Rap is a relatively new genre in Russia, having only arrived in the country in the early 1990s. In that short time, however, numerous rappers have rapidly cultivated a following at home and abroad, all vying for the crown of Russia’s top rap artist.
So when a new name suddenly breaks onto the scene, it’s enough to start a media frenzy. That’s exactly what happened to Husky. Like Kazakh-born Scriptonite, or Oxford-grad Oxxxymiron before him, Husky aka Dmitriy Kuznetsov has a unique backstory: born in Ulan-Ude near the Mongolia border, home to the Buryat population, Husky had never left the Buryatian Republic before moving to Moscow to study at the Moscow State University. “I came from the deep provinces, where there was terrible poverty. And then I got to Moscow, where one of my classmates had a bag that cost $6000,” he recounted in an interview with The Village.
He’d joined the journalism faculty with the idea of becoming a war correspondent, and he’d even worked at state media organisations such as NTV and the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company. All the while, in the halls of residence he shared with three others, he was recording his first album, and attending opposition meetings in Moscow. His first single, entitled 7 October after President Vladimir Putin’s birthday, recounts a splendid feast enjoyed by the king as the townsfolk suffer in poverty. It came out two months before the first anti-government rally in Russian capital in 2011.
While a lot of Russian rappers still rely on western tropes, Husky, with his low-budget black and white videos and the motto “I don’t want to be good looking, I don’t want to be rich” — a lyric from his 2016 track Pulya-Dura (Bullet-fool) — has quickly become the voice of a generation. His most recent video Panelka, a shorthand for a type of panel building ubiquitous in Russia, such as the khrushchevki built between 1960s and 1980s across the country, highlights a reality for a majority of Russians, who spend their entire lives in these buildings, from birth to death. As khrushchevki are being torn down in the capital, it’s a timely track that won’t lose relevance anytime soon.