Who is the rapper Husky and why did/does he matter in the context of an international fight for freedom of expression? As of 2020, he has gone to sleep, only to possibly reemerge this year as a newly born Phoenix, born from the ashes of the former rapper Husky Russia once knew. But the more important question is what caused Husky to go into artistic hibernation, and what can his tale of egregious State censorship tell us about the plight of Russian alternative musicians in Russia? Note that I use the word alternative as a broad term for rap, hip-hop, punk, and many other variants of music not deemed 'acceptable' by the Russian government, although I will be mainly talking about Husky and his career as an artist in the rap genre.
Dimitry Kuznetsov, a.k.a Husky is a Russian born rapper from Ulan-Ude, the capital of Buryatia [Бурятия], a country culturally and geographically close to Mongolia, its population consisting of primarily Buryats and Russians (49% to the former, and 53% to the latter). Why is this relevant? Because Buryatia is a mostly agricultural part of Russia and because of this, to have such a strong education and impact on Russia from someone from such a place is quite uncommon, although not unheard of. Husky gained an education from Moscow State University in Journalism in 2010 (2011?) and, because of this, ventured with crews around Russia who reported issues small and large. One can speculate that it was from this avenue, Husky started to see the truth of what Russia and its political pawns were doing to its citizens and the future of free expression. Putin, by 2011, had been in power for eight consecutive years and would be governmentally forced to take a two-year absence from office, only to return in 2012. This no doubt helped solidify what was to become a running theme in his music throughout his career, a push to re-evaluate our relationship with power and control through metaphoric and surrealistic depictions of life.
His first splash in the Russian rap scene was 'Седьмое октября' (7th of October), a cynical response to Putin's birthday which coincides on the same day. In the song, through symbolism and allegories, he highlights the contemptuous nature of the Russian government towards its people, particularly Putin, who, like the song suggests...
"Тут – всея несогласных отрада и рупор –Великан, что от государя по правую рукуВздымает кубок под беленый куполЗа царскую власть за челяди глупость"
Here, in all discordant comfort and horn - the prince's giant right hand
raises a cup under a white dome for royal power over his servants stupidity.
One can only quickly ascertain what Husky is referencing. Still, the remarkable aspect of this first taste of Husky is his ingenious way of using metaphorical imagery to create a highly pictorial scene, a narrative unfolding before our eyes that not only mimics reality but satirizes every element of the depressing nature that Husky has found his art taking birth in. From depictions of the atmosphere of the fiendish banquet held in the 'Kings' honor being described as 'boiling,' to a fictitious fall of an official who ends up kissing the King's right hand, every detail in the first part of the rap is contributing to an air of freakish delight, not on the part of the attendee's, but on the host, 'Putin' and his use of atheistic merry-making, 'Шабаш бьется в конвульсиях пошлости' / Sabbath struggling with vulgar convulsions. Coincidentally, October the 7th in 2011 fell on a Friday, which is the Sabbath day in Russian Orthodoxy and so by adding this line, Husky was giving Russian Orthodoxy a voice, as if to say by Putin celebrating his birthday (by this point 8 years and he was in his 3rd year of 'break'), he was torturing the Sabbath through filling the day and night with horrendous celebrations for a man far from God's eyes.
I will also include some stills from the YouTube video as the cinematography is simple yet extremely powerful. The link will be among them, I highly recommend you watch the video, even if there is a language barrier. Do take note that one watcher has comprised the lyrics, so one can translate those for a loose meaning of the words.
His first album came out in 2013, 'сбчь жзнь' / Give Life, which featured a re-working of his first song and 12 other tracks ranging in symbolic titles: Dog's Life, Space Shuttle, Carlson. But it was his 2015 album, 'Автопортреты' / Self-Portrait which truly created the Husky that was to become nationally popular across Russia. Although not wildly popular among Russians, reaching only 360,000 streams on Spotify, one an see a solidification of his musical voice in response to systemic artistic oppression, especially in his last song 'Bang Bang,' which comments on the Instagram-culture and the depressing duel nature quality of Life. According to his brother, this album was necessary for developing his style and was his 'first step (for Husky) to the main stage.' This statement is only corroborated by the Spotify statistics as, in 2017, his streams grew by double with his album 'Любимые песни (воображаемых) людей' / Favorite Songs of Imaginary People, a large-scale 13 song album characterized as 'the most important thing I've done in my life' by Husky himself. Each song in this album feels like a cry for help from those who cannot cry for themselves, most fervently expressed in Song 3, Panel House. A man who desperately wants to break the cycle of a son like father, father like son, a son like father, father like son.
Большинство людей, которых ты знаешь, Были зачаты в панельных домах
Большинство людей, которых ты знаешь, Умрут в панельных домах
На раскладных диванах
Most people that you know, Were conceived in panel houses
most people you know will die in panel houses, on folding sofas.
Because of this brutal honesty and realistic depiction of utter despondency, described as 'dedicated to everyone who could not leave the cartoons' by Husky, the Russian people streamed this album well over 3 million times on Spotify and earned 3.5 thousand EA sales.
After 2017, he proceeded to release albums, although being bombarded with setbacks due to governmental censoring of his public concerts and short-term jail sentence in 2018. In 2018, he semi-released another album, 'Евангелие от собаки' / Gospel of Dogs, although he quickly deleted all traces of the purposed song list and files on a video published to Instagram, which included eight tracks, 'Иуда' / Judas being one of them. The one track that was published became a hit and was streamed over 1 million times on Spotify, its lyrics expressing the reality of man, using the biblical symbolism of Judas to show the betraying nature of the flawed human. Jumping to 2020, he released '4PMP,' a four-song album which features yet another re-working of his first-ever song 'October 7th,' this time the words were about 'congratulating' Putin on his attachment to the political office, the chorus at the end of the song endlessly repeating the words 'ordinary day' push this feeling of a forced normal.
As of now, nothing has come out from Husky, and that is to be expected knowing what a hell of a ride he has had to endure over the past 4-5 years, although a short 27-minute film was released, produced by him, that detailed his life-story. Do take note that it is only in Russian. The future is bright for Husky, and what he does with it no one knows, but what is for sure is that he himself knows exactly what to do. Even if the Russian government never ceases their campaign of hatred, freedom will prevail; it is prevailing and will continue to prevail. The Soviet Union fell, and so will Putin one day, and you can count on me to be there watching.
(Doctored as to afford some surprise when you watch the video)