Photo by the author
For this week's Mahal, I hit up Russian rapper Krussia's 2 AM performance at CMJ's international show. Over the last few years, I've ran into Krussia from time to time as he shredded the streets of New York on his bike. Here's a live video from his CMJ show and our chat about what it's like being the best Russian rapper in New York.
VICE: How did you end up being a Russian rapper in NYC?
Krussia: With music and New York on my mind, I came to America as a student worker for the summer, which was the only way for me to get to the US at that point. I was supposed to sell souvenirs on a beach in Virginia, but New York's flow felt right from the beginning. I had about $250 with me, put Virginia on hold, and now it's been 10 years since.
Other than the languages, what differences are there between American rap and Russian rap?
American Rap is its own source of origin, and a lot of ideas that emerge here are being copied to a degree by all other countries—that would be the biggest one. Until recently, Russian rap—with very few exceptions—felt like an amorphous substance without a sense of objective reality and self criticism. But at this point it's already an independently standing structure with character and opinions.
Where did you pick up your crazy beat boxing skills?
The opportunity to vibe and hang out with the OG's of that scene and great talent in New York gave me a lot of skills. In this field, I got influenced by people like Masai Electro, Yo Yo Beats, Rahzel, and Kid Lucky, who's the reason that this community exist in NY. Thanks to him I went on stage [for the first time in the US].
Your music seems to encompass genres beyond hip hop. Does your music fall into a specific genre?
Genre or style usually implies some type of limit or border, and I think they exist to be pushed and broken.
I first met you on the set of your music video for “Satellites.” What was the story behind that song?
I don't have much clue about skateboarding, but I feel it has a flow of finding obstacles and killing them, with a stripped down foundation of basically a piece of wood with wheels. The song asked for a visual with motion, so it felt like a good fit. The idea was not to use skating for the cool factor, but to show a day in a life through a NY skater perspective.
You had an awesome outfit at your CMJ show. What was your influence?
While going through a period of self loathing and drooling, I was watching Breaking Bad episodes and some scenes picked me up, and Dr. Heissenberg fixed my perspective. It's probably not the most original idea, but I used parts of Walt's monologue for the song which was our opener at CMJ, and we decided to go with his lab outfit.
Did anyone bust your balls for handing out fake bags of meth?
After multiple declines with shocked face expressions, the best reaction was probably, “I left those days behind me.”