Wednesday, June 18, 2008

New Kids on the Bloc: Your Guide To What Went Wrong With Soviet Hip-Hop

The Wikipedia article on Soviet Hip-Hop is an interesting read. Mostly, hip-hop didn't penetrate the Iron Curtain until the end days of the USSR. At that point, a Russian producer eyed American pop music and observed the New Kids on the Block phenomenon, and pieced together a band of breakdancers who could be taught to rap, and manufactured them into a Soviet version of NKOTB, called Malchishnik.

The problem is that the lyricist and lead DJ, Dolphin, was influenced by explicit, obscene American acts like 2 Live Crew - and proceeded to lead the group in that direction, with such gems as "Sex Without a Break" and "Miss Big Breast."

Regardless, Malchishnik ended up achieving a degree of commercial success that cemented them as the pioneers of the hip-hop sound in the Soviet Union.

Here's the video for "Sex Without a Break:"

While censorship in Russia kept Malchishnik off the airwaves in '91, post-collapse media restrictions have been even more rigid, sending Malchishnik "underground," or, that is, into the dustbin of cultural irrelevancy. The sound and style seems to have endured through imitation, with the explicit lyrics tossed out for rap groups seeking commercial success in Russia.

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