Hip-Hop behind the Iron Curtain

BY , March 5, 2011

(Editors note: We would like to welcome new blogger, LA Based and Kazakhstan born, Marat Shaya)

The Iron Curtain was not only the actual fence that separated Eastern and Western
Europe after World War 2, but also an ideological barrier that prevented free
exchange of ideas between the Soviet Union and the rest of the world. Any form of
Western Influence was strictly prohibited and controlled by the censorship bureau.
Hip-hop, obviously, was prohibited because of its clever use of wordplay and the
power to move and inspire masses. The only element of hip-hop culture that was
overlooked by censorship was breakdancing. Oddly enough, hip-hop in the Soviet
Union began as a dance in the early 80’s.

By 1985, rap was just beginning to emerge and everyone wanted to jump on
the bandwagon and try it out. A famous rock band “Alisa” recorded a track
named “Totalitarian Rap” which quickly became a hit because if its cunning lyrics.

Russian hip-hop of that era can be easily compared to Russian literature and the
likes of Pasternak, Nabokov, and Solzhenitsyn for the passion to express ideals
and elaborately criticize the government. Propelled by those ideals, the end of 80’s
witnessed the birth of such legendary rap groups as Bad Balance, DMJ, and Delfin,
whose lyrics were very much politically charged.

The Iron Curtain was officially destroyed in 1989, which marked a new era of
Russian hip-hop, but that’s a story on its own.


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