If you follow Russian news, chances are you’ve heard about the “rap battle of the year” between Russian rappers Oxxymiron and Slava KPSS, better known as Gnoyniy. Since being uploaded late on Sunday night, it has already accumulated over 13.5 million views on YouTube, and has received more attention in Russian media and social media than (arguably more significant) major global events.
The video recording of the battle, which is in Russian and very explicit, was uploaded a week after it took place in St Petersburg and news of the secret event were leaked on social media. Some serious political publications such as Meduza have reported, with a spoiler alert added to the website, on the battle’s outcome and when it could be expected to be available online. As soon as the video was made available to the public, Twitter, Facebook and media publications filled up with opinion pieces analysing the event and its participants and making parallels with domestic and international politics (there are articles comparing Gnoyniy to Donald Trump, and others comparing him to Russian opposition leader Aleksey Navalny and Oxxxymiron to president Vladimir Putin). Even RIA Novosti, one of the biggest Russian news agencies, has published four news stories and a large feature on the battle in the last two days.
The scale of this reaction looks disproportionate to outsiders. But Oxxxymiron (real name Miron Fedorov) is admittedly the biggest figure in Russian hip hop, often compared to poetry greats and described as the hope of Russian poetics and culture. He has participated in several high-profile rap battles, which have in recent years become a big deal for pop culture in the country. Moreover, he has never lost to anyone, and some of the battles have already entered the Russian rap hall of fame.
His opponent Gnoyniy, on the other hand, is the hyped newcomer in the rap business and a major part of his mostly online fame and cult-following was built on sharp sarcastic criticism of established figures like Oxxxymiron. When Oxxxymiron challenged Gnoyniy to a rap battle, everyone watching the digital pop culture scene in Russia expected an epic takedown of the newcomer by the hero of the genre, but it resulted in a 5:0 win for Gnoyniy (the battle was assessed by five judges, each of whom had one vote).
Can’t get enough of rap battles? A previous rap battle hit was the standoff between Oxxxymiron and Latvian rapper Johnyboy, which currently has 38.5 million views, accumulated over the last two years — an achievement that this latest battle is likely to beat in the next few weeks.