Audio content: A top “battle rapper” in an interview with the YouTube star Yuri Dud.
Visual content: The rapper Гнойный at his home, plus a few clips from the battle.
Videos embedded below.
There’s a dynamic rap scene in Russia, including both recorded music and the verbal sparring contests called “battle rap.” Russian-language Internet culture is also very lively. For young people in particular, numerous YouTube stars with millions of subscribers offer an alternative to the controlled space of national television channels. The current post brings these two phenomena together with a video of Yuri Dud’s interview with the rapper Gnoiny. Dud (Юрий Дудь) is a professional journalist who also interviews prominent Russians for his widely watched YouTube channel. He’s good at challenging his subjects with questions aimed at their weak points while also remaining cordial and nonjudgmental. Gnoiny (Гнойный, meaning “rotten,”; he is also known as “Слава КПСС,” an ironic play on his first name and a Communist slogan) is a guy originally from the city of Khabarovsk in Russia’s Far East who began participating a few years ago in the live “rap battles” (рэп-баттлы) run by the St. Petersburg venue “SlovoSPB.” Battle rap suddenly grabbed the attention of the broader Russian public, including people who generally don’t follow the rap scene at all, after the sensational battle between Гнойный and Oxxxymiron in August 2017. This battle broke viewership records (it currently has more than 36 million views on YouTube) and was discussed as a significant cultural phenomenon even in the conservative state-supported media. The battle featured two contrasting personalities. While Gnoiny was hardly known outside battle rap circles, Oxxxymiron was already a very well-established rap artist and entertainment entrepreneur. He was also a founding figure in the leading battle rap venue “Versus,” a competitor to Gnoiny’s preferred venue “SlovoSPB.” Oxxxymiron’s role in the August contest, hosted by Versus, was to prove that — after years of lucrative tours and the release of conventional albums — he hadn’t lost his talent for live rap battles. But in the end the upstart challenger Гнойный won the contest decisively.
This post is linguistically different from all prior blog posts in that the video is drawn from an uncensored Internet platform and therefore can contain obscene language. Unsurprisingly, considering the nature of rap culture, the interview contains a LOT of obscene language (and when his interviewees use obscene language, Юрий Дудь follow suit). So this is a chance to improve your familiarity with a significant and extensive segment of the Russian language. Read the linguistic note below for more comments. However, if you’re a Russian language learner, don’t start using these words around native speakers or in Russia because you’ll probably sound like an idiot and make a poor impression.
In any case, the more objectionable aspect of battle rap culture is not its obscenity but the homophobic, misogynist, anti-Semitic and bigoted motifs that battlers sometimes draw on in their attempts to land a good “punch.” At the same time, good battle rap relies much more on linguistic creativity, cultural references and details from the opponent’s biography than on plain bigotry. The Gnoiny / Oxxxymiron battle was celebrated for its wealth of literary references but is not free of social prejudices. So be forewarned.
Most of what we see in this video is Gnoiny, basking in the glow of his recent victory, answering questions while striving to maintain his “arrogant nihilist asshole” pose. See how he responds when Dud goes after him for the supposedly poor quality of some of his non-battle-rap work. Also, a fun feature of this interview is that the symbolic patron of the Luch sveta site, Nikolai Dobroliubov, has a cameo! I only picked out a few minutes from the interview to highlight, but even that takes up a lot of space, so I’m going to break this topic into two posts. Wait for part two to hear about the “diss” Gnoiny wrote against Dud and about what happened when he insulted Chechen women.
The full text of the Gnoiny / Oxxxymiron battle is available here.
Заметки о языке:
I’ll repeat the warning once again: obscene language in Russian is very strong and you’ll probably sound like an offensive, immature, vulgar idiot if you decide to start using it when you’re still in the process of learning the language. That said, here’s how it works: