The Listener

See this Russian hip hop star before they arrest him: Oxxxymiron's Beauty & Ugliness reviewed

26 March 2022

9:00 AM

26 March 2022

9:00 AM

Grade: A+

I was going to review hyperpop chanteuse Charli XCX’s album this week, but it was such boring, meretricious, grandstanding 1980s retread electropop vacuity that I thought, nah, even if it is headed to the top of our ravaged charts. So have this instead. Oxxxymiron is Russia’s No. 1 hip-hop artist. Yes, Russian hip hop is indeed an oxxxymiron, much as would be Serbian reggae or Iranian gospel, but never mind. He’s a youngish Jewish bloke born in Leningrad, with a degree in Middle English from Oxford University, and is hugely popular in his home country. Is it any good, this album released late last year? It’s darker and nastier than US hip hop, full of menace and those icy synths the Russians seem to adore even more than their Iskander missiles. The title track snarls away over a deceptively clever rhythm track about ‘first world problems’, which endeared it to me. Slavic languages lend themselves to rap rather more easily than RP English, all those angry consonants and every vowel seemingly a ‘y’. The tunes, when they come, point to the east. I liked it. What other recommendation do you need?

Maybe this. Oxxxymiron has been blacklisted and cancelled – like several other Russian musicians – for his implacable opposition to the war. He has called off a bunch of lucrative concerts at home in order to play anti-war charity gigs abroad, including in London. Go see him before they call round on him in the middle of the night, which they surely will. Young British musical artists are still in their bedrooms, furious that they’ve just been misgendered. Here’s a quick introduction to the real world, stupid, pampered kids.

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