Church commentary history

A Dive into History: Chapel of the Little Flower (Est. 1926, Detroit)

Having walked passed the church many times, I was struck by its profound beauty and Victorian-Romanesque façade. Now that I know about the history of the building, I want to share this information with you. In this post, I will look at and summarize the story of the “Chapel of St. Theresa–the Little Flower” located in Detroit, Michigan. Established in 1862 during an influx on Catholic followers to the city, throughout the mid-late 19th to early 20th-centures, the newly established St. Patrick’s parish was becoming a realized community. Built by the firm Donaldson and Meier, the architecture featured Romanesque Revivalist aesthetics like Corinthian columns, basilica floorplan, terracotta shingles, and two campanarios. As the Detroit area grew in business and people, a need for a new building was realized which was closer to the related school built for the attending children. Thus, this was built, yet the other church was still in use at this point. However, by the mid-1970s the parish was lessening in people and thus the parish was transferred to St. Theresa. In 1992, the first St. Patrick’s church burned to the ground, and in 2015 the St. Theresa congregation was disbanded due to poor attendance, although the building remains in hopes of congregating once again. In a Detroit Free Press article from 2015, Detroit Archdiocese spokesman Joe Kohn had said, “Given its location, in a part of Detroit that is being revitalized, there’s a hope that it could be used in the future.” I sincerely hope this church will once again thrive and return to its regular services as it had before.

St. Theresa’s Architectural Story

As I had said, the firm that was responsible with creating the building’s Romanesque style was John Donaldson and Henry J. Meier. This is significant for the fact that they were responsible with building many important buildings of their time including: First Unitarian Church of Detroit (1982), the Ste. Claire Hotel (1893), the Mulford T. Hunter House (1895), as well as a huge amount of churches beginning in the 1930s like the Saint Aloysius Roman Catholic Church (1931), and the Saint Matthew Roman Catholic Church (1955). The very last building that the firm was responsible for seems to be the Saints Peter & Paul Roman Catholic Church (1959) which, if one looks at their architectural style, had changed significantly since the beginning of their careers. One of the most famous buildings is the “Beaumont Tower (1928), created using the ‘Collegiate Gothic’ style, taken from the Tudor and Gothic periods. This is all to say that their 79-year career was full of private homes, churches, clubs, and hotels, many of which still are used to this day. Many of their buildings utilize aesthetic features related to the style known as “Richardsonian Romanesque.” This aesthetic originated with the American architect Henry Hobson Richardson who took from the Medieval aesthetics of 11-12th century southern Spanish cathedrals. This means columns, rustification (emphasized stone placement), spires, embellishments, cone-shaped tops, emphasized windows, and usage of red brick. St. Theresa features a twin bell tower design which, on service days, must have rung with vigor throughout the neighborhood. The vaulted arches at the entrance also make a dramatic impression on me as well.

As one website says and which I fully agree with,

“This is a beautiful religious structure, well worth a detour if you are driving toward or away from downtown Detroit.”

Detroit 1701

commentary Current Events Russia

Russian Rap Censorship Database: Some Updates

It is to no one’s surprise that censorship of Russian popular music, especially rappers, has not stopped. Rather, since the war its cultural presence could be argued to be stronger than ever. In my ongoing study of the censorship of Russian rap, and Russian popular music more broadly (I have submitted one article on the topic for publication so far), I have collected the recent updates since February of this year. As recent as yesterday, censorship against artists has become a malicious attack on not only freedom of expression but freedom of opinion as well. This, as some of the examples demonstrate, also extend to those who had previously aligned with state ideologies and political positions. This is concerning. Russia has entered the phase of eating its own, not only those who are more Westernized in their vantage point but those who are both a-political and politically aligned with the state. Further, updates to the stipulations regarding LGBT and drug propaganda have also changed the aesthetics of Russian rap permanently. I will share recent developments and my thoughts on the matter as well.

This will eventually become an article, so forgive the messiness.

  1. April (2023)
  2. March (2023)
  3. End of February (2023)

April (2023)

In April, numerous things collided all at once. None, I should add, which were neither foreseeable nor predictable based on previous activities. Major artists like Guf, Shokk, Instasamka, Grot, Scally Milano, and Jahh Kalib were censored in various different ways. This is a significant development as Kalib and Milano are both relatively a-political rappers of two different aesthetic worlds. For Milano, a child of Russia’s booming trap scene, he had primarily stayed out of politics and focused instead on his base and becoming commercially popular. Kalib, who comes from the ‘hookah rap’ line and more dance melodicism route, was also not as political but a bit more vocal than Milano. Later, the banning of rappers Yegor Kreed, among others, for violating terms of service [although prompted by the Russian government] displays the interpolation of governmental desires with private companies. This is hardly unseen in the American and Russian contexts but it again shows the unescapable hand of government in every facet of the Russian contemporary. On the 19th of April, the stipulations on what LGBT propaganda is was finalized, and only six days later upon Scally Milano’s flight from the country a criminal case was opened against the rapper shortly after. This makes a confirmed 15 individuals, including Morgenshtern connected to Russian hip hop that have left. I suspect more are on their way out. Another major event of the month was the censorship of Arbenina who, in February, had succumb to censorship alongside Instasamka. However, in May she had scheduled some concerts in Tashkent (Uzbekistan) in response so her career seems adequate, although labeled a ‘foreign agent’ like Oksimiron.

March (2023)

If we go back to March, we see a whole different set of artists censored, although the names may not surprise you. Figures and groups like Ani Lorak, Andro, Valery Meladze, AK-47, and Kis Kis, representative of both Russian pop, rock, and rap genres, were censored in various degrees. This is heavily significant for several reasons. Chief among them, however, is the fact that censorship has now permeated the fabric of Russian popular music for everyone. This, in and of itself, is not surprising but what is surprising is the speed and range of artists that are becoming targets of governmental restriction. Both Gone.Fludd, a predominately trap-based “New School” rapper, was censored on March 14 and seven days later, the Soviet/Russian rock band Mashina Vremeni (Time Machine) was later censored. The latter were a VIA-band, or Soviet state-sponsored rock band who, although state-sponsored during Soviet times, were vocal in their opposition and targets of censorship throughout the 2000s and 2010s. However, the end of March was essentially defined by the events surrounding Guf and the cancellation of his concerts for various reasons. Outside of him, Lorak was forced to renounce her support for Ukraine on fears of domestic persecution, while the crackdown on bars have begun in Russia in a more decisive and concrete manifestation. On March 19, two bars were shut down. Later, on March 22 several more were on the chopping block. What is to come for Russia?

End of February (2023)

There is lots to talk about if someone looks at the censorship of Instasamka at the beginning of the month but I want to focus on two events that happened towards the later parts of the month because of the implications they hold for the rest of Russian popular music culture itself. Firstly, on February 18 the Russian popular singer (or estradnaya musika pevyets) Phillip Kirkorov, a flamboyant singer of the homosexual persuasion, was finally pushed back against. Not for his political support of Putin, however, nor his repudiation of Zelensky. No, it was for his status as a homosexual that the Russian public have now grown distrusting of and vocally against. As reported by several sources, a concert that was to take place on the 25th of the month was being protested and asked to be cancelled by the public of Kazan. Kazan, my dear readers, is a popular place for censorship as previous research has demonstrated. In 2018, IC3PEAK were censored there along with Schokk in 2023 and Aigel in 2022. Thus, a research project is unfolding as to the documentation of censorship of Russian popular music (or just rappers) as defined by their place orientation. The second is the censorship of singer Shaman (Yaroslav Yuryevich Dronov) for having released the song, “I am Russian.” Meant to be a more supraethnic battlecry designed to bring together the disparate peoples of Russia, rejection of the song lies on claims of ethnonationalism and extremism. Whether true or not is up to you but the post-post-Soviet sensitivity towards ethnocentrism is palpable.

The future of Russian popular music culture is currently being shaped and academics [like myself, or at least I’d like to think so] are tasked with understanding and ultimately documenting, and researching, what happens. In this ongoing research project, which I hope to formalize into a book at some point, I am keeping eyes on the censorship and shaping of this culture. One must remain vigilant in their documentation of culture as it is being shaped.

If you would like to look at the database, you can visit this link!

Analysis Hip-hop Husky

Mini Russian Rap Analysis: About Love (Husky, 2023) Pt. 2

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]

  1. Video Life
  2. Collective Analysis
  3. Final Conclusions

Video Analysis

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.

Collective Analysis

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?”

Final Conclusions

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.

Husky on set, PC: VKontakte.
Analysis Hip-hop Husky

Mini Russian Rap Analysis: About Love (Husky, 2023) Pt. 1

This is part one 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 two for “video life,” “collective analysis,” and “final conclusions.”

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]

  1. Some Theory
  2. Textual Life
  3. Musical Life

Some Theory

During my Masters education at University of Bristol, I devised a list of components critical to the analysis of the music video from available literature, both historical and contemporary. From that list, some of the pivotal are:

  • Behaviours, actions, emotions of in-video personalities
  • Worldviews and ideologies exemplified through statements, aesthetics, actions
  • Extension of textual syntax through visual and musical aesthetics
  • Intertextual (textual relationships) and hypertextual (extension of texts) allusions and relationships
  • Expressions of experiences both personal and abstracted
  • Meaning creation and “textual semiotic” epistemological creation
  • Extension and comments of sociocultural and political discourses

I am most struck by Suarez (2015) and their focus on linking musical aesthetics and text. They reference the “Goodwin Methodology,” sourced from Andrew Goodwin’s 1992 monograph, “Dancing in the distraction factory : music television and popular culture.” In it, he describes the linkage between the aural image and the internally induced image. This then creates a mental comprehension that conjoins the visual and the aural, thus rendering any differentiation in the process of meaning making null and void.

However, it is what occurs within the spaces of this assertion that is most pressing for the analysis of musical aesthetics and the video medium. Goodwin addresses this quandry, “To be precise, the process is one in which an aural signifier generates another signifier, which is visual, simultaneously with the mental production of the signified. What is problematic here…is the question of which signifier attaches to the signified.”

Others have argued along similar lines, Björnberg (1992, 1994) arguing that the music video is more so governed by the textual syntax of the words rather than the opposite way around. While I tend to agree here, the music video draws out of the text a very particular meaning that audiences are ipso facto expected to agree with as viewers, even if just subconsciously. Suarez proposed an “extratextual analysis” approach, where factors that lead to the decisions made in the music video are studied in correlation to their on-screen demonstrations.

This approach dovetails well into MCDA and multisemiotic analytical approaches by foregrounding the contextual parameters that color both the language of the screen, the music, and the textual substructure.

MCDA, as Stefano Cara notes, takes into account how meaning is created across modes of personification and the ways in which meaning is both socially, culturally, and individually created. Yet, at the heart of the theory lies the conundrum that one discourse (argumentation for meaning and knowledge) is not directly antithetical or independent from other meanings and discourses. Thus, “discourses are always intertextually related to and dependent on other discourses” (2017, pg. 6). How is language and meaning personified across the many layers of musical content? Where is the meaning being created, sustained, or challenged? How do we, as viewers and consumers, buy into the process of meaning that society imbues within us from the moment of birth?

A final element is the multisemiotic nature of musical/visual/textual analysis, and the cross relationship between these mediums. In terms of meaning, the “multisemiotic” nature of music is the places in which meaning can be found, a “semiotic” (sign capable of dissemination something) which can articulate meaning. As Marcos Antonio Rocha Baltar et al. addresses, a song is a highly complex medium of multisemiotic convergences. While aesthetically, cadences, harmonies, tempo, and other musical components provide meaning, a lot has to do with the social and cultural implications. As they write,

With the socio-situational component, it becomes possible to analyze the intergeneric interactions, the multicultural and chronotopic (worldview as shaped by external events, time period, and place) interweavings of the song, which manifest themselves in different spheres of human activity.

Baltar et al. 2022, pg. 8573

With that all being said, let us jump right into the analysis itself.

Textual Life

The track talks about the complexities of love, focusing on an autobiographical depiction of Husky’s journey towards love. His wife, Alina Nasibullina, and daughter Katya, are seemingly antithetical staples in the existentialist and borderline nihilist rapper’s life. Yet, as this track and another one (Song for K) demonstrate, Husky’s worldview is rapidly changing from only two years prior (i.e., Revenge). Verse one talks about an unmet need for love after his mother left, although this is not quite true as he had a strong relationship with his mother before moving to Moscow for school. Nevertheless, “And now I’m looking for it among the salty crowd” denotes that his search for love is doomed from the start, his depiction of mankind as dogs a prevalent and constant symbol for the hedonistic and self-centered nature Husky sees in the human race.

The chorus is a testament to Husky’s newly renovated worldview, seeing hope in the conception of devotion, he triumphally and humbly beckons us to believe in love. The chorus’ most formative line, “Without love, life means nothing at all. Come to me, don’t be afraid, I won’t eat you,” showcases this dangerous/sensitive duality that lies at the center of Husky’s entire image. A trusting yet forever temperamental demeanor, the selfless core and interiority of Husky’s personality bubbles to the surface. A career plagued with controversy and antagonism, this track exemplifies a new side of Husky that fatherhood and married life has seemingly gestated from within. Turning another corner, Husky’s texts usually never talked about love and yet here we are, at the precipice of a revitalized sense of purpose and self.

The second verse echoes the track’s autobiographical nature. However, instead of pure love, what it does is contextualize the entirety of Husky’s musical and philosophical persona. The first few lines, “Manual cutting knife, Nurturing resentment, I was looking for revenge,” speak to the reason why most of his oeuvre is so caustic, destructive, and violent in tone. He was looking for absolution by fire, retribution for something that the world had taken from him, anger at the God who caused him harm. Yet now, he has reflected and let go of his original raison d’etre and become a, if you will, reborn individual with a refreshed purpose. He had come to Moscow in search of something, first as a journalist then a rapper, yet in the process had become hooked on payback. This forced him into many a dark corner. As the conclusion of the verse reads, “So in search of love I found myself in a war…So I was looking for love, but I woke up in addiction.” This concept of love then is a synonym for fame and success, or perhaps revenge itself. Revenge against the rich, a coopting of affluency in order to dismantle it from the inside out. But he got distracted and instead got hooked on something else, returning only much later to his true intention, his real self mired by external excess.

Musical Life

The track’s musical life is relatively typical for Husky. That’s to say, simple but consistent construction featuring an intro, chorus, usually two verses, and an outro. This is significant because the predominate trend now a days is to not use an outro or introduction but rather have an abrupt beginning or drastically downplay the formal construction of a rap track. Evidence of this can be drawn from the trap genre which tends to operate around an ostinato which is then built outwards and given a flimsy beginning and endings. Artists who use this form tend to be from the younger generations of rappers, predominately the “New School” including those from Big Baby Tape, Yanix, Obladaet, Morgenshtern, FACE, and MAYOT, among MANY others. Further, the track uses many signature elements found within Husky’s aesthetic vocabulary including a constant ticking sound, a syncopated boom bap texture (famous in the Old School tradition), melodies and countermelodies, as well as a very distinctive chorus juxtaposition much like Oksimiron, Noggano, and the group Triagutrika. When it comes to the rap flow, Husky excels at modifying the voice’s timbre and pitch in order to convey meaning and point the listener more towards the meaning or the emotion depending upon the situation.

The track is in the key of A minor, a common key in Husky’s musical output. Generally speaking, most rap tracks are now in minor with exceptions being in major. The existentialist, often nihilistic, orientation of rap tracks use minor in order to encapsulate the listener into this sense of dread, despondency, disillusionment, and general fear of the unknown. But here, I think the A minor is in reference to something else. If one checks the symbolism of key as proposed by Schubert (1806), one sees that A minor is the key of tenderness, sincerity, fidelity, and….love. While others keys like Bb major, G major, and A major denote the joyous sides of love, it is A minor that speaks to the sanguine realism of love’s true nature. Instead of something to exclaim celebration about, love is hard won and something that is as fickle as it is stalwart when found. Husky’s usage of A minor echoes the more Nietzschean perspective of love, something that forever straddles animal eroticism and the disintegration of authentic friendship. Yet, Husky never endorses this but instead is working against this idea, instead seeing love as a restorative, clarifying force for good. Love, in the words of Fyodor Dostoevsky, is something that brings both great fulfillment and great sacrifice. Something not separate from suffering but not all around futile if truly worked for throughout one’s life, “To love is to suffer.”

I want to point you in the direction of two other components in the track of significance due to their placement and aesthetic identity. Firstly, during the introduction Husky uses a more liturgical, sacred-styled choral voice texture. Other rappers like Oksimiron have used female chorus textures in their songs as well in order to invoke a very particular meaning. In Oksimiron’s “Oida,” Oksimiron uses a folk-styled chorus in order to draw him more towards the Russian people, the narod of the pre-Imperial Russian lands. Here, Husky uses a quasi-religious choral sound to potentially harness the sacred theurgy of love, echoing the Symbolist’s conception of love as a spiritually purifying force for the cleansing of one’s soul and reunification with God. Love was also a way of overcoming death itself, purging oneself of all that made them human as to transcend the fabric of the earthly domain and enter into the majestic realm of the spiritually enlightened. Love as sacred service and ultimate selflessness. He also uses a circling A-B-C-E motif during the outro, perhaps an allusion to the wheel of fate or Rota Fortunae in Latin philosophy. A constantly ensnaring, destructive, restorative, regenerative, dispassionate force that does not care one way or the other. A force that binds everyone, who gives both mercy and punishment. The giver of life and the taker of life.

commentary Hip-hop

Hip Hop as a Material and Immaterial Reality

I apologize for the long hiatus from posting blogs. It seems that it is easy to fall out of this habit for the academic, as writing seems to be the action that generates the most nervousness. Researching be damned, it’s the writing your thoughts out in incomplete formations, clunky sentences, and ridiculous claims that seems to cause me to question myself.

Yet, as the great and practical philosophy of Stoicism denotes, one must persist and resist lest be a needless victim of your own mind. In that vein, as I currently work on an article centered around decoupling the culture of hip hop from the artform of rap (if that’s even possible), I want to briefly talk about one of the points that has come up in my literary reading. Namely, hip hop as both a material and immaterial reality.

What do I mean when I say this? Well, I am referring to alternative knowledge (or epistemology as Wanda [pronounced V] Canton adeptly writes about in her recent article) versus the material culture that has been born from the hip hop movement. When I speak of hip hop and knowledge, I am mostly referring to the “fifth element” of hip hop culture (i.e., knowledge). This facet has been widely talked about and develop by hip hop researcher Dr. Justin Williams (Bristol University) and Dr. Sina Nietzsche (international researcher and educator). Their collective edited 2022 special issue, “Knowledge Reigns Supreme”: The Fifth Element in Hip Hop Culture” with Global Hip Hop Studies (GHHS) goes real in-depth on the issue but I’ll do my best to summarize with my available understanding of the topic.

Because hip hop culture was born from a very specific set of socioeconomic, cultural, and political conditions, the communities that hip hop touched and was cultivated by inscribed hip hop with community knowledge. Not only community-based knowledge did they create but the very infrastructure to support the passing of this ‘knowledge’ (or epistemology) from person to person, community member to community member. Because of this, the nature of hip hop culture can be thought of as an alternative method of culturally-specific communication between community members based upon their alienation from the wider society, the hegemonic consensus of what societal relations should look like. As mostly minority communities were being pushed out of life itself, they needed to communicate to stay alive. But communication was too being “colonized” from the outside in and there was little that could be done to stop this relentless domination.

Thus, hip hop became a way to communicate, to survive under harsh conditions, and ultimately to create alternative family networks that could thrive under extreme persecution. We all need connection and a place to belong, and for persecuted black, Latino, and minority communities in the south Bronx in the 1960-70s, that what hip hop promised them. A home, even if it was illegal, vilified by the world, equated with violence, dangerous, financially precarious, and misogynistic. It was somewhere to belong to, to call their own. Graffiti was a way to reclaim territory lost to the postmodern colonizer, rap was a way to speak without being understood by the masses, breakdance was a way to talk with the body, and DJing was unique reclaiming of predominately white-dominated disco.

As Travis L. Gosa notes in the Cambridge Companion to Hip Hop (2015), thanks to Afrika Bambaataa, hip hop shifted away from simply being party music (cultivated by DJ Kool Herc) to what is called “edutainment.” This term, however benign, had long-lasting implications upon the evolution of hip hop culture, and more specifically rap. Hip hop was no longer just a cultural pastime but something that symbolized the liberation of the African-American from the legacy of slavery, racism, and “othering” around them. Hip hop represented the control of the narrative of the decrepit urban environment. The Universal Zulu Nation was ultimately the outgrowth of Bambaataa’s mission to uplift the future generation of African-American hip hoppers, becoming a strong and influential political organization against the war-loving, slavery-upholding external forces. Essentially, the humanist drive to better oneself and in the process the world at large. This was the true intention of hip hop, not aggression.

As Gosa notes,

“Knowledge of self, according to the Zulu Nation’s literature, can be derived from the critical and self-reflective study of anything in the universe, as long as knowledge is deployed toward peace, unity, love, and having fun.”

Gosa (2015)

This is the immaterial core of hip hop culture, the part which cannot be touched. What CAN be touched is the turntable, the rapper, the microphone, the clothing, the graffiti can (balloon), the wall, the breakdancer, the floor, the MC, the recording. These things are the material world of hip hop but the immaterial (knowledge) is what gives these material realities meaning. Without hip hop’s epistemic underpinning, a can of spray paint is just a can, a rapper a loud and obnoxious performer, and a graffiti artist a vandal who should be arrested. Without stepping into the shoes of the worldview of hip hop, there is no ability to truly understand why hip hop looks and sounds the way it does. This extends to contemporary practitioners as well. Despite their fame, many may not be aware of what hip hop actually means, what it truly means to the disenfranchised, the oppressed, the socioeconomically downtrodden. In these spaces, a different way of making knowledge exists which is alien to the priviledged.

As Canton notes,

Rather than objective or universal truths, so-called ‘rationality’ and ‘knowledge’ are themselves constructions which shape how we live in and through the world.

Canton (2022, p. 62)

Hip hop is everywhere, both physically and culturally but without attuning yourself to the fifth element, you got a lot of work to do.

Analysis Hip-hop Research Russia Skateboarding

A [Brief] History of Russian Skateboarding and Its Ties to Rap

In preparation for my Doctoral studies, I am taking the time to seriously investigate the nooks and crannies of Russian hip hop culture. One of those interesting areas is the role of skateboarding in the gradual development of the culture and the unique positionality it took in both aiding and being aided by the growing rap scene, especially in the early 2000s with the rise of R’n’B and pop rap. In this post, I want to go through my research and summarize the development of skateboarding culture in Russia since its beginnings to the turn of the 21st century, focusing specifically on the influence of rap when it arises. Of course, more research is needed and someday this will inevitably turn into a formal article. But for the sake of time, this post will only include the main points that I think are really important and a synthesis of all the other things I’ve neglected to include. The skateboarding culture of Russia is one that has yet to be connected to Russian rap culture and so the possibilities are truly endless. One thing can be said and that is that skateboarding, while it has gradually developed in a full-on sport, started as a way to engage youth in healthy activities rather than succumbing to violence, criminality, drug use, and alcoholism. Our narrative starts in the 1920s with rollerblades, although really the 1970s.

1920s Soviet Rollerblading

Admittedly, I know very little about this having just stumbled upon it one day but here it is. The roots, somewhat, of the Soviet skateboarding culture can be traced back to the 1920s, a time of great innovation and transformation in post-October Russia. By the looks of it, rollerblading was seen as a Socialist-friendly pass time, although I can assume that by the rise of Stalin the context may have changed. I won’t dwell too much on this topic but will say that the rise of “aggressive rollerblading” grew during the 1980s, the same time that skateboarding and rap was gaining its cultural moment.[1] Out from the shadow of the Stalinist regime, however, the rise of discotheque culture in the 1970s helped to give rise to the phenomena of skateboarding culture, although exact dates as to when the culture began is unknown right now.

The 1970s Birth of Russian Skateboarding Culture

At the time, skateboarding is not really understood and those participating in this strange, imported culture are seen as weird youth, the entire culture considered a “yard circus of freaks.”[2] As the decade goes on, the culture begins to form a more formalized conception, and by the mid-late 1970s with the rise of disco, skateboarding is becoming a thriving cultural reality. By the late 1970s, skateboarding was now a prevalent, sociocultural phenomena but it wasn’t understood as connected in any way to hip hop culture just yet as hip hop in Russia wasn’t yet a thing, although Sofia Rotaru’s 1979 song “My Country” would signal the first sound of “rapping” in the country. Further, the name of “skateboarding” wasn’t even conceived of either, the common name being “rolling boards/scooters” rather than skateboarding. Slowly but surely, most prevalently within the Baltic states of the USSR (i.e., Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania), skateboard culture began to arise. Referred to as “asphalt surfers,” these first wave skateboarders were simply attempting to copy what they saw in the best way they could. In 1978, one of the first models of skateboards were created, the Estonian “Rula,” ushering in the first signs of acculturation.

[For a video of early Soviet skateboarding culture, see Rewolda (2019)]

The 1980s and 1990s: The Two Decades of Growth

Picture Credit: Avito

Much like Russian rap culture, the 80s and 90s proved to be seminal periods for the burgeoning culture. Having not only established itself within Soviet cultural life but also having begun the process of localization and national infrastructural development via board creation, the ad hoc nature of the culture would soon change dramatically. The 1980s Summer Moscow Olympics were a huge turning point, not just for Russian hip hop culture for the entirety of Russian life itself. Unmitigated access to Western culture, worldviews, thoughts, conceptions about life, and capital of all kinds pushed many to begin experimenting with the cultures that were now flooding the Russian scene. A well known outcome is the rise of Soviet breakdancing, one of the first “official” elements of hip hop culture to develop within the Russian space, while the group Rush Hour would create their famous album, “Rap,” thanks to the help of Olga Opryatnaya and DJ Alexander Astrov.[3] An interesting turn of events that brings skateboarding intimately close to hip hop culture was the valorization of skateboarding as a social good, a healthy pass time for Soviet youth. Skateboarders could earn the ability to travel for competitions and the whole thing itself was seen as a positive outlet for temperamental youth energy which was being channeled into “unhealthy” forms like rock and punk at the time. Around this time, the domestic creation of different boards was fueling the rise of skateboarding culture, the Virage and the RPOM/APOM among the brands available for purchase.

The second-half of the 1980s saw the regionalization of skateboarding culture, much like the early-mid 1990s for rap culture. Touching the main cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, skateboarding permeated the farther regions as well, Saratov becoming one of the most important places, much like Ufa for contemporary Russian trap. It’s referred to as the “Capital of Soviet Skateboarding” for good reason, as in this city was founded the first skateboarding zine called “Skate News,” as well as the skating club “Fantastika Club.” In 1989, a famous report by the American magazine Thrasher was published which documented Moscow skateboarding culture for foreign audiences. This was one of the most historically important points in Russian skateboard history.[4]

The 1990s is a period of extreme growth but one that is intrinsically connected with the creation of a substantive Russian hip hop culture. Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, more accurately Perestroika in 1985, the blossoming of Russian youth culture began in earnest. It was 1991, however, when the flood gates were opened and the “first wave” of Russian hip hop truly began in its fullest capacity. By this time, breakdancing was just one element in a larger network of hip hop elements, rapping the most popular form at the time, with graffiti just as popular and DJing taking its place as well. Likewise, notable skateboarders began establishing their recognition, Denis Markhasin and Dima Belyaev two in a huge ecosystem of riders. In 1991, the Saratov “Union Cup,” an annual international competition for skateboarding, would begin, again expanding the reach and popularity of this culture. However, youth-against-youth aggression mired the 1990s as many had no idea what the future held for them, the Western-styled “informals” too much for conservative “normal youth.” Attacks by skinheads and radical nationalists against atypical and Westernized youth were common, the rise of Russian gangsta rap coming out of this highly dangerous period. Russia hadn’t yet gotten its socioeconomic feet.

Our story must end here. Thank you for reading and until next time!

[Cover Photo credits: Skaters at Risk, 2019]

commentary Hip-hop Russia

Did you Know? Ambiguity in Russian Hip Hop’s 1980s Constitution

In this blog post, I’m working through a piece of information that I read in an article about Russian graffiti culture. Namely, that the constitution of Russian hip hop culture in the 1980s was constitutionally different than America. Although that goes somewhat without saying, skateboarding playing a far larger role than that in the American contexts,[1] it is important to note that although DJ and discotheque culture did usher in the awakening of Russian hip hop culture’s beginnings, it really wasn’t until the late 80s into the early 90s that DJing and rapping coalesced into what is understood as the culture of hip hop. This, obviously, is not a definite position and one with exceptions everywhere but I want to provide the quotation and work through it to see if there is some validity in there. The passage goes as follows in its full form:

“Through acquaintances who were in America, they got photographs, videos, magazines – everything that had anything to do with a new hobby. Thus, the documentary films “Wildstyle” and “Beat Street” and “Stylewars” [three films about American graffiti and breakdancing] formed among the Soviet youth the idea of ​​hip-hop culture as a symbiosis of three parallel existing independent cultures: rap music, break dance and graffiti.” [my bold]

Andrey Tseluiko 2007, “Street Art in Russia Part 1”

I’ll mostly be ruminating on the subject rather than using a great deal of sources. Think of this post as thinking out loud. Take what I say with a grain of salt. My thinking primarily lies in the “lack of terminology” idea and as I will try to work through, this may be a convincing argument.

A Bit of Exploration

This is the first time I’ve read, in any available sources, what cultural actors at the time thought of as hip hop culture in the context of the Soviet 1980s. More research, and potentially interviews, are needed to clarify this from a more first-person perspective, but seeing as by the late 1970s foreign media and culture was flooding into the country abreast the popularization of disco and club-culture, how could this be true?

One factor could lie with the fact that based on the sources available for graffiti culture and my own hunch, I suspect that the terminology wasn’t there either. Perhaps there was no understanding of what rapping was just yet. The account of Alexander Astrov, legendary Soviet DJ and developer of the first Soviet ‘rap,’ explains that even though groups like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were known in the country, it was far too divergent from the accepted aesthetic at the time to be replicated. This Western funk/disco rap, the record that radically changed the course of rap in America, was so new that audiences didn’t really know how to react:

“Yes, I have said more than once. I heard the familiar “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash. But one must understand that the same Grandmaster Flash for the Soviet public was a transcendent record. We, who were engaged in discos, listened to it among ourselves, understood that it was cool, but no one would ever dare to put it on in the evening, because everyone knew that people would not dance to this music.”

Nikita Velichka, The Flow (2016)

Further icing on this cake is that fact that Rush Hour, as a group (I’ll bring them back for another point), were not the only group at the time innovating upon this new style. Based on the VKontakte post by Ivan Demidov, really as early as 1985 other groups were trying their hand at the burgeoning style with varying degrees of success.[2] What does this say then? While I am unconvinced that the term “rap” was not understood in the early 1980s, the relationship between the hip hop community and discotheque culture (and MCing) is a major point I’m no certain about. Based on Tseluiko’s comment, DJing and MCing was not yet considered part of the hip hop community although many DJs like Lika Star got their start in DJing. Is it accurate to say that DJing was understood as hip hop culture within the context of the Soviet 1980s? I’m not yet sure.

Another problem I have is with the term “rap.” Should we be led to believe that rap here is being used a synonymous term with DJing or did Tseluiko really mean only the rapping that is commonly understood? This present an existential dilemma because DJing, MCing, and rapping are all very different and cannot be synonymized. How, then, is research into Russian hip hop studies supposed to proceed? There is an expressed need for researchers to accurately talk about the topic, paying attention to the discrepancies between these cultural expressions without watering down their similarities as well. Alexander Astrov had noted that the “rapping” of the Rush Hour group was not so much rapping in the standard context but rather a furthering of the MC style which had pervaded the dance halls of the time. If this is true, then a closer study of the MC techniques of Soviet dance halls is needed to understand where Russian “first-wave” rap really came from in an aesthetic and cultural way.

As one can see, the discourses that emanate from this quote are many, as it holds the possibility of reorienting how researchers think about the constitution of Russian hip hop culture. Whether or not DJing was seen as part of hip hop culture is an interesting question but one that cannot be easily answered without interviews and first-person accounts. More research is needed to identify just what was the constitution of hip hop culture in minds of participants during the 1980s and what was considered part of hip hop, more specifically when did “hip hop culture” actually begin.

Hip-hop Research Russia

The Curious Subgenre of Russian “Thrash Rap”

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[1].

Following the 2000s, the emergence of many subgenres were seen:

  1. Trap metal
  2. Punk rap
  3. Emo rap
  4. Soundcloud rap
  5. Industrial hip hop
  6. Digital hardcore
  7. Crunkcore

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 notes) is the beginning of Russian thrash rap.[2] 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.


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!

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!