Pro-Putin Rapper Pulls YouTube Video After Backlash

DJ Timati attends the DJ Smash Party at VIP Room - 2017 - Getty-H 2019
Foc Kan/WireImage

Local star Timati pulled down his latest music video just days after it received 1.48 million dislikes — a record for Russian YouTube — as Russian rap has become a political battleground.

Pro-Kremlin rapper Timati has pulled a music video from YouTube just days after its launch last Sunday after it received a record-setting 1.48 million dislikes.

Rapping has become politicized this summer as mass street protests shook Russia after authorities denied more than a dozen opposition candidates a place on the ballot in Moscow city hall elections.

Pro-opposition rappers such as Face and Oxxxymiron joined the protests, but Timati — who had denied the Kremlin paid for his video for the song Moscow, which praised the Russian capital's pro-Putin mayor Sergei Sobyanin — is the exception to the rule.

The song, which included lyrics such as "I don’t go on protests and I don't talk shit," was a major turnoff for Russian youth, whose internet presence is overwhelmingly anti-Kremlin.

The music video's record amount of thumbs down earned it a place in the top 30 most disliked music videos worldwide.

Timati mounted a social media defense after pulling the plug on the video.

"Today it's trendy to complain about the government, but I have got my own opinion," he told followers on Instagram. "Instead of going to protests, you work and improve yourselves."

Four years ago Timati — real name Timur Yunusov — released a song called My Best Friend is Vladimir Putin that describes the Kremlin chief as a "superhero."

The Russian government has struck an adversarial stance toward local artists. A crackdown over the past two years on live rap performances has seen authorities mount police raids on gigs across Russia.

Putin has described rap as a threat to Russian society: "Rap and other modern [forms of art] are rested upon three pillars — sex, drugs and protest." He made the comment last December at a meeting of the presidential Council for Culture and Art in St. Petersburg, where he added "I am most worried about drugs. This is the way towards the degradation of a nation."

Timati's unpopular video was released the same day as local elections in Moscow and across the country. The run up to the election saw months of protests in Moscow thanks to a ban of more than a dozen opposition candidates from the ballot.

More than 2,500 mostly young protesters were arrested during a series of unsanctioned street rallies. Some have been sentenced to long jail terms for minor offenses.