“Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he thought that hip-hop could be a cure for alcohol and drug abuse and praised the country’s rappers for refining an otherwise alien culture by putting ‘Russian charm’ into it.”
All right. I know I have a predilection toward hyperbole, but I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the above is one of my favorite sentences of all time. Ever.
I am not sure there has ever been such a thing as Russian charm. If someone can find an example of it, I’d like to see it. I think we have a picture of my great-grandparents’ grocery store in Brooklyn that approaches this concept of Russian charm. But then again we are talking about the country most famous for vodka, gulags, and the greatest mustache in the history of of world leaders; Russian charm must be a myth.
And that video. So much to say. So many thoughts. The awkward claps, the barely perceptible head nods, the fatherly nod of approval after one of the rapper’s performances, the turtle neck, and the closing blank stare that says “if I wasn’t standing in this building right now, I’d have it blown up and blame it on Chechen rebels. I should never have come here.”
But really, watching this video just created a giddy fantasy of Putin sitting in his office listening to “Mind Playin Tricks on Me” on cassette while he plots the assassinations of political rivals (to enhance the fantasy: I picture Putin’s office as something close to the owl ship from Watchmen, except with speakers in the place of eyes so that all of Russia can hear Bel Biv Devoe’s entire discography when Putin has throw back Thursdays).
For a serious take on the matter, you can head over to the Moscow Times, where you can find Putin’s analysis of breakdancing and its incompatibility with drugs and alcohol and the possibility of a track featuring the world’s most gangsta prime minister.
Truth be told there is some interesting study to be done here concerning the divide between the purposes of American Hip Hop and Hip Hop in different communities around the globe (since the late 90s, global Hip Hop has been used for far more political purposes than American Hip Hop). But this is for another time, because it requires analysis that goes beyond platitudes about various countries and Hip Hop as the premier expressive art form of the outcast, etc. (and I’ll probably have to call in for back up and info from some of my international Hip Hop affiliates and experts).
For now, just enjoy one of the most awkward moments Youtube has to offer.