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Russian parliament runs rap song contest amid crackdown

MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian parliament on Thursday announced a rap song competition amid a crackdown on contemporary music that evoked Soviet-era censorship of the arts. A dozen rappers have had their shows cancelled recently after warnings from officials who claim that their music promotes the wrong values. At least three musicians have been detained.

In a symbolic gesture of reconciliation, the State Duma announced it would run a competition for the best rap song — but it has to be on the subject of travel in Russia. The winner, according to lawmaker Mikhail Degtyarev, will win a trip around Russian cities.

"We want to give a platform for open discussion and highlight the opportunities as well as drawbacks of this or that town," he said. "If, for example, there is a bad road near a tourist attraction, there should be a video about it."

Rap has emerged as one of the most popular music genres among Russia's youth — and a target for Russia authorities — thanks to its frank portrayal of daily realities and scathing criticism of the government.

Last month, a rapper known as Husky, whose videos have garnered more than 6 million views on YouTube, was arrested for staging an impromptu performance after his show was shut down in the southern city of Krasnodar. A court sentenced Husky to 12 days in jail on charges of hooliganism, but he was released four days later — hours before a solidarity concert in Moscow by popular hip hop artists protesting his detention.

The electronic duo IC3PEAK had six out of their 11 gigs cancelled in recent weeks, and on Dec. 1 they were briefly detained in a Siberian city. Eager not to alienate young people, top Russian officials in recent days took steps to distance themselves from the arrests and show cancellations. The State Duma last week hosted a round table with some of Russia's most popular pop acts, and the presidential ombudsman for human rights said on Wednesday that President Vladimir Putin had asked her to investigate why the gigs are being shut down.

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