I don’t know if Tupak Shakur was a great artist, but if you read his name the way most Russians do, you get “too-PAHK” — that is, a sort of blockhead in Russian. If Mark Steyn got it right, which is far from certain, then we’re only left to regret that the world inevitably imitates the most impressive pieces of crap America produces.

For example, I have heard a song in Russian, performed by a Russian band, with just one word for a refrain. The wordie was aparently a big fave of Tupak’s — yes, it’s m—–f—ah, only they pronounce it in a deliberately Russian manner, so it sounds like mahzahFAHkah. There must have been a lot of irony in the lyrics, but I didn’t bother to figure it out. The radio station was not the punk-loving Radio Ultra but quite a mainstream one “experimenting” with new stuff.

This is not to say Russian rap/hiphop has no future, but you’ve got to really love the original music and the original lyrics to produce a non-trivial something in your own country and language. Underground Soviet rockers not just worshipped — they loved and tried to understand Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, to say nothing of the good old Beatles and Stones, and the not so old Bob Marley and the Rastas.

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