WikiJournal Preprints/Women in Russian Hip-Hop
Women in Russian Hip-Hop Culture[edit | edit source]
Historically, the role of women in Russian hip-hop has not been well documented, while their observation is most noticeable in textual allusions, and often they are conventionalized as "loose" (i.e., sexually promiscuous), and unfaithful to their male partners. However, despite the scholastic hole there is evidence of women playing a seminal role in the development of Russia hip-hop culture, right from the beginning to the developing present. Unlike the American hip-hop 90s and 2000s, where women were a strong element both textually and artistically, in the Russian alternative it was a relatively novel phenomenon, and while there are notable exceptions as I will show, research on their presence mostly comes from online articles and forums rather than dedicated literature and published research.
Olga N. Opryatnaya[edit | edit source]
During the 1980s, the first signs of hip-hop culture in Russia were revealing themselves through street fashion, the diversifying of Soviet rock culture, and the increasing access to Western cultural currency thanks to the rapidly unmanageability of isolationism, "fartsovka" culture3, and youth restlessness. In 1985, after having created their collaborative album entitled "Rap" with eminent Soviet DJ Alexander Astrov1, the disco-funk group Rush Hour (Час Пик), were heard by (then) member of the Ministry of Culture and soon-to-be future second Director of the Moscow Rock Club, Olga N. Opryatnaya. The documentation of her involvement is sparse, but it is known that Olga had replaced Bulat Musurmankulov in the position2, and was instrumental in expanding access to recording and performance equipment for musicians, and increasing the amount of performance time musicians were given in order to avoid being suspect to "Parasitism" (the criminalization of unemployment). Because of Olga, young, Soviet rock musicians were able to spend much more time dedicated to music-making than had previously been allowed.
Miss-T[edit | edit source]
Although the legacy of women in the development of Russian rap is relatively unstudied, their role is not absent. Active in the first-half of the 2000s, female rapper Miss-T (real name Masha Anisimova) is one of those figures whose name is absent from Academic study and to contemporary fans of the domestic genre. According to an unofficial biography, she had first discovered rapping during her stay in America, and it was here were her alias was chosen.4 She became heavily interested in the genre, and upon her return to Russia recognized a qualitative shift in its nature. Reflecting upon her observations she noted,
"I returned from America four years ago. I was very into American hip hop, black music, etc. When I came to Russia, I wanted to see what Russian rappers are capable of. I heard, that there will be a big Rap Music festival. I went there and I really liked it. I thought it would be one crap, but everything, on the contrary, was professional and beautiful, so I became interested in Russian hip-hop. It's much more complicated than the American one, it's harder to read."
Miss-T's first brush with fame came when she was invited to join the Moscow-based group, "Distant Light"5 (Дальний Свет) by "Trek." For the next three years, they were taught how to live the culture of hip-hop, along with the mechanics of rapping and breakdance. In the first-half of the 2000s, rappers like Master Sheff, Mister Maloy, Bogdan Titomor, Noize MC, Basta, St1m, and Detsl, and groups like United Caste, MD&C Pavlov, and Bad Balance were among the most popular names in rap culture at the time. Because her skills lay in rapping and not lyricism, she first introduced herself to Master Sheff for help, who put them into contact with Nigative (real name Vladimir V. Afanasiev)6 who wrote them some lyrics (eventually being featured on the program "12 Angry Spectators"8). Unsatisfied with the result, she later contacted Omsk rapper Basket (real name Oleg Baskov)7, a seminal graffiti-artist and eminent designer to this day, for help in producing a music video. Submitted to MTV, it won first place on the MTV program, leading to Miss-T to pursue a solo career and write one of her most important tracks, "I- Miss-T."9
White Chocolate (Group)[edit | edit source]
Created by the Russian DJ, rapper, and producer Vlad Valov (a.k.a Master Sheff) in the late 1990s, this trio rap group is little known today but at the time, they were well-regarded alongside their male contemporaries like Bad Balance, Bachelor Party, Big Black Boots, DA-108, Krovostok, and United Caste. The group was comprised of three women. Namely: Sexy Liya (real name Liya Volanskaya), Marusya (Maria Simanovskaya), and Lera (Lera Faik). The origins of the group lie in their relationship with rapper Alexander Tolmatsky10 (Soviet Russian DJ and father of rapper Detsl) and Valov. Marusya and Lera had participated in Tolmatsky's pop group GTO, while the Sexy Liya had worked elsewhere. It can be said that White Chocolate was a produced and highly cultivated phenomenon, although this is not atypical for the time-period. Once Lera was added to the group by Valov, the final constitution of the group had been soldified. The group's first track was entitled "Queen of the Nights" (Королева Ночей) released in 1999 and later added to the compilation CD "Hip Hop Info # 7" released the year after. Following their release, they partnered with the "Bad Balance" group on-tour, and with the revenue generated in the fall of 2000 produced their first music video, "Style from Russia" (aka "Where are you?")." At the time, they were beginning to blossom in public recognition, and were noted as being equally as popular as Detsl. Their fame would continue to grow due to several more music video releases as well as their participation in rap festivals, although in the spring of 2002 the group disbanded due to the premature death of Marusya. The group had been preparing their debut album, "Three Symbols" (Три Cимвола), a rap-meets-R'n'B styled album which coincided with the predominate aesthetic at the time. In April of 2003, the album was officially released, and comments from a Hip-Hop.ru forum at the time demonstrates the popularity and mainstream appeal of their music within the predominately male-dominate space of Russia hip-hop. One comment from February of 2020 speaks to the popular support the group had among 2000s Russian rap listeners, "With Bad b. alliance began my love for Russian hip-hop and White chocolate in particular!" going onto note how Marusya's legacy has become immortalized thanks to social media, "Since 2007, I have been leading the memory group of Marusya in VK with the intention of perpetuating her legacy in the annals of people's memory. In 2019, accounts dedicated to Marusya and White Chocolate were created on Instagram."
Marinessa[edit | edit source]
Having partnered with male "Old School" rappers like Rem Digga (Roman V. Voronin) and the Rostov-on-Don group Sand People (Песочные Люди), Marinessa (Marina Stepanova) is one of the few examples in Russian rap of a female rapper having partnered with a predominantly male group, namely United Caste11. Nicknamed "Marinessa Pocarano", her presence in Russian rap can be seen in her many collaborations with members of "United Caste" (later to be called Kasta), including Khamil (Andrei L. Pasechny, former member of United Caste) and Snake (Anton S. Mishenin) along with the Rostov-on-Don group Grani. However, her absence from the common knowledge of Russian hip-hop most likely is due to the lag in the release of her solo material. Her first album, "Exclamations," was not released until the spring of 201011, and as a result the fabric of Russian hip-hop had expanded greatly, and to achieve popularity was consequently much more difficult due to the density of the community, made especially so as a female rapper. Currently, she is still releasing music under the musical direction of Vlad Valov, although her current participation in Kasta is unknown. Given that her website was only active for two years following her debut, it can be said that her role in Russian hip-hop after her ostensible divergence with United Caste is nominal. Yet her historical presence should not be forgotten.
The Aesthetics of Female Russian Rap[edit | edit source]
Cultural Reception and Statements[edit | edit source]
Additional information[edit | edit source]
Acknowledgements[edit | edit source]
Any people, organisations, or funding sources that you would like to thank.
Competing interests[edit | edit source]
Any conflicts of interest that you would like to declare. Otherwise, a statement that the authors have no competing interest.
Notes[edit | edit source]
- "Rap" is regarded as one of first, if not the first, example of Soviet "rap," although it is closer to MCing.
- Olga N. Opryatnaya was nominated for the role during the general meeting of the Laboratory in December of 1986.
- Fartsovka - the name for the illegal, black-market economy in Soviet Russia where Western goods were smuggled and sold by those in contact with European cities and culture.
- "In America, when I was at school, they called me Miss and even Miss Trouble (from the English. "Care", Trouble"), from this nickname and the name appeared - Miss-T."
- This group should not be confused with the Russian chanson trio, "Distant Light," comprised of songwriter Alexey Bryantsev, and singers Vladimir Zhdamirov and Oleg Simonov.
- He was a founding member of the rap group "Triada" (1999-2018), and is currently in the group "Trio Parodies "Barada'" (2013-present).
- Little to nothing is known about him, although it is confirmed he was a former member of the group "Bad Balance" and can be found among the underground Russian rap community. According to the Russian Wikipedia page of "Bad Balance," he is (or was) a graffiti artist and album designer who was involved with the group from 1994-1999.
- The program "12 Angry Spectators" (1999-2002) was a music video review show where clips would be sent in and assessed on-air. At the end of each program, one clip was chosen as the best and the worst, with the best moving onto the next round (the next program) until one winner was chosen. Modeled after its American alternative, it was one of the first television programs via MTV Russia.
- In terms of Russia rap history, "Hip-Hop Info #8" was released in 2001 and featured artists like Detsl, Bad Balance, and Sheff but also fellow girl groups like "White Chocolate." With this release, it is clear to see that Miss-T was an intrinsic part of the cultural fabric of "Old School" Russian rap, although her name is little mentioned in contemporary accounts of the history.
- Alexander Tolmatsky's influence upon Soviet and post-Soviet hip-hop culture and larger popular music culture is large, having been instrumental as a DJ and producer in the late 80s to early 90s. He is most ubiquitously known for his development of his son Kirill Tolmatsky (Detsl) from 1999 to 2004. Currently, he operates as the producer of the rapper Seryoga (Sergey Vasilievich Parkhomenko).
- A review by music critic and Editor-in-Chief of Rap.ru Nikolai Redkin praised the album's musicality and lyrical nature. However, he notes its antiquarian nature for the time, leading to its relatively cool reception despite its musical strengths. The overall tenor of the album harkens back to Soviet "variety music" and invoke more sentimental, "mood music" aesthetic rather than genuine rapping.
References[edit | edit source]
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- Mamonov, Petr. “Secrets of the Moscow Rock Laboratory.” Argument of the Week, April 22, 2015. https://argumenti.ru/culture/n485/397308.
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