Russian Rapper and Activist Noize MC Performs at The Fletcher School

By Hannah Campeanu, MALD 2024 Candidate at The Fletcher School

On November 30, 2022, the Russia and Eurasia Program hosted Russian musician Noize MC in “Rap Against the Machine: Hip-Hop and Politics in Russia,” a hybrid concert and political discussion at the Fletcher School. Co-hosted with the Tufts Department of Music, the event was introduced by Dean Rachel Kyte and moderated by visiting scholar Oleg Shakirov and was open to the wider Tufts community and members of the public.

Dean Kyte opened the event, saying “When the Russian government ramps up repression to clamp down on internal dissent, it is the voices of artists and activists that will serve to remind us there are different perspectives within Russian society.”

Noize MC, also known as Ivan Alekseev, is a rock, hip-hop, and rap artist who is well-known in Russia for speaking out against the authoritarian government. He left Russia after the invasion of Ukraine began in February 2021, and is currently living in Lithuania. His stop on the Tufts campus was made during the U.S. leg of his “Voices for Peace” tour, which raised £340,000 for Ukrainian refugees.

Alekseev alternated between performing songs and discussing his personal background and motivations for activism against the Russia-Ukraine war. He grew up in Belgorod, Russia, which was only 40 kilometers from the border with Ukraine. Kharkiv, Ukraine was the closest large city, and he and his friends would frequently attend music festivals there. Eventually, they formed the first rap group in the city.

“Many of us lived in two cities at the same time. No one could imagine in those times what a disaster we were about to face in 15 years. So, it’s not just weird to me—it’s a big, big tragedy, and I just can’t believe it happened. I learned that the war started not from the news. My cousin wrote me….an SMS like ‘We launched rockets to Ukraine. Right now.’ Two hours later I opened my phone and read the news and realized that an unbelievable tragedy had started to unfold,” Alekseev told the audience.

Alekseev also has Ukrainian ancestry, which he feels influences his music, language, and culture. When he moved to Moscow to attend school in his late teens, he realized that to Muscovites he had a Ukrainian accent and used Ukrainian words.

“I always considered myself 100% Russian, but in Moscow, I wasn’t. It was an interesting feeling,” he commented.

In 2014, Alekseev announced his support for Ukraine in response to the invasion of Crimea in a concert in Lviv. This public statement led to his being blacklisted in Russia, and 60 percent of his Russian tour was canceled. Venues that planned to host him received threats of losing their alcohol license or losing protection from firemen if they went ahead with the concert. If a venue decided to host him anyway, armed police would interrupt the show, saying they had special authority to stop the concert to look for drugs. Alekseev humorously added later that the police would sometimes ask to take pictures with him while arresting him. Two years ago, Alekseev was blacklisted completely after publicly supporting opposition politician Alexander Navalny. Immediately afterward, 33 of 37 of his shows planned in Russia were canceled.


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