The most outspoken, daring and exciting Russian rapper—now in English and ready to take over the world
How likely is it for someone whose first big hit song started with a line “Suck my dick, First Channel” addressed to the biggest television network in the country to actually appear on a network’s prime time show? Yet Ivan Alekseev, aka Noize MC, managed to achieve this career feat — and that is not even his most remarkable accomplishment. Together with his band, Alekseev manages to create some of the most colorful, groovy, energetic and smart Russian hip hop out there, continuously raising creative stakes for himself—all while outwitting ultraconservative provocateurs and government censors who want him to shut his mouth. This is one of the most unique artistic voices in Russia—and now it is the time for the world to listen.
Born in a historic city in the West of Russia and raised by a single mother, Alekseev defied the usual stereotypes about lives and careers of Russian rappers from the very beginning. Forget street hustling and drugs: he graduated from high school first in his class, getting straight A’s, being awarded prizes for his exemplary skills in classical guitar and playing raw grunge music with his mates to let the energy out. The loud and aggressive sound of The Prodigy, Nirvana and the likes were in sync with the turbulent Russian 1990’s, an age when economic instability persisted and crime flourished. Alekseev first became a devoted disciple of his Western idols and then developed a music language of his own—combining outrageous energy of grunge with explicit honesty of hip hop, melodic hooks of rock-n-roll with unstoppable grooves of rap. By the time he graduated from high school, he was a prominent local celebrity. However, he yearned for something bigger. Next stop: Moscow.
As a Soviet movie once put it, though, Moscow does not believe in tears. Neither does it believe in provincial prodigies. Alekseev had to learn the ways of the Russian music industry that didn’t really pay attention to newcomers unless they were backed by prominent players the hard way, having been rejected by labels and radio stations multiple times. However, he wasn’t discouraged. Right in his dorm, he created a home studio and assembled a band—the members of which, by the way, are playing with him to this day. He performed in his dorm’s corridors and on the streets of Moscow, even though the shows were sometimes prematurely stopped by security guards or cops. He fought his way up through popular Internet rap battles. He freestyled the shit out of himself at hip hop competitions. Soon, not only his fellow college students were fans of his quirky, witty and incredibly catchy songs about lives and loves of Russian urban youngsters: in several years, Noize MC became the next big thing of Russian hip hop. Actually, much more than that, since Alekseev and his peers were able to transcend the genre barriers and attract fans of both rap and guitar music—something that was unheard of in Russia before this guy came by.
Noize MC became the first Russian rapper signed by a major label—it was Universal Music, and they soon peacefully parted, because, naturally, Alekseev craved for more creative independence. He became a festival headliner and a movie star. With every new project, he pushed himself farther, collaborating with rock stars and even releasing a dystopian sci-fi novel written by Noize MC drummer together with his second album (which, of course, had multiple references to the book). With each release, he and his crew became better in production, seamlessly and craftily merging genres, being able to equally satisfyingly express love, grief, outrage and teenage angst. He toured all around former Soviet countries. He entered the Forbes list of the wealthiest Russian artists. He released a 360-degrees music video. He received multiple awards. And he was repeatedly willing to put all of this on the line to speak out loud about injustice.
Russian hip hop is a weird scene. Despite revolutionary roots of the genre itself and the troubled social climate in the country, most Russian artists avoid politics, seeing it as a subject that is too convoluted, compromised and, perhaps, dangerous. Not Alekseev, however. Over the years, he became the most politically engaged Russian rapper—all without losing his trademark vivacious temperament and provocative attitude. When an executive of a state-affiliated oil corporation killed two women in a car accident and then tried to cover up with the help of police, he released “Mercedes $666,” a song that brought tremendous attention and scrutiny to the ensuing trial (in a typical Russian turn of events, though, the executive was acquitted). When police agents tried to interfere with his show in Volgograd, he responded with an aggressive and funny freestyle about them, and was eventually sentence to ten days in local prison. The result: another song, “10 Days in Paradise,” a bitter sarcastic account of the (non-existent) perks of Russian penitentiary system.
The list goes on. Noize MC protested against the imprisonment of Pussy Riot and against the massive fraud that happened at 2011 Russian parliamentary election. He recorded songs about corrupted social mechanisms and perverse relationship between government officials and the citizens. He spoke out against the growing militancy of Russian Orthodox Church, and repeatedly bashed far-right youth movements with deprecating and hilarious lyrics. As the political situation in Russia grew darker, with activists being imprisoned and opposition leaders killed, Noize MC records were getting more and more socially involved, touching upon all the aspects of the weird and wild Russian reality. Alekseev has truly become a voice of the generation—without compromising himself, but also without falling into the trap of pompous self-righteousness. In 2016, Noize MC and his band are as funny, controversial and loud as they were when they played those gigs in the recreation hall of their dorm—just much better.
An established artist and a father of two in his early thirties, Alekseev could perpetually continue to light up the crowds all over the Soviet Union. However, his next plan is way more ambitious. He wants to transcend the barriers of cultural geography and language. Right now, Noize MC is preparing a new project—an album and a show in English that will finally deliver his ferocious energy to the international audience. This is indeed a very daring endeavor—however, as you might already have learned, Alekseev has always been full of them. In other words, pay attention. So far, all his ventures proved to be a blast.