Meet the Russian hip-hop star who has collaborated with everyone from P. Diddy to Snoop, turning heads toward the growing urban music industry in Moscow.
Photo Credit: Kirill Zaytsev
Guns, hoes, cash, P-Diddy, Timabaland and Snoop. Sounds like your average evening in a roped off, gold flecked champagne-soaked New York City nightclub. But alas, these people and things are qualities and collaborators in the music of Timati, a rising — if not risen — star from a distinctly not hip-hop-oriented city, Moscow.
A lifetime rap fan, Timati — born, raised, and based in Russia — rose up to man one of the biggest hip-hop labels in his country. He’s helped carved out a place for the genrer, picking up tons of fans and haters in Russia and Europe along the way. He has been eking out an American following through his single “I’m On You” feat. P. Diddy, “Not All About the Money” feat. Timabaland, and “Groove On” feat. Snoop Dogg. At a time when all eyes are on Russia for completely different reasons, Timati showed us that there are other, gigantic movements in music going on.
What artists did you listen to growing up? What music was popular in Moscow at the time?
When I was young, I was listening to Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, NWA, Public Enemy, Biggie, 2 Pac, etc. At the time in Moscow it was very popular to listen to pop and rock music — rap music was too underground, too new. People in Russia didn’t understand it.
How about now?
Now I like many of them, for example artists of labels Def Jam and YMCMB mostly, and many others. This industry is big now and fortunately we have a lot of cool and good music. In Russia, pop music is still very big but my label Black Star and a couple more rap artists make hip-hop market bigger every year. We provide hip-hop to people and it becomes more popular everyday. Also, by signing new artists on our label, we help them to give other artists exposure.
What was the moment you first decided you wanted to be a performer?
Never had a moment…I just knew that I was born to do it.
P. Diddy, Timbaland, Snoop Dogg – it’s crazy how many enormous stars you have worked with. What initially made it possible?
Respect made it happened, many years of work. I’ve been in the music industry for a long time. And for sure: a strong team and the most powerful urban label in my country, that’s the answer.
Why is it so rare that we witness a star from Russia crossing over into the west?
Its not an easy path. It’s everybody’s dream to be a worldwide star — for me being a number 1 in my country is not the best I can do, because I know I can do more. That’s why one country is already not enough for me
Did you find a lot of barriers when you were starting out?
Of course! My way wasn’t as easy as it seems to a lot of people. I was going, I am going and I will be going through some hard circumstances and I hard work every day. I’m perfecting myself day by day, that’s why I do well.
How about politically? Russia has been in the news lately for suppressing free expression.
I didn’t feel any government suppressing. My label Black Star runs a really strong health care campaign which is supported by our government. But suppression from the government? No, I don’t experience it.
Do you find that your home fans have been supportive in your career, as you spread your wings?
All this couldn’t happened without my fans, I respect my fans. I have a lot of fan clubs not just in Russia, but in Europe, all over the world. I feel their support through all my shows, and I feel their energy. It makes me feel stronger.
What’s next for Timati?
Worldwide singles, worldwide tour, new album, and I want to change the music industry in my country – make it bigger and profitable — legally — for young artists and the whole industry.
Watch his video for the single “Not All About the Money” with La La Land, feat. Timbaland and Grooya