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War Rap: Ukraine’s War Youth Voice Angry Words


Viacheslav Drofa, known as Otoy, performs during a concert to raise funds for soldiers fighting for Ukraine in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, June 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
War Rap: Ukraine’s War Youth Voice Angry Words
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A young generation pressed by war in Ukraine has turned its anger into rap music.

Ukrainian volunteer soldier Otoy is putting the war into the words and loud beats of rap. He has written lyrics during Russian attacks.

He said it helps relieve the tension of fighting.

“Russian soldiers drink vodka, we are making music,” said the rapper, whose real name is Viacheslav Drofa. The 23-year-old did not think he could kill anyone until he shot a Russian soldier in the war's opening weeks.

The Russian invasion which began on February 24 has helped build Ukrainian nationalism. That is something Russian President Vladimir Putin did not want. Now that millions have lost loved ones and homes, anger at Russia is fierce.

In Ukraine, the young generation was born after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Many young people say they cannot imagine feeling anything but hatred for Russia.

Otoy’s lyrics, with expletives directed at Russia and details of Russian war dead, speak from the heart. He lost his older brother, a soldier, in the battle over the Azovstal steel factory in the port city of Mariupol.

The lyrics give voice to the anger and hatred shared by many Ukrainians towards Russia.

“Enemy” is one of four new songs that Otoy wrote while driving ammunition and weapons to troops on the front lines. He said of Russian soldiers: “We’re not scared but we are nauseous, because you smell stale even when your heart still beats.”

Viacheslav Drofa, known as Otoy, holds his rifle during an interview with The Associated Press at his home in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, June 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Viacheslav Drofa, known as Otoy, holds his rifle during an interview with The Associated Press at his home in Kyiv, Ukraine, Saturday, June 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Other Ukrainians are putting their anger into music as well.

One song by the band Surface Tension is called “We will kill you all." In it, the singer screams: “We will dance on your bones. Your mom won't come for you." The song, full of expletives, has more than 59,000 views since its April 5 release on YouTube.

Twenty-five-year-old Iryna Osypenko was among those at a music event in Kyiv meant to raise money. She was there to watch Otoy.

She said she has only hatred for the Russians.

“I hate them and, I'm sorry, it will never change," she said. “I will explain it to my children and I hope that my children will explain to their children."

Otoy’s older brother, Dmitry Lisen, is missing and believed dead. He was a fighter with the Azov Regiment, among the groups that defended the Azov steel plant for nearly three months. The defense of the plant came to represent Ukrainian resistance.

Otoy dedicated his song, “Find My Country,” to Azovstal's defenders. He rapped in English with the aim, he said, of reaching people all over the world.

Otoy is also working on a collection of songs mainly written while supplying ammunition to troops in the east. Fighting has worsened there since Russian forces were pushed back from their early offensive on Kyiv.

Subjects of the songs include life at war and friendship among soldiers. Other songs are about war-time life for civilians, and fighting for Ukrainian freedom. He said the songs have "the smell of war dust.”

"I was actually lying on the ground under the airstrikes and bomb shelling,” Otoy said. He added that he could “feel the smell of, you know, like bombs, dead bodies, and dust, blood and other stuff.”

“This is the best way to show your hate, I think,” said Otoy.

I’m Dan Novak

Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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Words in This Story

lyricsn. (pl.) the words to a song

expletive n. a word that people say when they are angry, often that is offensive

nauseous n. feeling sick in the stomach or as though you were about to throw up what is in your stomach

stale n. something that is not clean or has an unpleasant smell or taste

view –n. when a person looks at a file on a computer

dedicate –v. to declare something is in honor a person, group or event

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