyes out while his mother hangs herself in despair and shame.

The opera received its first (private) performance at the Neues Palais in Potsdam, Germany on November 1st, 1845. Nine days later, the work received its first public performance in Stuttgart. According to knowledge of the work, it was relatively popular during Mendelssohn’s time and even received performance within and outside Germany. However, for audiences outside Germany the work may not be familiar if known at all.

If you’d like to learn more, I have linked some academic sources for you to read:

  1. Jason Duane Geary (2004): “Ancient voices: Mendelssohn’s incidental music to Sophocles’s “Antigone” and “Oedipus at Colonus.”
  2. Maria Teresa Arfini (2015): “Around Antigone: The Iconography and Music in the German Revival of the Classical Tragedy.”
Graffiti Hip-hop Russia

The [Brief] History of Graffiti Culture in Russia

Unlike rap culture, Russian graffiti culture grew into itself by the 2000s. However, my research (aided by an online friend) has shown that the 80s and 90s were an instrumental period for graffiti. As I work on a research project dedicated towards understanding the development of Russian graffiti culture, this blog post will look at the barebones of the history that I have so far in order to make sense of the key players in its historical legacy. Films, groups, and publications were dedicated towards graffiti, much like rap culture. I’ll share some photos as well so you can get a sense of the changing landscape and aesthetic of Russian graffiti culture through the years. So let’s go as I tell you the history of Russian graffiti culture.

Period One: The 1980s

Graffiti culture is said to have been introduced into Russia by two main individuals. The Russian graffiti artist named Basket from Moscow and a Latvian individual named Kris.[1] Basket is accredited with being one of the first graffiti artists to make a name for himself in the rap world, having designed cover art for many albums during the 1990s. Among his many accomplishments, his creating the “crew” or group RUS in 2000.[2] Basket was also integral in an early Russian hip hop journal called “Hip-Hop Info,” coming as the art director from 1990 to 2000, whereupon soon after the website was formed, an online version of the journal.

Tag of the group RUS (2000-), PC: Not Found Gallery “Names

Period Two: The 1990s

Much like rap, it was during the 1990s when graffiti culture in Russia really took off, aided by the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and Yeltsin’s pro-European/pro-progressivity stance (much like Peter the Great).

During this time, the lexicon of Russian graffiti was beginning to be formed, and nationally-specific words and terms for beginners, experienced taggers, bombing, and the like further substantiated the culture of Russian graffiti.[3] The first-half of the 1990s was a time of experimentation and development, Basket taking up his place at Hip-Hop Info, while in the rap world groups like Bad Balance, Bachelor Party, Black Economy, Black and White, and many others were defining the atmosphere of “first-wave” Russian rap. Festivals like White Nights and others helped to cement the community of Russian hip hop, while venues, music videos, publications, and distributive channels were transforming the landscape. Channels were also being created to further disseminate hip hop culture to the masses like Hip-Hop Info.[3] The second-half of the 1990s is when the real party started, however. The first graffiti-infused festivals and dedicated graffiti festivals were held, “Colorful City” one of the first in Moscow. Outside of RUS, other Russian crews began to form including the famous group ЗАЧЕМ and НЕМЫ.[4]

The official tag of the WHY group, PC:

As the 90s went into the 2000s, again graffiti culture in Russia underwent a massive explosion in its size and diversity. According to the account of Larri, who was directly involved in the scene, the second-half of the 90s was punctuated by inspiration from abroad and domestically. Around the time, in 1999 the first graffiti dedicated journal called Outline was formed.

Period 3: The 2000s

The 2000s is considered by many artists as the most prolific period for Russian graffiti culture. Having had now at least ten good years of development under its belt, with domestic groups, artists, and collaboration with rap artists and the wider culture of hip hop, graffiti artists now had their own culture to be proud of. During the 2000s, many other groups were formed that are still heralded as the leaders in the culture including GO VEGAS, MDT, BTK, FACTS/SAR, and ISK. The GO VEGAS group’s leading theme is cultural distancing from the norm, creating tags and art that is only understandable to those within the group. One writer goes so far as to call them revolutionaries in their adamant rejection of endorsing the hegemonic consensus.[5] BTK, however, is understood as being one of the oldest graffiti crews in Russia.[6]

Source: Discogs

During the first-half of the 2000s, many “second wave” (if we consider the 1990s as the “first-wave”) groups were making a name for themselves like ЗАЧЕМ AND SAR, while rap’s relationship with graffiti would again expand. Many different types of festivals would feature and/or foreground graffiti like the annual Coffee Grinder festival and then later the festival called “Snickers Urbanya” (2000-2010).[7] The culture would receive another massive development when graffiti films began to be picked up by the Russian graffiti culture. One of the first American graffiti films, “Style Wars” (1983) was integral in showing the humanity of the hip hop subculture. In Russia, one of the first films to feature a Russian graffiti crew (ЗАЧЕМ) was called GOP STOP Graffiti (2004).

By the second-half of the 2000s, graffiti-focused festivals began to held like Paint Methods. But during this period, many who had joined the graffiti culture were beginning to exit the scene either due to age, criminality, or disinterest. Nevertheless, GO VEGAS were expanded their work with rap and soon began producing their own albums and tracks. In 2005, the graffiti scene was again revitalized with the release of the video game, “Marc Ecko’s Getting Up.”[8] By 2007, GO VEGAS was working with groups like Black Economy, and the subgenre of “graffiti rap” was born.

Our story ends here, but there’s more to share. Stay curious my friends!

Russki Rap Review

Russki Rap Review: Guf and Princip’s “Sobriety” (2023)

Coming from the “second wave” of Russian rap (i.e, 2000s onwards), rapper Guf (Aleksey Sergeevich Dolmatov) has become a well-known staple of the Russian “Old School” sound of rap. Having begun in the now closed Rolexx group back in 2000, rap sound/looked much different than it does now. Best known for his work as the co-founder of the group Centre (2004-2016), going on to collaborate with other esteemed “Old School” groups and semi-underground figures like Basta, Slim, Smoky Mo, the Baltic Clan, and Murovei just to name a few, Guf has cemented himself as a historical figure in Russian rap history. He’s also worked with the “Old School,” Azerbaijani duo Caspian Cargo (2000-), a favorite of mine.

Having consistently released music and music videos since his beginnings in the early 2000s, Guf has already released the track “About the Poodle” and has been featured on Smoky Mo’s latest album, “Alpha.” This latest “Old School” release in collaboration with Princip (Nikolai Nikulin, fellow co founder of Centre), the track entitled “Sobriety,” is a reggae/rock inspired ode to the tribulations that alcoholism brings and each rapper’s journey in reclaiming themselves and their post-alcohol identity. The track harkens back to the “Old School” with a more mellow ambience and slower tempo, inviting listeners to ponder on what’s being said instead of pure aesthetic pleasure like other genres like trap and EDM. There’s no rushing, and both rappers invite listeners to really mesh with the melodic comfy-ness of the track while also internalizing what’s being talked about. Life is hard, sobriety takes work, freedom isn’t guaranteed, but you can’t forget to smile when shit hits the fan. With a twanged-out guitar, somber but steady bass drums, and a reggae sway to the beat, a sense of lull and relived nostalgia washes over you. But it’s artificial nostalgia and soon, the lofi push and pull begin to corrode your better judgment and the masculine safety exuded by Guf and Princip tricks you into submission. 

By the conclusion, as the twangy guitar, keyboard, and drums begin to fade away you’re left alone with the sounds of the past and you’re own experiences, the realization of the “Old School” and its fall from the spotlight, and the memories of a closed chapter of rap music history. It was good while it lasted I suppose, and now the present must be embraced. As one commenter on YouTube said, “The topic strengthens, gives revelations that I am not the only one such addict.” Rap is such a special, people-oriented genre in that it gives struggling people a voice.

Guf and Princip have given them a voice. 


Russki Rap Review

Russki Rap Review: FACE’s “Prada” (2023)


Having left Russia in January of 2022, Russian trap rapper Ivan Timofeyevich Dryomin (otherwise known as FACE) has released his first post-emigration track. Entitled “Prada,” the barely three minute track is entirely consistent with the bold, heavily trap-inspired, sound of FACE. Talking about his negation of female advances and personal access to power and sexual activity, the track is a vengeful “F— you” to those who sought to vilify FACE for leaving Russia. Using his signature aesthetic, a dense texture of overlapping layers and heavy minor aroma, FACE’s heavily rhythmic rapping style is accompanied by a recurrent minor ostinato (or repetition of notes or pattern) of C to C#. With a hue of C minor, a music key known for its dual-sided nature[1] of love and lamentation, the track is upbeat and energetic, negating the idea that FACE must despair in his forced exile.

Casting off the idea that Russia was where his fame lied and without the country he’s nothing, “Prada” is the immortalization of FACE’s maturity as both a rapper and a human being. Stepping out of the shadow of Russia, FACE has now substantiated himself as not a Russian trap artist but an independently great trap artist. Generally, the dynamic back-and-forth of the rhythms that FACE uses is exceptional, and while the music is quite simple in its construction, FACE’s consonant-heavy rapping style more than makes up for the discrepancy. Shifting between textures, call outs, more intimate moments, and bass punches, I feel extremely proud for what FACE has accomplished and endured during the past decade and certainly the past year. Kudos to you FACE, очень молодец! It’s also important to note that the track is in Russian although FACE has stated that he’s finished writing his texts in English[2] much pop rapper and similarly Ufa-born rapper Alisher Tagirovich Morgenshtern (otherwise known as Morgenshtern).

Musical Analysis

Although the music is relatively simple, although a main attribute of trap is its usage of basic harmonic movement and melodic repetition, there are at least two interesting things going on in the music that any listener can benefit from knowing about. FACE is using the device known as an ostinato and shifting between textural density to give his track a structure.

Firstly, let me define an ostinato for you if you are unsure what I mean. An ostinato is described by the Oxford Dictionary of Music as a “persistent musical phrase or rhythm” composed of “repeated thematic fragments.”[3] Simply put, these musical parts repeat and then are used as layers in the music that can be manipulated and changed depending on how the musician wants to use it. In “Prada,” FACE is using a two note ostinato [C and C#, or Middle C and the black note to the right of it] in order to give his track a form. A form, mind you, that is quite simple already. Because it’s simple, and the ostinato is only two notes, FACE has to think of something. The first version, what I call the “lower end” version, can be heard at the beginning of the first iteration of the chorus. The second version, what I call the “higher end” version, can be heard at the beginning of the first verse. Each version is defined by the way the ostinato is being used and what part of the texture it finds itself in. If you can hear, during the first version the ostinato is primarily in the bass parts of the sound whereas in the second version the ostinato is higher in the texture, what we would call the treble range of the texture. This purposeful usage of the ostinato in two different sonic forms helps give FACE something to give his music a shape. 

But there’s more!

Another technique used by FACE is oscillating, or changing, between the density of the track’s musical texture. If you listen to the end of the first verse, a major change in the feeling of the music is present. This is because FACE has changed the makeup of the texture. At first, the ending feels more spacious, lighter even. He then deepens the texture and after the first boom, a drop can be felt and the texture changes. This kind of technique is helpful in generating momentum and building energy in order to give music which is rather repetitive some type of forward momentum. You can hear this kind of thing in lots of techno and electronic dance music, or EDM for short. Colloquially, it’s called the drop or the bass drop. FACE uses this well-known technique several times during the track, although modifying it a bit. During the first chorus [:016], you can hear how the texture gets deeper and more complex. Well, he adds the robust bass beat and the treble ostinato which gives the music a feeling of enlargement. Then, when the first chorus ends, the texture becomes a bit smaller, signaling a new section of the music has begun. However, skip ahead a bit to the tail end of the second verse [1:52], and it is clear what this technique does to the music. Moving between intimacy and excitement, FACE is playing with tension and release, giving his musically simple track a feeling of anticipated spontaneity.

Final Thoughts

As The-Flow noted in their announcement article on the track, FACE has begun to write his raps in English although this track is in Russia.[4] Considered “a banger in the spirit of the old FACE,” “Prada” is the rapper’s appeal to his listeners that he’s not gone but changed. The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine has upturned the Russian rap community in many ways, forcing many to leave the country, being given the title of “enemies of the state,” and being labeled “foreign agents” in many cases. Currently, FACE is residing in Greece having left the country back in January in very mysterious circumstances. Having confirmed that he will never again return to Russia.[5] What the future holds for FACE is unknown but one thing is sure. He’ll continue to release music on his own terms, in his own way, beholden to no one but himself.


PC: Sergey Savostyanov / TASS

They have not been formatted for the sake of time…..sorry about that.



[3] [specifically pages 93, 647]



Wiki With Me

Wiki With Me: The Kazakh Father of Battle Rap (Aytysh)

Although battle rap’s African origins are well understood, I want to understand the global roots of battle rap. To do this, I have begun looking at a Kazakh father of the battle rap style in form of the ‘Aytysh‘ (in Kazakh Aйтыш). This style finds its roots in several different folk music styles, and recently it was included in UNESCO’s list of intangible world history! Taking place between two improvisational poet/singers called akyn, these Kazakh bards duel in exceptional skill and mastery. Not only in music and oratorical poetics but in local and national history, incorporating their heritage and epics into their battling. However is able to showcase themselves as the master of text and music is the winner of the event. Finding primordial roots in the folk music style of the Kazakh zhar-zhar and the Kazakh badik, battle rap is incorrectly associated only with Africa.

In a general definition, Aytysh is the name for the style of primarily oral folk music culture emanating from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, although more accurately many regions across central Asia and the far East. The relationship between Turkey and Russia is widely studied but the musical synthesis between these two countries within the world of Russian rap culture is not yet. Olcay (2022) looked at the phenomenon of first-wave Russian emigres and their emigration to Turkey, of which many well-known composers and musicians were a part of but there is a significant lack in transfers of culture in terms of popular music.

During the aytysh (a competition between two akyns sitting opposite each other), each opponent strums a folk instrument and goes back and forth with rhymed lines. The winner is based upon who can come up with the most ingenious text attacks while showing a high level of competency on their respective instrument. Typically, themes will be based around several key areas including boy/girl relations, current events, historical stories and epics, personal and domestic conflicts and arguments, as well as the incorporation of religious and spiritual themes. More often, however, is the usage of satirical aggression in order to one-up the opponent. Politics is also a major theme that is often used, tying the genre to the world in which it inhabits. Researchers have noted that the aytysh is a reflection of the life and worldview of Kazakh nomads and folk experience, who use this form as a way to deal with and make sense of their environment and society.

The style has been protected since 2008 when the Aytysh Public Fund was created in order to encourage the continued legacy of the aytysh tradition. Contemporary competitions have also been held, the first occurring in Bishkek in 2008 followed by a competition in Kyrgyzstan in 2009.


Wiki With Me

Wiki With Me: Franz von Suppé’s “Boccaccio”

[The following text was written for the publication Opera Wire]

Boccaccio, oder Der Prinz von Palermo (Boccaccio, or the Prince of Palermo) was one of the most influential operettas written by Austrian composer Franz von Suppè (1819-1895). Although rarely mentioned in the history of opera, von Suppè’s light operas (or operettas) were performed the world round and could be said to be the influence that Gilbert and Sullivan would pull from in the second-half of the 19th century, their name a lasting face to the style of operetta. Despite the operetta element, the work took musical influence from the Italian opera style, in other words bel canto.

The libretto was made by Camillo Walzel and Richard Genée, and was modeled after a similar play by several French playwrights at the time. The story loosely revolves around the Italian writer Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), best known for his work the Decameron, a compilation of 100 stories ranging in themes but all dealing with sides of the human experience. The plot revolves around the public backlash against Boccaccio and his love for the Duke’s daughter Fiammetta.

Begun in the fall of 1878, the work was published the year and had its premiere on February 1st of 1879 at the Carl Theatre in Vienna (destroyed by a bomb in 1943). Following its premiere in 1879, the opera went on a world tour. In 1880, the work came to New York, although not yet the Metropolitan Opera House, and soon after during the 1880s going to six different countries including Italy, France, England, Amazonas, and even Australia. By this time, the work had been performed well over 115 times and von Suppe’s name was known everywhere, most of all in his home of Vienna. During the 20th century, the work would also receive its fair share of international attention, the work making its Broadway debut in 1905. In 1931, the work finally received the Metropolitan Opera stage, being performed ten times during its time. following its performance it has not returned nor secured a spot in the canonized repertoire of opera. In the 1930s, the work would return home after having taken a world tour and from 1930 to 1952 be performed at the Wiener Staatsoper featuring the acclaimed Moravian soprano Maria Jeritza. The work would travel between Germany, France, and Italy for the remainder of the 20th century, and quickly fall off the map upon the drawing of the 21st century. However, during the 2015/2016 season of the Theater für Niedersachsen in Hildesheim, the work was revived under the direction of Spanish director Guillermo Amaya. 

The decline of the work’s popularity is in part due to the excessive modification of von Suppe’s original work, being reworked as early as 1885. By the 1930s, however, the work was undergoing significant change as its operetta element (text and singing) was being changed to include sung recitative instead. Music was also cut and roles recast for different voice parts, leading to general mayhem. That modified version was the one presented by the Metropolitan Opera. During the late 1900s, the opera was “modernized” by directors but the work would never again reach the same level of popularity as it did at the turn of the 20th century. 

commentary Hip-hop Russia

What the Self-Censorship of Instasamka Really Means for Russian Rap Culture

If you don’t keep up with the news within the Russian hip hop world, thanks to the war and years of censorship, artists are now having to make concessions in order to continue their careers. One such case involves the female rapper Instasamka (Daria Evgenievna Zoteeva) and her recent announcement that her upcoming tour will not be including salacious content nor swearing, along with a myriad of other things. Why is this significant you might ask? As this post will show, her public statement that she will refrain from openly sexuality and swearing is a tell-tale sign of the repression of free expression, anti-hegemonic articulations of self, and the continual repression of non-normative ideology within the Russian nation.

Although the proliferation of drug usage, alcohol abuse, sexual immodesty, and other superficially troubling content does pose a potential threat to minors the young of society, if America is any model the policing of such things only make the issue worse. Rather than aiding youth in making the more productive choice, youth are encouraged to seek out alternative spaces whereupon access to this publically banned content can be accessed more surreptitiously. Look at Soviet jazz culture, rock culture, disco culture. The enforcement of censorship along content-concern lines does little to address to the fundamental reasons youth are seeking out this content in the first place. Nevertheless, let us take a look at Instasamka and the recent developments in order to answer the question:

What was censored, why, and what have been some effects?

[Summarized: Instasamka’s censorship and self-censorship is a worrying turn of events, as dubious allegations and the vilification of embraced sexuality within lawful parameters poses a significant threat to the freedom of expressions encased with the Constitution of the Russian Federation]

Allegations Against Her

On the 10th, Ekaterina Mizulina (current head of the Safe Internet League, a practically governmental body created for the sole purpose of policing internet content), released the following statement:

This is significant for a plethora of reasons, most notably the exploitation of the dissemination of drug-related content to the Russian youth as a pretext for overt repression and/or suppression of content. We have already seen this tactic used with Morgenshtern, and while it may or may not be true, the point here is that the usage of anti-drug laws proves to be a convenient method to regulate Russian culture as a whole. The third paragraph is the most important, although study is necessary to gauge the truthfulness of the first paragraph’s claim. The article that is being claimed to have been broken is Article 228.1:

Illegal acquisition , storage , transportation , manufacture , processing without the purpose of sale of narcotic drugs , psychotropic substances or their analogues in a significant amount, as well as illegal acquisition, storage, transportation without the purpose of sale of plants containing narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances, or parts thereof containing narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances, in a significant amount

Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Article 228.1)

There are two allegations here but I will deal with the first.

The obvious next step is to find evidence of the drug statute being broken. It is not a secret that rappers in Russia are notorious for their consumption of alcohol and sexual promiscuousness. But drug use and drug-related content? That is something that is rarely, if ever, seen in the aesthetics and lyrics of Russian rappers. Ekaterina argues that Instasamka was publically endorsing drug stores, although provides no evidence in her Telegram post. Upon further inspection, and I do mean inspection as the missing context is really unhelpful here, there is little to no evidence for such a claim. Further research will be needed to figure the legitimacy of this claim. However, the second one is far more interesting as it opens the door towards the criminalization of sexualization itself. Just because someone is openly sexual, does that also mean lewd behaviours are being endorsed? By embracing sexuality, does Instasamka endorse others to copy in her footsteps?

The persecution (and I do mean this literally) of Instasamka’s sexual antics goes back quite far. In the fall of 2021, she was accused of promoting prostitution due to her unconcealed way of expression. Allegations of these kinds came from a myriad of regional and national voices it seems, although I will add that this seems to only be one way as other rappers (male I should add) are also sexually brazen yet receive different treatment (i.e., Timati and his rap “family”). Nevertheless, having only risen to fame in the past 4-5 years following her departure as a YouTube blogger to the world of rap and social media content, her public image has always been of a more sexualized nature. Moreover, in an article from 2019 (only a year or two after her transformation), it was revealed that her overt sexuality and exaggerated antics are purposefully orchestrated to garnish a reaction,

“Of course, this is an image”

Pushka Interview, 2019 (Timestamp 6:27)

She quickly shot to (in)famy and caught the attention of the Russian public. Shortly after, she released her first two albums, BORN TO FLEX and TRIPLE BABY, and her career in rap was secured. But the argument comes down to the policing and castigation of sexuality, and most prominently female sexuality (Muggleton et al 2018, Schneemann 1991, Escofett and Allende in Zoila 2019). Because of the conservative and Orthodox nature of Russia, the regulation on what the woman is and is not allowed to do permeates the very fabric of contemporary Russian culture. Thus, to be unremorsefully sexual as a female in Russia is itself a political statement. Commanding space and attention, Instasamka has revealed herself both physically and emotionally to hatred from her own countrymen and for what? Staying away from Susan McClary’s gendering of the musical form, her work in uncovering the hidden agenda of music’s sexual politics is a necessary frame in which to view the vilification of Instasamka in Russia today. In her landmark work “Feminine Endings” (2002) in speaking about the operas of the 19th century, specifically Strauss’ Salome

The increasingly paranoid and masochistic cultural agendas of the late nineteenth century tend to give full rein to the perceived horror of female sexual power, flirting with the possibility that it cannot be stopped except by exerting closure violently from without...The monstrosity of Salome’s sexual and chromatic transgressions is such that extreme violence seems justified—even demanded—for the sake of social and tonal order.”

Pg. 100

I quote this passage because I think it speaks to something very potent in the aspersions cast upon Instasamka. If a woman such as Instasamka is allowed to exist, then the dominant (mostly matriarchal) fabric of Russian society will be destabilized. The idea that a woman can be forceful in her sexuality and command space, attention, AND then receive it is a horrid development and an example of the degradation of moralist societal standards. To make music is male-dominated industry requires a touch of capitulation on the part of the male. The woman must be willing to give in, to succumb to the standards expected of her, in order to rise in the ranks. As McClary eloquently writes,

To create music within a male-defined domain is a treacherous task. As some women composers of so-called serious or experimental music are discovering, many of the forms and conventional procedures of presumably value-free music are saturated with hidden patriarchal narratives, images, agendas.

Pg. 154

What Now?

Having already had the scare of concert cancellations back in 2021, Instasamka (the day after Ekaterina’s post) released the following message,

Lots to address here but given the length already, I’ll refrain for here. I want to mention however that as a result of this there has been two updates that are seminal to add this final point. That is the cancellation of one concert in Pyatigorsk and the potential cancellation in Krasnodar. These two cancellations, while banal in the grand scheme of things, continues the trend of concert cancellations in Russia which has a long and winding history beginning in 2010 all the way up to the present (that is 12 years of cancellations, relatively speaking with some missing years in between). Check out my ongoing database for exact figures, but it should be concerning that such cancellations have not been curtailed even with the governmental intervention that was supposedly launched to help squash such regional overstepping.

It is also significant that the pushback against Instasamka in Krasnodar is coming from local residents which then is prompting local officials to respond. This is blatantly wrong and should be stopped as the “cleansing” of culture by the masses is nothing short of the resurgence of eerie Soviet-styled censorial practice. Cultural tailoring gone rouge! We’ve already seen Putin state (albeit back in 2018) that he desires the state to get involved in the censorship of rap music. Without a free cultural sector, draconian mundanity will quickly spread to places of power if it hasn’t already. What can be done to repudiate such a development? Leaving the country? Tailoring your expressionary voice to ensure wider acceptance?

There is no easy answer but the future for Russian rap is a grim one if artists continue to capitulate and leave the country. I fear for the art form.

Wiki With Me

Wiki With Me: Reinhard Gebhardt

Within the fabric of music history, many people fall through. Many, MANY people are ignored who perhaps have interesting stories to share and novel lives and experiences that deserve to be recorded and known. One such individual, prompted by my learning of one of his piano pieces, is the composer, teacher, and performer Dr. Reinhard Gebhardt. Outside of select Etude publications (a newspaper at the time), nothing is known about him. Yet, he was a prolific performer and pedagogue who contributed to the pedagogical scene in Paris, Texas during his time. Read about him at the new Wikipedia page! More information will be added as I find more information about this fascinating and ignored musical individual!

None of his music is recorded and we will never really know what he or his music was meant to sound like outside of his published sheet music.

(A short post for today, sorry about that!)

Opera Wire

Opera Wire [Unused On This Day: Feb. 5th]

On February 5th of 1887, Guiseppe Verdi’s penultimate four-act opera Otello received its premiere at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy. Beginning at 8 pm in the evening, the audience (unlike the typical practice at the theater) were already in their seats by the time the opera began, with more than 5,000 audience members waiting outside wishing to score a seat in the theater for themselves.

After a harrowing and extremely stressful drafting period, the opera was finally completed on the first of November of 1886. Although on the verge of retirement (only one opera away), Verdi’s capabilities in creating a socially-aware and extremely exciting opera had audiences and performers alike dying to see it and perform its roles, although Verdi was very particular with who got to perform his operatic characters. Verdi was extremely fond of Shakespeare, and spent a considerable amount of his life setting his stories to music (three finished operas with many others planned but never completed). The opera’s libretto, written by Arrigo Boito, proved to be a massive task, as personalities like Iago and Otello are complex. Thus, the musical and textual life had to coalesce together in order for the story to be sold in a faithful manner. So meticulous was Verdi that he had personally coached the singers, helping Francesco Tamango (Otello) gain a far more palpable and realistic quality to his musical and dramatic performance (especially the ending). 

The premiere at La Scala was not a streamline affair but rather one of secrecy. On the official posters for the opera, dates were not given as a way to allow Verdi to cancel the premiere at any time. Further, Giovanni Ricordi (founder of Casa Ricordi, the sole owner of the rights of Verdi’s works) and his firm was actively engaged in the premiere, helping with costume, set design, and appointment management in order to help the premiere shine. It was a help, in retrospect, that Verdi’s opera was being completed in sections, because as soon as the opera was completed the Ricordi firm wanted to publish a vocal score as soon as possible, ostensibly to capitalize on the attention that the opera was generating. During the rehearsals at La Scala, Verdi had routinely threatened to cancel the premiere if things were fixed, demonstrating just how serious each premiere was to the (by that time) national hero and symbol of Italy’s greatness. 

One key point to understanding the premiere, however, is Verdi’s relationship with La Scala which, by all accounts, was a hearty and life-long one. His first opera (Oberto) and last opera (Falstaff) were performed there, and due to the closeness of director Bartolomeo Merelli with Verdi, and his operas would find refuge at the theater for most of Verdi’s life. For a time, he forbade his operas to be performed there due to his disagreements with the quality of the orchestra, although by the late-1860s (1869, the premiere of La Forza del Destino) to early 1870s (1874, the premiere of his Requiem which he conducted), things had seemingly tempered out. Despite Verdi’s reservations the premiere turned out to be wildly successful thanks to the aid of Ricordi and its influence. So popular in fact, that it’s recorded that the opera garnished 20 curtain calls.