Make Some Noize: Rap as a Form of Political Protest in Russia

Daphne Letherer

Student: Daphne Letherer
Majors: Global and International Studies (History), Russian Studies
Advisors: Dr. Peter Pozefsky, Dr. Tatiana Filimonova
Within the last few years, opposition against the Kremlin has been on the rise. During the summer of 2019, record-breaking protests took place across Russia. While the crowds consisted largely of young people, another voice stood out among the opposition, both in the crowds and on-stage: rappers. Part of one of the most popular music genres in Russia today, rap artists are more frequently releasing political songs, videos, and even entire albums. Some of most notable artists associated with activism are Noize MC, Face, and Oxxxymiron. Government officials attempted to control the popular hip-hop artists, but such attempts at censorship and concert cancellations angered rappers and their fans alike, who in response mobilized to protect their freedoms of speech and expression. Because of the increasing politicization among Russian rappers and their capability to inspire their fanbases to also become civically active, this project argues that rap in Russia is an effective form of political protest and that rappers engage politically in three primary ways: releasing songs, advocating issues on social media, and direct participation in protests.
I have always had a soft spot for rebels and been drawn to opposition movements. Although I did not listen to rap music before this project, the rappers’ performances and participation in the 2019 Moscow summer protests caught my attention and drew me into the story of their ongoing battle with the state. The more I learned about Russian rappers—in particular, Noize MC and his cover of “Everything’s as It Should Be”—the more I wanted to share the story of their politicization. Because of this project, I found a new appreciation for hip hop and deepened my appreciation for cultural protest.

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Daphne will be online to field comments on May 8:
2-4 pm EDT (PST 11am-1pm, Africa/Europe: evening)

Posted in I.S. Symposium, Independent Study on April 28, 2020.

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