Рэп-баттл: Интервью Гнойного (часть 1) / Rap Battle: Interview with Gnoiny (Part 1)

rap battle Гнойный and Oxxxymiron

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.

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 “Slovo SPB.” 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, entertainment entrepreneur and founding figure in the battle rap venue “Versus” — a competitor to Gnoiny’s preferred venue “Slovo SPB.” 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 interview subjects use obscene language, Юрий Дудь follow suit). So this is a chance to improve your familiarity with a significant and very 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 very bad impression.

In any case, the more objectionable aspect of battle rap culture is not its obscenity but the homophobia, misogyny, anti-Semitism and other types of bigotry that are mixed into its culture of insults and aggression. Of course, good battle rap relies on linguistic creativity, cultural references and details from the opponent’s biography rather than on crude bigotry — and the Gnoiny / Oxxxymiron battle was celebrated for its wealth of literary references — but it’s definitely not above drawing on societal prejudice in its “punches.” So be forewarned.

Most of what we see in this video, however, 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.

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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:

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Юбилей первой женщины в космосе / Birthday Celebrations for the First Woman in Space

Valentina Tereshkova

Audio Content: On her eightieth birthday, Valentina Tereshkova reminisces about her groundbreaking flight into space. The post also includes a few examples of heartfelt, formal Russian birthday congratulations and an interesting exchange that shows what governing looks like in the Putin era.
Video Content: Great archival images of Tereshkova’s training and space flight and of her life today as a member of the Duma.

Links to two videos are below.

The Soviet Union was responsible for many of humanity’s space firsts, including the first artificial satellite put into orbit, the first man in space and the first woman in space. The first man in space, the beloved hero Yuri Gagarin, died in a jet crash while still in his 30s, but the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, has enjoyed a long public career in the space program and in politics. She is currently a deputy in the Duma representing her native region, Yaroslavl Oblast.

Tereshkova celebrated her 80th birthday on March 6th, 2017 and was prominently featured in news reports that day. The videos below remind viewers of her history: how she was a simple worker at a textile factory in Yaroslavl, participated avidly in a local aviation and parachuting group, was chosen as one of five finalists for the project of sending a woman into space and launched into orbit on June 16, 1963. Tereshkova’s reminiscences are interspersed with archival footage of her training and flight.

The videos are also of interest for a few other reasons. They include an excellent example of the sort of greeting that might be extended to someone in Russia on her birthday — typically very warm, even gushy, somewhat lengthy and formal (see the end of video one). Video two, in which Vladimir Putin offers gifts and congratulations to Tereshkova, offers an interesting view of the public image of governance in a more or less authoritarian, single-party-dominant political system: Tereshkova thanks Putin for sending Yaroslavl a great new governor, Putin thanks her for her support, and everyone ostensibly is working together for the good of the region with none of what Putin might view as the ineffective squabbling of a democracy. Finally, we also encounter some contradictory Russian views of gender, at least as they tend to be expressed on one of the mass-audience federal television channels. In the first video in the news report (actually video two below) the anchor early on refers to Tereshkova as a representative of the “отнюдь не слабый пол” “the definitely-not-weaker sex.” But later, in the second segment (video one below), the elaborate celebration of Tereshkova ends with a reference to women as “представителницы слабого пола” “representatives of the weaker sex”! The term is casually employed for variety and rhetorical flourish. The two uses manage, in the one instance, to acknowledge the derogatory implications of the term and, in the other instance, to present it as an innocuous reference to physical differences.

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Russian Transcript

Video One

Valentina Tereshkova

Watch the video at Первый канал

0:00
Ведущая: Добрые пожелания в адрес Валентины Терешковой сегодня звучат от ее коллег по парламенту, друзей и просто тех, кто помнит, как она вписала новую строчку в историю космонавтики. […]

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Сергей Карякин: шахматист и звезда / Sergey Karjakin, Star Chess Player

Sergei Kariakin interview

Audio Content: Russian chess grandmaster Sergey Karjakin discusses his recent World Championship match and his relationship with the game of chess.

This video can’t be embedded. Watch it here — at the new online television project from РБК.

Chess (шахматы) has long been a popular “sport” in Russia. The country produced many of the twentieth century’s chess grandmasters and World Champions, including Boris Spassky, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik. An interesting linguistic and cultural idiosyncrasy is the fact that chess really is referred to as a “sport” (вид спорта) in Russian, and its players are called “athletes” (спортсмены).

National interest in chess was reinvigorated in late 2016 when the Russian grandmaster Sergei Kariakin (or Sergey Karjakin, which seems to be the transliteration he usually uses) unexpectedly came very close to winning the World Champion title from the reigning champion, Magnus Karlsen of Norway. Karjakin is a chess prodigy who was the youngest person to ever achieve the “grandmaster” (гроссмейстер) designation; he was twelve years old when he won this honor in 2003.  Karjakin learned to play chess in Ukraine, his native country. In 2009 he moved to Moscow to continue his chess career and was granted Russian citizenship that same year. The 2016 World Chess Championship (Чемпионат мира по шахматам) occurred over the course of a few weeks in November. Karjakin had won the right to face off with Karlsen by winning the “Candidates Tournament” in March. The November contest was closely fought all the way through. At the end of twelve games, each player had only one victory, while the other ten games had ended in a draw. The two opponents then played four games of rapid chess as a tie break, with Karlsen emerging as the victor after wins in games three and four. Thus the Norwegian managed to defend his World Champion title, but Karjakin — or one of the many other talented Russian chess players — will likely have a chance to return the championship crown to Russia at the next World Chess Championship in 2018.

In the video featured here, Karjakin gives an interview to a journalist from the business media company РБК. In the portions of the interview included in the below transcript, he talks about his relationship with his opponent, his love of chess, his newfound stardom and his hobbies besides chess. In the second part of the interview, which goes beyond the scope of this post’s transcript, the two of them start to talk about politics and money. Karjakin seems to prefer to avoid politics, but when questioned he does say that “of course” the annexed province of Crimea belongs to Russia — an unsurprising point of view, given that he grew up in the Russian-oriented eastern part of Ukraine. He also discusses his income (his award for a second-place finish was 450,000 euros) as well as the high costs of hiring the best chess coaches for his training.

Заметки о языке:

• As already mentioned above, one interesting aspect of this video is the use of the terms “вид спорта” and “спортсмен” to refer to chess. Although it can sound odd to foreigners, this is normal usage in Russian. Also note that the word for chess, шахматы, is always grammatically plural. The word is an amalgam of the words for “check” (шах) and “checkmate” (мат).

• Karjakin’s speech is reasonably comprehensible but not always as clear as it could be — he sometimes partially swallows syllables or runs them together. However, this is a fairly common style of articulation for native speakers of Russian, so this clip makes for good practice in developing listening comprehension. Compare Karjakin’s style to that of his interviewer, for whom clearly articulated Russian is a professional expectation.

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Светлана Алексиевич, Нобелевская премия / Svetlana Alexievich, Nobel Prize

Visual content: Svetlana Alexievich meeting reporters shortly after learning she has received the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Audio content: Alexievich sharing her views on nationality and Russia

Link to video on Радио Свобода’s YouTube channel
8 октября 2015

The Belarussian journalist and non-fiction writer Svetlana Alexievich received the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature. She was born in Ukraine to a Ukrainian mother and a Belarussian father, grew up in Belarus and currently lives in the Belarussian capital Minsk. Her writings address painful and tragic subjects relevant to the entire former Soviet region. The current leaders of that region, including Belarussian president Lukashenko, do not view her very favorably. Her work is banned in Belarus. All of these factors play into the comments she makes regarding national identity in this video.


 

0:00
– Какие у вас чувства?  – Вот плачу!

0:55
Я, по-моему, могу сказать, что я себя чувствую человеком в общем-то белорусского мира, белорусские ощущения, белорусский мир, человек[ом] русской культуры, у которой очень мощная прививка русской культуры, и человек[ом], который долго жил в мире, и конечно, космополит[ом].

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