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.

Analysis Hip-hop

[Unpublished Text] Husky in context: The Pushkin of Rap and Journalist of the Psyche

Russia’s musical heritage has always been partnered with a Western idiom, whether a ‘provincial’ impulse causing folk music to fall prey to rational modes of construction, or on a lighter side the cool harmonicity of The Beatles who inadvertently freed Russia from Sovietism. Leslie Woodhead, a British film-maker and Historian, had even considered them wholly responsible for dislodging the stuffy, ideological doctrine of the time, “Everything west was good…Whatever the authorities said was terrible was bound to be wonderful.From the underground scene, Rock n’ Roll began to migrate upwards, first through covert “Soviet stage” performers infusing approved cultural diplomacy with Western tastes, blossoming into Western-styled pop bands in the early 1960s whose careers were unfortunately marred by stylistic mimeticism. One the mid-60s came, the Soviet organ began to utilize growing electronic favour, creating ‘synthetic groups’ called ‘vocal-instrumental ensembles,’ their purpose being to ‘win over a new generation of Soviet youth’ through shaped performances geared towards ideological conversion via passivity and watered-down ‘boogie’ tunes.

Then ‘rock groups’, testing social customs, emerged in full force, although perhaps disingenuous as the Neo-Soviet cultural movement had begun in the 1950s when ‘Goodwill Jazz Ambassadors’ like Louis Armstrong came to Russia, in 1957 The Seventh International Festival of Youth and Students serving as a conduit for Western hits to permeate through stifled, Soviet airspace, albeit clandestinely. With the rise of illegal music distribution, burgeoning, anti-governmental groups set the hyper-realist ball in motion, that being the Punk and New Wave chapters, the former to a lesser degree, but the latter acutely because of its raw visage and cynical textuality conditioned by forced, governmental serfdom, “they simply state that what we are doing is silly and we are laughing at ourselves because we live in a dreadful reality, a trap with no escape.” Jumpstarting the 1980s was the Moscow Olympic Games, but here we shall venture towards Hip-Hop’s equally tricky evolution, although realistically Hip-Hop and Rock enriched each other’s growth, for without one, the other could not have blossomed, “Russian rap music continued the traditions of Russian rock, including the style of copyright songs “protest” against the bourgeois falsification of the “Soviet way of life.” 

With 80s ‘New Wave’ and its bohemian aesthetic, armed with counteracting the Soviet, career-based romanticism, what I call music ‘abuse’, i.e., usage of sonic arts to push dogma which is to be unquestionably followed, groups like Strange Games and Cinema became the progenitors of Russian Hip-Hop. With an ethos backed by homeland idiosyncrasies made palpable through textual seditiousness, these ‘rough voiced’ Western replications laid the foundation for the emergence of a truly Russian musical mindset, one that now seems stratified into two camps, pro-West and pro-Russia. Soviet ‘pop music’ groups were considered ‘agents of Western ideology and hedonism’ whose national presence was simply to undermine the sanctity of Russia’s constructed utopia, while modern comments attribute Western presence in more condemning terms, “they think they’re unique and they have had no regard for anyone else.”

In the 60-70s a new era began, the discotheque movement spearheaded by Artemy Troitsky, however quickly being used for educational purposes by the youth-led Komsomol. However, their efficacity began to subside, leading to their ‘music lectures’ having no real effect, and repertoire increasingly pro-West, i.e., ‘Rasputin, Rasputin’ and ‘Abracadabra.’ Consequently, state organs attempted to curtail this trend through dictates via language and approval, but the New-wave train would not be halted, leading to forced concert closure, a polemic tactic still used today. In their efforts to eradicate “wrong ideas and bad tast,” in 1984 it’s said there was not a single ameatur pop performance or festival, but this would generate the power needed to create an entirely new form of protest not fully seen until the late 80s when America was coming to grips with its own societal vices. Through illicit VHS films, American Hip-Hop infiltrated Soviet Russia, films like 1984’s ‘Beat Street,’ the cinematic retelling of American Hip-Hop, and ‘Breakin,’ a breakdancing comedy serving as models for Soviet-made breakdancing films like ‘Dancing on the Roof’ and ‘Courier’, among others.

Yet, prior to the breakdancing and Hip-Hop endemic, groups like Rush Hour were pioneering a chiefly Russian lyrical sound, not yet considered rap but close, using a softer, ‘European’ tone to ‘rap’ phone-book entries, the Alphabet, and even multiplication tables. It would take another six years for any festival to emerge, in 1986 Papuga-86 dedicated to breakdance, while Moscow hosted its own version [Moscow City Championship]. Five years later and Russia would see another first, her inaugural Rap festival, Rap Peak-91 [via the Leningrad Palace of Youth], this experience setting the stage for Hip-Hop’s post-Soviet birth. As Dzhin(2014) indicates, the rise of a youth-dominated subculture was predicated on various societal pressure-points, namely the tumultuous transition to a market-economy which encouraged commercialist intrusion and Western pleasures. This push towards a capitalist embrace was made harder as relied-upon, propagandic structures were now obsolete leading to a newly liberated workforce trained under unfamiliar systems of operation. Additionally, with Perestroika’s failure to create, ‘a social system based on pure Leninism,’ the rock clubs which filled youth’s hearts and minds were successfully given a Western touch-up i.e., high-energy dance halls and orgiastic rave scenes.

It was like a tsunami said Gueorgui Pinkhassov when recounting his club experiences back in the early-90s, and indeed when the rock club turned into the dance hall, and the post-Soviet youth chose to stray from antiquated, ideological conformism and join the ‘club youth’ commonwealth, it was here that Hip-Hop culture began. Once the gates were open, artists of every kind started to feed the post-Soviet appetite for Hip-Hop culture, some of the most influential being early 90s groups like Bad Balance and Bachelor Party. StIll, there was the issue of the ‘how,’ i.e., should rap be in Russian or English, is Russia allowed its own Hip-Hop agency, what was to make Russian rap different than its American alternative? Artists like Dzhi Vilks, soloist for Big Black Boots, had considered himself the first to write rap in English, “this is cool, rap should be in English, rap does not exist in Russian,” although others like Yes-108’ and ‘Wang Moo,’ alongside names like Bachelor Party, are accredited with being some of the first to solely rap in the Russian dialect. Like all good things, it became something far from its roots once the mid-90s came and the wave of Hip-Hop capitalism finally infiltrated the post-Soviet nation state, the ostensibly first Russian ‘rapper’ Alexander Astrov summed up the entrance into the new musical century perfectly, I don’t listen at all [to rap], I don’t even know what’s there. Once on TV I saw someone … named Timati, and somehow there was no more desire. 

Through modes like fashion, television, radical art, and scams galore, from the commercial edifice rap artists seem to simple ooze from the cracks of every region in Russia. Bolstered by record deals and sponsorships, increased revenue streams, and growing access to platforms like radio, publications, video, and concert venues, Hip-Hop started to publicly dominate mainstream culture, and what had only been considered a pipedream had started to become a reality, namely to make a career from Hip-Hop. These former ‘street heroes’ were suddenly given distinction, and groups like Yu.G and Kasta became the new faces of Russian subculture, but this would radically change once 2000 hit.

The first rap-battle, of which laid the foundations for its 2017 contemporary, Battle of The Beat, took place in 2000 in Dynamo Sports Palace originally built for the 1980s Moscow Olympics, and from there, according to its organizer Alexander Tolmatsky, “hip-hop thundered.” At last, rap had finally secured its societal foothold, and breakout genres started emerging, each with their own musical lexus and semiotic preference, for instance the polemic pro-Putin rapper Timati with his rap/R’n’B amalgamative sound and Krovostok with its ‘gangster rap’-ism [a ‘brave cultural project’] on one end, while groups like 2H Company and The Biggest Prime Number, along with the rap veteren T-Bass and their ‘intellectual Hip-Hop’ stance filling the other. This is where Husky, a Moscow-based rapper originating from far-East Russia [Ulan-Ude, Buryatia], comes into the mix as, observing E. B. Frolova’s extensive, semiotic-based survey of Russian rap’s tropologies, a clear lineage can be drawn from Hip-Hop’s early days as a vehicle for Soviet-era, ideological dislodgment, all the way to the present-day struggle against another version of dogmatic, party-first Sovietism, albeit now camouflaged under the ostentatious mainstream rap cliches of wealth, women, and power.

Frolova indicates that the politicization of rap lyrics started in the mid-90s with Bachelor Party’s coverage of the Yeltsin election campaign [Bet on Youth, 1996], although since then Russian rap has stratified further into various groups and subgroups, both political and otherwise in linguistic nature. Everything is used by rappers, from covering the Chechean War [Basta-2, 2007], satirical chides at political corruption [Makulatura: Child Psychiatrist, 2009], and even the Moscow Metro bombings [Assai: So much is life, 2011], to caustic denuciations of figures such as Putin on his birthday [Husky: October 7th, 2013] and endless, governmental entrapment [Noize MC: Conspiracy, 2013]. Whereas the American, rap sensibility points to direct confrontation and immediate contentions, the Russian method involved much more coded language and Asopiean phraseology, according to Lidia Ginzburg since the 1820s the ‘I’ had been conveyed through narrative story-telling, masking the speaker’s identity at times and running with moralic allusions instead. Thus, the rap stage was prepared for an artist like Husky, a material Theologian or, as I call him, the Pushkin of rap, to emerge full force and quite literally take Russia by storm. 

Husky [Dmitri Kuznetsov], is one of the more polemically celebrated figures in the contemporary, Russian Hip-Hop universe, due not only to his flagrant political orientation and provocative methodology, tracks like Endless Store [Hoshonog, 2020], a savage ode to the death of the individual, and October 7th [Dog’s Life, 2013], a castigatory ‘Happy Birthday’ to Putin himself, but also due to his high intellectualism which is exemplified through his textual life. Often utilizing current events, Golden/Silver-age Russian literature, his own Buryat culture, and many, if not all, of Frolova’s categorized, distinctly Russian-rap topos [i.e., ‘Blind people,’ ‘Ideological media’, and, ‘old war in new way’], Husky stands squarely apart from Russia’s modern rap scene, the reason being his full embrace of, what I call, a Huskian Surrealist approach.

Derived from his antipathetic paradoxicality which is constantly infused with muddied rays of hope, in others ‘self-deprecating, heroic nihilism,’ Husky toys the line between hating humanity and its offenses, and yet still wanting to improve it through lyrical declaration and sonorous wake-up calls. Having started to write raps as early as 15 armed with the sole intention of simply leaving Ulan-Ude, he enrolled at Moscow State University [MSU] for Journalism, stated by Husky in a 2018 interview for The Village, I accidentally got to the journalism department. I just wanted to leave home – there was nothing to do there.” But I argue it wasn’t an accident, as it was from here where he would learn, just like Rimsky-Korsakov during his Naval duties at sea, how to observe the world around him from an consciously inquisitive perspective, during his University education becoming politically involved, venturing into oppositional involvement in connection with the large-scale Snow Revolution [country-wide protests against election fraud, c. 2011-13].

Despite his retrospective admonishments towards journalism, his choice served as the catalyst for a self-awakening which would cause him to see the gross disparities within Russia via clear vision, in particular Moscow, “At first I saw rich Moscow…the one in the journalism department. And then I realized that there is a huge number of poorly living people.” He would drop out without earning his degree but leaving much more than ‘the girl,’ that being an intellect sculpted from two worlds, one of transparent adversity and unresolvable vagrancy, the other being a well-rounded psyche no longer blinded by the comforts of life and hypnotized by the hollow nullities spoken by societal ‘representatives’ and governmental ‘leaders.’ To no extent did this mean that his political views had become or now are single-party centered, in fact quite literally the inverse, “You might think I’m leftist, but that’s not entirely true. Right and left are no longer there, probably. This classification was invented by a f—ing cloud years ago.”

Further confirmed, in a 2017 interview with Afisha Daily he disclosed his alignment with issues not parties stating, “I cannot call myself a leftist, but…I sympathize with some leftist ideas. Just as I can sympathize with some liberal ideas, some right-wing ideas,” this philosophy of unrepentant independence permeating throughout his entire musical corpus, inducing praise from many [YouTube subscribers grossing 300K, Instagram 173K, and VK 323K], and intrepid virulence from others [at the end of 2018, an all-out assault on rap saw Husky’s cancelled Leprosy tour, unfulfilled 12-day detention, and subsequently failed, government-sponsored ‘peace talks’]. Even though rap originally had its roots in African-American inner-city ethnologies, Russian rap is something else entirely, unavoidably political due to its very locality despite ‘corporate’ artists like Morgenshtern and Timati tainting its foundation, comments from the latter, “Instead of going to protests, you should work and improve yourself only bolstering Husky’s trademark denigration of the modern, Russian creator, “…there are no ideological musicians in Russia at all. All smooth, sleek, the same[…]”.

Dmitry, the person, is not just a rapper named Husky who has created unnecessary agitation with ideological verses about the woes of Russian life, but a try-or-die trying philosophical patriot of the new person, a cornerstone of the ongoing, Post-Soviet anti-propaganda pursuits, with its unofficial goal of freeing the Russian citizen from the poison-laced spoon of assuagement handed to every neo-serf who will take it.

But, as if poetic justice of some divine comedy planned by no other than Dante himself, it was revealed through Husky’s interview with Esquire in 2019 that he is married and had been for, at that point 2 years, this coming from the man who professes his loneliness and in the face of support, self-censures like clockwork. For example, 1) “I have a lot of friends, and this is strange: I have not done anything good to anyone” (The Village), 2) “People listen to what they want. Everyone wanted to listen to me. Maybe this is due to the fact that I represent some kind of anthropological interest for people. Look what a monkey, wow” (Afisha Daily), 3) To the question “Do you have many friends?” Husky responded, “No, not really” (Esquire). On top of his clandestine, 2017 marriage to Alisa Nasibullina, a Russian performance artist, of which has never been publicly revealed in any concrete form until this interview, he revealed numerous particulars which cast light on Husky’s ripened evolution. Namely that they were with child and were looking for permanent residence, he in-fact attends church [jarring due to his use of a corpus-wide topos of religious satiricism and antipathy, i.e., Fool (Self-Portraits, 2015), Judas (scrapped album Gospel of a Dog, 2018), and Lucifer (Khoshonog, 2020)], and that he is both supported and avoided by Russian, oppositional giants like Alexander Navalny and personal friends like Zakhar Prilepin, Novelist and official member of the banned, National Bolshevik Party.

He concluded his Village interview with, “This is my role – to educate everyone. A senseless and merciless role,” and no truer words could be spoken which more accurately reflect the role Dmitry Kuznetsov plays in Russia through the genre of rap, a form which for so long in the West was demonized for its “irresponsible and inarticulate” delivery and intellectually regressive capabilities, in Russia just as criticized for its contribution to the “degradation of the nation,” Putin stating that, just like Komsomol had done with the Soviet dancehalls, rap must be used for ideological persuasion, “if it is impossible to stop, then we must lead it and direct it.” No matter though, as the year 2020 proved to be a fruitful year for Husky, while working on his new Album [Khoshonog] he finished a Christmas concert, an online-only April concert, began a metaphysical, philosophical project called Putestan, and began shooting Never-Ever’s music video, subsequently releasing his Album, followed by the posting of his 2020 [then 2021 due to COVID] tour, a second music video release [Endless Store], answering rap disputes along the way, and entering the new year with concert venues pre-ready for a mastermind of the people. Lest it should be forgotten that Husky is a musician in the fullest sense of the word, “in conversation, I will never say how I really feel,” all there is left for you to do is to turn on his music and hear. Not listen, but hear. Can you do that, ‘hear what the spirit is saying to God’s people?’ Whether Husky knew it or not, rap chose him and not the other way around, there was a reason he chose to initially pursue the Journalistic faculty, as even now he could be considered a Journalist of the inner psyche made manifest. Amen.


  1. Viljanen, E. (2016). The problem of the modern and tradition: Early Soviet musical culture and the musicological theory of Boris Asafiev (1884-1949). Helsinki: Suomen Semiotiikan Secura.
  1. Dzhin, K. D. (1997). PROCESS OF FORMATION OF YOUTH MUSICAL SUBCULTURES IN RUSSIA. Gramota. Retrieved February 4, 2021, from 
  1. Dancing the Cold War An International Symposium [PDF]. (2017, February 18). New York: Columbia University.
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  1. Frolova, E. B. (2015). Rap as a Form of Socio-Political reflection of modern Russian culture (2009-2013) (Publication). Moscow: Higher School of Economics — National Research University.


The Musical Particulars in Husky’s Debut Album “Dog’s Life” (2013)

Part of an ongoing project to understand the musical aesthetics and subtleties of the musical vocabulary of philosophically-tinged Russian rapper Husky, I have begun with his earliest (official) release in order to piece together how elements like key, tonality, sampling, and especially melody and musical themes are used to create very particularized sound worlds and feelings. It was clear from my research on his aesthetic language in his 2020 album “Hoshkhonog” that certain choices were conscious on his end but how far they extend into his discography, and how close they are to the fundamental language of Husky ‘the person’ is unknown yet. Thus, my analysis is an attempt to answer such questions.

Further, what they mean in context of larger discourses like nationalism, neo-Slavophile affinity, identity creation, and nationhood retaliation/endorsement is also unclear just yet. But as I will show in this post, from preliminary analysis of his first album, several elements stand out that position Husky as a “Cosmopolitan” (and perhaps “Enlightened”) figure, far more than perhaps he’s willing to publically admit. Within 13 tracks, influences of both the German 1790s and American 1970s are referenced through particular samples, while every single one his tracks are placed in a minor key, accompanied with a very particular theme and melody. Again, such things are not uncommon for Husky (see Vandevert 2022), but what’s curious is that it seems that the importance of key, texture, and sampling were (and still are) intrinsic to Husky’s musical vocabulary as a whole. Obviously, this doesn’t preclude other artists from doing the same but in the case of Husky, everything means something. In this case, it is imperative to properly decode his aesthetics.

General Elements

As you can see, there are idiosyncrasies with this album, and many unanswered questions. Firstly, where would he have learned about Betty Wright and Mozart’s Requiem? Who is responsible with choosing the song’s keys and especially putting them in the particular order they are in? How were the musical themes for each track determined and created? Why were samples limited to two tracks and not used in more tracks? What is the connection between the themes of the tracks and their keys? Is the entire album situated in one key, or is a conscious plan being made? A hard hitting one is what is the symbolic function of pairing classical music with R’n’B? What was Husky trying to do? Does race, class, and gender play a role? Why pair Germany with America with Russian?

  • Minor Key used in every track
    • A – A – E – Db – Ab – D – D – A – G – E – Ab – F# – C
  • Two samples featured
  • Each track has its own theme and melodic identity
    • Downward thirds [track 5] vs. three-note motif [track 10]

Exploration: Sampling of Betty Wright

For the remainder of this post, I will explore one of the samples, its connection to Russia, and its theoretical connection to Husky, trying to answer along the way the “Why” to its presence on the album. It beggars belief that Husky would have found this track all by himself given the novelty of its selection. Given that most of his current music is co-produced with his beat maker QT, perhaps this was not his own choosing. However, this was his debut album and thus, the infrastructure he has now may not have been in place at the time, leading to the assumption that it was a conscious choice on his part. If this is the case, where would he have learned about this artist and the particular song? Can a theoretical historiographical account be created that would explain how the track could have struck an encounter with the artist? How can we explain its presence on the album using history, context, and music history?

Firstly, her 1972 album “I Love the Way You Love” was Betty Wright’s first album with Alston Records (founded in 1964). Recorded in her late-teens, this album would help cement her popularity, and color her a highly mature artist for her age. Outside of album-specific histories, having released in the early 1970s it is plausible (although unprovable) that the album could have made its way into Russia during the late-Soviet discotheque period of the mid-late 1970s, whereupon it became infused into the culture of the day. It could even have influenced the creation of Russian rap, although again such assertions are difficult to prove. Her death in 2020 at the age of 66 was reported by various Russian news outlets, but coverage on her influence in Russian music is next to none.

A small bit of information from an article by Olga Vorobyeva possibly articulates her (invisible) influence and legacy in Russia. As she notes, Betty Wright was an instrumental force in the disco, soul, and R’n’B movements of the late-1980s alongside names like Donna Summer, Diana Ross, and Madonna. If we understand Wright’s place in music history, then when Donna Summer reigned supreme over the Soviet disco landscape in the 1970s and 80s, there is reason to believe that Betty Wright’s name was there as well, even if proof is unavailable. Oleg V. Sinyeoki notes how in the late 1970s, despite anti-disco crackdowns Donna Summer could be heard in discotheques alongside groups like Boney M. and La Bionda (2015). What does this mean? Perhaps nothing. Or perhaps it means that between the cracks of scholarship on Soviet disco lies Betty Wright’s name, and that through the epochs her influence gradually grew to the point that Husky (or someone related) became a fan of her music and wanted to use it in their own music. More research is needed to answer these questions but a trail, albeit a small one, is there.

Final Thoughts

Lots of unknowns arise when attempting to understand why Husky chose to put all his tracks in minor, use two antithetical samples of pieces of music far from rap, and in what ways do these elements come to represent higher-level discourses about what Husky believes and exemplifies through his rap. It’s critical that the musical elements within rap music be adequately understood outside of purely textual considerations, as these samples (and the usage of minor and definable musical themes) be understood as representative of something deep within the mind of rappers. Research on sampling is easy enough to come by (Lena 2004), but when it comes to Russian rap it is absent. In my doctoral thesis, I am hoping to get into it a bit, as well as write a stand-alone article on sampling from Russian rap. For the time being, try listening to rap with your ears ever wider. Listen for those things that lie deeper than text, the musical exemplification of the mind itself.