Modern Russia has a booming rap scene. Unfortunately, much of it is made up of hipster types and wannabe gangsters. However, there is a subculture of true Russian gangster rap that exists amongst a few artists. But there are none as authentic and close to the bone as Gio Pika.

Whilst working as a security advisor, I’ve done a lot of long road trips across the former Soviet Union. Alongside Kino, the lyrics of Gio Pika are a common feature in my car. However, the harsh, violent, and sinister lyrics of Gio Pika can also be heard echoing through the grim corridors and cells of the infamous Russian prison system.

But as gruesome as Russian Prisons are, they serve as a test of authenticity for Russian rap. If prisoners are listening to it, it’s the real deal.

Gio Pika
An inmate carries a sack at a male prison camp outside Russia’s Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, 2012. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin.

Gio Pika has entered the hall of fame amongst the Russian criminal class. He originally comes from the North Caucusus, which is Russia’s most volatile region and home to Chechnya and Dagestan, which in recent years have been labeled ”the most dangerous places on Planet Earth”.

Gio is his real name, and Pika is the nickname from the word “peak”, which in Russian prison slang means “non-Russian or black” as those from the Caucasus often face discrimination in Russia due to the violent history of the region. The peak is also a narrow prison-made knife.

Gio grew up in Ossetia until the Georgian-Ossetian war, which was fought between Georgian government forces and South Ossetian separatists backed by Russia, forced him and his family to flee north to Moscow. These events strongly influenced his worldview, personal qualities, and his future destiny.

Gio Pika
Gio Pika (right).

In 2006, he moved to the unforgiving Komi Republic in Northern Russia. Once strewn with brutal Gulag camps dotted across the frozen Tundra, today, the Komi Republic is almost entirely populated by gulag survivors or their descendants. Gio holds a deep passion for history and became engaged with his country’s dark past and present about prisons, prisoners, and the innocently convicted, especially in the Gulag system.

I am the voice of the prisons in the north. Salam, Samara. In the heart of April, the prison slaves all lie quietly on their bunks. But all of my lads are here, on the sidelines.

– Gio Pika

In Syktyvkar, the capital of the Komi Republic, Gio discovered his talent for rap and combined his years of research and experience of the Russian criminal world into dark lyrics. Gio Pika himself would go on to describe his own lyrics as ”sheer evil”. They represent the evil that infested Russian prisons that he is trying to expose.

Like many subculture rappers, so far, Gio Pika has received no significant awards, but his work gains millions of views online especially on his Youtube channel. His latest album is set for release on April 22nd, 2020.

Recently, on our Facebook page, we posted a sequence of photos that showed an interview in a Russian prison. The inmate calmly recollected why he was in there in the first place: he had spent the last money he had on burying his recently deceased mother only to find out that gypsies had been robbing the grave of jewelry and Orthodox icons. In revenge, he beheaded them all and stuck their heads on fence posts. We’ve added the following slideshow so you can check it out.

For other groundbreaking articles on unreported aspects of the Russian speaking world, check out our Russia department.

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Batya (Батя) is the founder of Reaper Feed. He is a security advisor and a high-risk expedition leader across former and active conflict zones such as Eastern Ukraine, unrecognized post-Soviet states, the North Caucasus, and the Middle East. Batya founded Reaper Feed to provide unprecedented insight into the lesser-seen sides of human conflict and modern warfare.