WikiJournal Preprints/Women in Russian Hip-Hop

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[Role of women in Russian hip-hop, focusing on the element of rap - more will be added soon]

Women in Russian Hip-Hop Culture


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[1]. 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.



During the 1970s, Soviet popular culture was all but dominated by rock, albeit mediated by governmental counterbalance in the form of VIA bands (i.e., Vocal-Instrumental Ensembles) designed to provide a more, party-adjacent variation of the Western rock band sound and experience. At this time, no one in Soviet Russia had any inclination of what “hip hop” was nor what was being created by Jamaician-American DJ and “father” of American hip-hop culture DJ Kool Herc. While in Soviet Russia, the new [cultural] kid on the block would be discotheque culture, colored in no small way by the “Eurodisco” culture which had overtaken Europe by storm, one block party would jumpstart the birth of the style of rhythmic speaking the world knows as “rap.” This discrepnacy between each nation’s cultural development at the time significant impacts the understanding of how hip-hop became Soviet Russia’s ticket out of the “Soviet doldrums” (in Russian, “Soviet depression”) More important is the fact that one track by an academically absent name reshapes the standardized history of Russian hip-hop culture, as from “MCing” came “rapping” yet they cannot be considered the same, although the former historically led to the development of the latter[2]. Regardless, common historical accounts note that it was during the next decade that the first attempts at rapping would emerge in Soviet Russia. However, this is not true as I will show. In fact, it was in 1978 that the nation would bear witness to its first “rapper,” and first “female rapper” at that in the form of Sofia Rotaru. Although known as a pop singer today, her thoroughly jingoist-colored song “My Country” (Maya Rodina) would unintentionally showcase a primordial form of rapping during its conclusion. Its accreditation as Soviet Russia’s “first rap” is contentious[3].



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.[4] 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.[5]



Accredited with being Russia's first "disk-jokey" (or DJ)[6] and female rapper[7], Lika Star (Lika Olegovna Pavlova, originally Lika MC), continues to be an example of female representation in Russian DJ culture, one "element" of the broader Russian hip-hop culture. Due to her influence and role in bringing rap music to commercial music distribution channels like television and radio[8], her provocative eccentricities and explicit photographs helped make rap music approachable to wider audiences. In the late 80s, at the age of 14 Lika had met eminent DJ Vladimir Fonarev at a a disco held at the cubist Zuyev Workers' Club (known as the Zuyeva Palace of Culture), built in 1926 to celebrate the 9th anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution[9]. However, at the same time she would begin her friendship with DJ Volodya Lantern. Having been invited to the 1989 summer festival/competition "We Storm the Musical Olympus"[10] by Fonarev, Lika would get an offer by music producer and DJ organizer Sergei Obukhov[11] to work as a DJ and gain hands on experience at the disco-club "Class" [12]. It was with this opportunity that Lika's development as a female DJ would principally begin. After a year of intense work, Fonarev would again invite Lika to the festival in 1990[13]. That same year, the "Russian" rap scene had started to grow in popularity, with groups like Bachelor Party, Black and White, and Bad Balance becoming the face (and sound) of the domestic hip-hop scene. In response, Lika would begin working on her rap skills while also working as a DJ, using her MCing skills from DJing. Her first serious 'rap' attempt was the song "I am a DJ," given to her by members of the (Soviet) Russian synth-pop group "Technology,"[11] In 1990, Lika released her first album, "Lika Rap," although much like 'Rush Hour' (the first group in Russia to attempt rap) she had dabbled in MCing, although at the time the name 'rap' was not yet known[11]. However, this album became one of the first rap albums in Russia, that same year Bad Balance would release their debut album, "Above the Law," and in 1992 Bachelor Party would release their debut album, "Let's Talk about Sex." After striking success with "I am a DJ" and participating in festivals as a rapper, in July of 1991 Lika would perform at "Rock Against the Rain" festival whereupon she would be introduced to the world of late-80s/early-90s rap by groups like MD&C Pavlov and Oak Grove. There, she would befriend rapper Dolphin (Andrey Vyacheslavovich Lysykov), member of Oak Grove, and the track "Metro" (later renamed "BBC Taxi") would be created, leading to increased recognition across Eastern Europe.[14] The following year, Lika's career as a rapper would grow exponentially, in March performing alongside rappers Bogdan Titomir and group Bachelor Party on the live-broadcasted program "MuzOboz" in Luzhniki[15]. Later, she would alter her identity from the DJing connotation (Lika MC), signaling her gradual turn towards rap. In the fall of 1992, she'd continue to cement her place within Russian 90s rap culture, although in December she would begin to align with "variety music" (Estradnaya musika), participating in the "Christmas Meetings" spectacle held at the Moscow Olympic sports complex where she was given songs to sing by Alla Pugacheva, the organizer and well-known "variety" singer. Alla would go onto dub Lika her successor and offered to manage her but Lika refused, wanting to write her own music[16] More importantly, however, is that Lika's name change and ownership over her career also instigated a change in management, as under Obukhov her words and musical aesthetic were created for her and modeled after foreign inspiration,, leaving Obukhov's management sometime in late-1992.



Born in Vladivostok, Russia, Mozi Montana (Alina Sarkis Mkrtchyan, nicknames including Slow Mo) is a premiere example of the Russian "New School" female rapper. Having become interested in rap at a very young age, Montana has become a familiar name within the Russian hip-hop community, although her name is still estranged from scholarly consideration and wider, international acknowledgement. According to unofficial biographies, her father was an avid hip-hop listener, and thus his love of the genre was passed to her. However, the two examples listed (2pac and Big Pun) date to the 1990s during the era of "gangsta rap." Thus, as Mozi's style demonstrates, most of her aesthetic and rapping style emanates from the American 1990s, although it is infused with contemporary commercial practice as well. She began with writing poetry, and then slowly phased into adding beats to her writings. At around 12, she began seriously pursuing rapping, aided by family friend and sound engineer Mazda (real identity cannot be located)[17]. In the early 2010s, Mozi would begin participating in online and offline rap battles, while also releasing covers and her first attempts at solo rapping. Due to her high proficiency in English14, her participation in offline rap battles would earn his cultural prestige, and in 2016 she would participate in the well-known SLOVO rap battle15, self-accredited with being the first rap battle project in Russia. However, prior to her participation she had begun to release music, in 2014 releasing three mini-albums16 and in 2015, abreast her growing discography, took part in the online rap competition "PITBULL Battle."[18] By SLOVO, she'd begun to distance herself from traditional schooling, and deciding to venture into rap full-time, moved to Moscow which consequently put her into precarious financial straits. Yet, at the end of 2016 eminent rapper Oksimiron (Miron Yanovich Fyodorov), in a tweet talking about her potential success[19]:

Following this high-profile approval, she would release her fourth album, "Ali Bomaye," an homage to the phrase uttered by fans in 1974 between Muhammad Ali and opponent George Foreman which translates to, "Ali, kill him" in the Lingala dialect[20]. It was then when $lo Mo became "Mozi Montana," marking the beginning of her next phase. In 2017, she released the mini-album, "Hayastan Boomin," the name referencing "Hayastan," the domestic name for Armenia, and how it blossoms and comes to life. This album is a direct reference to her Armenian heritage, although throughout her career it had not been something of direct relevance. In the title track's music video, she is pictured with a tattoo of the date 1915 can be seen, a subtle reference to the Armenian Genocide of 1915 enacted under the leadership of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) within the Ottoman Empire[21].

Perhaps one of the most well-known female rappers in contemporary Russian rap culture, Instasamka (Daria Evgenievna Zoteeva) has become a particularly good example of the exploitation of femininity abreast the adoption of masculinity to substantiate the female's presence in wider hip-hop culture. Her biography is unlike other female rappers, insofar as she had little direct exposure to hip-hop culture and rapping growing up. Her first taste of rapping came after her expulsion from Moscow State Law University. Having grown up during the age of increased digitalization and the explosion, social media networks, and the sociocultural phenomenon of "the influencer," dating as far back as the 1890s[22] with the "Instagram influencer" dating back to the beginnings of Instagram itself (i.e., 2010)[23], Instasamka chose to pursue "influencing." However, her path towards rap culture and demonstrations of explicit sexuality was not linear, as in the late-2010s when her following began to grow she moved to Moscow whereupon she began producing content centered around topical subjects, dancing, and trend-oriented content[24]. Yet, popularity was slow with such content, and thus to expedite her popularity she turned to exaggerated behaviours, an outwardly narcissistic attitude, and provocative expressions, resulting in increased attention. As Lenta's Anton Bolotov describes, "shameless, incessantly swearing narcissistic girl who is not averse to showing off her charms."[25] It was here when the to-be rapper's development began, Instasamka launching her YouTube page two years later and subsequently releasing her first two albums, "Born to Flex" and "Triple Baby" shortly after. The releases achieved market success, and soon after Instasamka embarked on a domestic tour to further capitalize upon her growing success as a up-and-coming rapper[26] which took her to a myriad of high-profile locations[27], coverage at the time noting how online avarice towards her aesthetic and expressionary choices helped fuel her developing popularity[28]. It was around this time when Instasamka began working with fellow Instagram blogger and rapper Moneyken (Oleg Eropkin), in 2020 collaboratively releasing the album "Family Business."[24] In the last two years, her domestic popularity has grown significantly thanks to her growing discography and public recognition. In April of 2022, the rapper moved to the UAE and stated her discontinuation of all public performances in Russia[29], while in the early parts of September her music was threatened with an overt blockage over the presence of swearing within her texts[30]. Instasamka has been compared to the equally provocative male rapper Morgenshtern (Alisher Tagirovich Morgenshtern)[31], whose career and rap aesthetic is replete with dramatic displays of sexuality, wealth, and flamboyant behaviours.

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  1. "Rap" is regarded as one of first, if not the first, example of Soviet "rap," although it is closer to MCing.
  2. Olga N. Opryatnaya was nominated for the role during the general meeting of the Laboratory in December of 1986.[32]
  3. 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[33].
  4. "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."[34]
  5. 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[35].
  6. He was a founding member of the rap group "Triada" (1999-2018), and is currently in the group "Trio Parodies "Barada'" (2013-present).
  7. 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[36]. 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.
  8. 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.[37]
  9. 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."[38] 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.
  10. 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).[39]
  11. A review by music critic and Editor-in-Chief of 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[40].
  12. Her date of birth is recorded as the 21st of February, 1986[41]. This is confirmed on her VKontakte profile[42].
  13. MC LE (a.k.a Illegal)[43], Gena Grom[44], and Dimon (Dmitry Korablin)[45]
  14. Ostensibly, rap battles are performed in English. However, this cannot be confirmed and seems to not be true given other like events use Russian as their language instead.
  15. In the SLOVO 2016 battle, Mozi Montana (under the name $lo Mo) went up against female rapper E404 (Yesenia Sergeevna Mayskaya). She would also battle male rapper Mad Mind (Andrei Ivanov). However, the presence of women in Russian rap battles is not studied here in depth, although their presence within Russian rap battles is deserving of deeper, analytical study.
  16. The albums are: Total Black, XXXVI and LTVM.
  17. The group originally consisted of underground rappers Ladjak (Oleg Zhilyakov), one of the first rappers in the early parts of Russian rap history, and Sir-J (Sergey Dmitrievich Bulavintsev), another rapper responsible for effectively creating the rap genre in Russia, although its final constitution would be Ladjack and Legalize (Andrei Menshikov)[46], the future husband of Simone, and step-father to African-Russian rapper Jacques Anthony.
  18. The group "Pacifiers" (in Russian Pustishki) is a historical example of "first wave" female Russian rap, whose music is very small in quantity and hard to come by[47].
  19. Aleksey Aleksandrovich Perminov (a.k.a Gryundig) was a 90s Russian rapper who was part of the duo Rabi Lampi (Slaves of the Lamp), a subsidiary group within the wider DOB Community. This group would release their only album, "It Doesn't Hurt," yet it would go on to become one of Russian rap's most seminal releases, alongside others like Bachelor Party's "Sex Without Break" (1990)[48].
  20. It is worth noting that Sergei Obukhov's contribution to Russia's popular music scene is appreciable. His work with Lika Star, Alla Gorbacheva, and later Larisa Chernikova in the 90s to early-mid 2000s would help bring women to the forefront of Russian 'pop music.' While unknown now after having left show business, his involvement in the careers of several high-profile women artists is notable[49].


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