New East Digital Archive

This rapper’s manager says the Kremlin paid $30,000 to spark an online rap battle

7 September 2018

Russian officials agreed to pay out almost $30,000 for an online hip-hop track to spark its own rap battle between two bloggers, a music industry insider has alleged.

Stanislav Smolyaninov, concert director for Russian rapper Gnoiny, claimed that politicians paid 2 million roubles ($28,800) for the singer to release a song lashing out at online blogger, Nikolai Sobolev.

Gnoiny, also known as Slava KPSS, published the “Sobolev Diss Challenge” earlier this year, telling the blogger to take him on in a rap battle or “die like a pussy.”

Many saw the track as a reaction to a conspiracy theory video which Sobolev had posted days before, claiming that the authorities had deliberately downplayed the official death toll following a deadly fire at a Siberian shopping mall. The blogger took the video down after a day, by which point it had already racked up some five million views.

Smolyaninov told the BBC Russian Service that the rapper had been paid to produce the track, but claimed that the singer would not work with the government in future as they “didn’t pay us the promised amount the first time.” Gnoiny’s rap group Antihype have denied the claims, saying that they hadn’t been paid to release the clip. The rapper is yet to comment directly on the claims, but said on Twitter that he would release a video at the weekend and warned the “enemies of Russia” to “quiver.”

Nikolai Sobolev, meanwhile, has also taken money to produce government-approved content. He published a clip praising Moscow’s newly-rennovated Gorky Park earlier this year, prompting speculation that he’d taken funds to boost the re-election campaign of Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin. Sobolev maintains that the video had no political agenda, but was only intended to promote the park itself.