by Anastasia Denisova and Aliaksandr Herasimenka.
The late 2010s have seen the unprecedented rise of Russian rap culture on YouTube. This study delves into the unexplored area of the relationship between rap music, politics, and the Internet audience in Russia. It focuses on the analysis of the production of the most popular rap videos—their narratives, power relations, and socio-political themes, as well as the prevailing patterns in the discussion on socio-political issues by the YouTube audience. The study brings three contributions that identify the power relations in the Russian society that manifest in the field of rap music. First, the Russian-speaking users demonstrate a high level of criticality toward the pro-Kremlin rap music on YouTube and challenge the lies of propaganda rap. Second, pro-government rappers follow the Soviet authoritarian ethos and praise belonging to the collective of elites, while liberal ones adhere to the individual responsibility. Third, we demonstrate the prevalence of patriarchal gender values, including macho politics and unquestioned sexism, which are representative of gender politics in the country. This article proves the importance of socio-political commentary on YouTube and points to the rap videos as the popular hubs for the socio-political debates. Users flow to rap videos and utilize the comment section to have their say on the political context and power relations rather than the music, to engage with others, and to contribute to the emerging collective debate. The comment sections on these rap videos have a unique value for the Russian users who exploit them as the negotiation space in the void of other platforms for social dialogue in Russia.
Denisova, A., & Herasimenka, A. (2019). How Russian Rap on YouTube Advances Alternative Political Deliberation: Hegemony, Counter-Hegemony, and Emerging Resistant Publics. Social Media + Society. https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305119835200