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Russian rapper arrested and unexpectedly released after alleged Kremlin intervention

Husky, a prominent Russian rapper, makes a cameo appearance in a music video mocking Vladimir Putin's speech about “spiritual bonds” // YouTube, screenshot by Runet Echo.

In late November, regional authorities in Krasnodar, a major city in Russia’s south, banned the concert of a popular rapper Husky (real name Dmitry Kuznetsov). Local police stormed the club where he was set to give a concert and arrested Husky when he attempted to perform on the roof of a car parked nearby. The rapper was then jailed and released shortly thereafter, which may have been the result of some people high in the Kremlin hierarchy being his fans. Despite this, Husky's career might still hang in the balance as Russian authorities continue to crack down on music that they find offensive. 

Husky has been jailed for 12 days. The rapper was apprehended in Krasnodar late on November 21. He performed on the roof of a car in front of a crowd of fans who were prevented from entering a local club for his scheduled show.

Husky was sentenced to 12 days in jail by a local court for petty hooliganism, with lawmakers calling for the ban of rap shows “promoting suicide and drug abuse.” The ban and his arrest are part of a larger Russian trend where local authorities are disrupting and banning music shows which they deem to be a destructive influence on the country’s youth.

Earlier, Husky made a prophetic cameo in a music video by another prominent Russian hip-hop band, Kasta. In the video called “The Bonds” (a mocking reference to Vladimir Putin’s 2012 state of the union speech where he bemoaned the lack of “spiritual staples” or “bonds” keeping the Russian society together), he played a young man in a tracksuit harassed by a policeman in the back of a paddy wagon.

On top of Husky’s legal troubles, Google censored Husky’s latest music video “Iuda” (Judas), with YouTube displaying a message to Russian users: “This video has been removed at the request of public authorities in your country.”

Basta [a popular rapper]: YouTube banned Husky’s video “Judas.” The message says that it was done at the request of public authorities. Dear government comrades, it’s a massive failure on your end (((((((

On November 26, Husky's fellow rappers staged an impromptu show in his support. Oxxxymiron, one of the most popular hip hop artists in Russia, posted an appeal on his Instagram page:

 

Посмотреть эту публикацию в Instagram

 

Я БУДУ ПЕТЬ СВОЮ МУЗЫКУ: Баста, Oxxxymiron, Noize MC. Концерт солидарности. В нашей стране участились отмены концертов и запугивание исполнителей. Артистов обвиняют в проблемах общества, ведь это проще, чем заняться решением этих самых проблем. Творчество – это отражение реальности, иногда кривое, иногда правдивое, но никак не сама реальность. Его нельзя понимать буквально. 12 суток ареста сейчас отбывает в Краснодаре рэпер Хаски, в чьих текстах увидели пропаганду того, чего там нет, заблокировали клип и сорвали ряд концертов. Его будущие концерты также находятся под угрозой срыва, а значит под вопросом как его свобода самовыражения, так и честный заработок. Это беспредел. Мы можем не разделять взглядов Хаски, не понимать его музыку или акционизм, но при этом должны принципиально поддержать его в этот сложный момент. Поэтому, раз он не в состоянии сейчас выступать и зарабатывать сам, мы выступим с концертом солидарности и перечислим ему всю выручку. Речь здесь не только и не столько о Хаски, сколько о всех нас и нашем будущем. Приходите и, даже если презираете хэштеги, поддержите нас в соцсетях хэштегом #ябудупетьсвоюмузыку. Билеты в кассе «Главклуба» и по ссылке в описании инсты. @noizemc @bastaakanoggano

Публикация от Oxxxymiron (@norimyxxxo)

I'M GOING TO SING MY MUSIC: Basta, Oxxymiron, Noize MC. A solidarity concert. In our country there is an accelerating wave of cancelled shows and intimidation of performers. They are blamed for the society's ills, it's easier than fixing these very same issues. Art is a reflection of reality, sometimes it's twisted, sometimes it's true, but never the same as reality. It can't be interpreted in a literal way. In Krasnodar, Husky is currently serving 12 days for allegedly promoting something in his lyrics that simply isn't there. His video was banned [from YouTube] and several shows have been cancelled. His future shows are under threat of being cancelled as well, which means that not only his freedom of expression is in question, but his ability to make a living by honest means. It's lawlessness. We don't necessarily share Husky's views, understand his music or performances, but we must make a principled stand for his sake at this perilous moment. Which is why, since he himself is unable to perform and make a living, we are staging a show to express our solidarity, with all proceeds going towards his support. It's not just about Husky, but about us all and our future. Come, and even if you despise hashtags, support our show on social media by posting with a hashtag #imgoingtosingmymusic. Tickets are available at Glavclub's booking offices and by following a link on this Instagram's profile. @noizemc @bastaakanoggano

But Husky is no liberal minstrel. Before his rapping career took off, he was an editor at a loyalist TV show launched by Sergey Minayev, a popular writer, screenwriter and the current editor in chief of Esquire Russia. In addition to that, Husky expressed support for pro-Russian guerillas fighting a separatist war in Eastern Ukraine with Russia’s assistance. He even traveled to the front lines and attempted to join a separatist battalion, although not much came out of that, except for a few photographs and an impromptu performance for Arsen “Motorola” Pavlov, a notorious rebel commander assassinated in 2016.

So it came as no surprise that several pro-Kremlin figures, including Husky’s former boss Minayev, came to the rapper’s defense. Minayev went on on a Telegram channel run by the social media team of RT, a state-owned international news netwrk, to vent his frustration:

Это безумно талантливый, тонко чувствующий человек. Ничего и никого не боится, обладает обострённым чувством справедливости — и после всей славы, что на него обрушилась, ни на секунду не надел на себя корону. Всё, что происходит вокруг его концертов, — это дичайший бред. Дима сегодня один из главных музыкантов, не надо ему мешать творить.

He [Husky] is an immensely talented man with a keen appreciation of beauty. He doesn’t fear anything and anyone, has a profound sense of justice — and with all the fame that has been pouring on him he has not worn a crown for a second. Everything that’s been going on with his shows is sheer absurdity. Dima [short for Dmitry, Husky’s real name] is one of the biggest musicians of our generation, just let him be one.

Suddenly, Husky’s conviction was overturned and he was set free. RT’s editor in chief Margarita Simonyan tweeted:

Now, a few details about Husky. A little inside view, as they say. Husky has been set free and in the future will be left alone, tap on wood, solely because some two or three members of the AP [Vladimir Putin’s administration], learned of his existence yesterday and what happened to him and were, let’s say, outraged. And when two or three people in the AP are outraged about something, it usually ends well.

Such blatant disregard for normal procedure — Simonyan in effect admitted that courts in Russia are completely subservient to the Kremlin — drew widespread condemnation and ridicule.

Editor in chief of a state news agency Margarita Simonyan: “There are no independent courts in Russia, all decisions are dictated directly from the president’s administration.”

But even despite this top-level intervention, Husky’s rapping career is still hanging in the balance. In late November, after Husky’s release from jail, his show in the town of Vologda was canceled after a local club reported threats of closure by the local police and prosecutor’s office.

apparently, 2-3 other members of the [presidential administration] gave Husky a listen and were like “hmmm no, maybe not”

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