Rap music is growing exponentially more popular in Russia, and Vladimir Putin is not happy about it.
The Russian president has been meeting with cultural leaders in an effort to find ways to control the popular form of music. As the Time noted, Putin has said that he does not want to take the step of banning rap music, but “if it is impossible to stop, then we must lead it and direct it.”
Putin has spoken out about the dangers that he believes rap music poses to Russian society, saying that it is “based on three pillars: sex, drugs and protest.” The report noted that Putin was particularly worried about how rap music is glorifying drug use.
But critics say that Putin is more concerned with silencing opposing voices in Russia, something he has done with political opponents as well. Putin is suspected of having journalists killed, as well as spies who turned on the Russian government.
Vladimir Putin had already begun cracking down on rap music in Russia. A rapper named Husky was arrested after he gave an impromptu performance in the city of Krasnodar, the Associated Press reported. Husky’s songs hit on social issues like poverty and government and police corruption in Russia.
This would not be the first time that Vladimir Putin has cracked down on music seen as posing a threat to the country’s power structure. Putin had previously jailed members of the punk protest band Pussy Riot, saying that the three female members threatened the moral foundation of Russia, Reuters reported in 2015. The group was known for protest concerts, often appearing without notice in public spaces to perform songs sharply critical of Putin.
The members were thrown in jail for two years after performing a crude song criticizing Vladimir Putin inside Moscow’s main cathedral, the report noted. They were charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and thrown in jail despite widespread criticism from countries across the world.
“We have red lines beyond which starts the destruction of the moral foundations of our society,” Putin said at an event in 2015 while discussing the blowback to their imprisonment. “If people cross this line they should be made responsible in line with the law.”
Vladimir Putin has not discussed exactly how he plans to exert control over rap music in Russia, but critics fear that rappers who criticize Putin or the Russian government could face the same fate as Pussy Riot.