Even if you don’t know a word of Ukrainian, you’ll be hooked on rapper Alyona Savranenko. She spits like a car revving up and rocketing off full speed until suddenly, you’re carried away. The 27-year-old, who goes by the stage name Alyona Alyona, first caught my ear (and eye!) with her hit “Fish” (“Ribki” in Ukrainian), which was featured in two music videos. The first showed Savranenko, who is plus-size, in a bathing suit cruising around a lake on a jet ski. “Some people wrote that they didn’t like that,” she tells me in Russian, of the skin-baring look. The second, which was released a few days later, spoofed a Soviet children’s show comparable to Barney & Friends or Sesame Street. In it, Savranenko wears a retro striped sweater, jeans, and sneakers, and a host asks where she sees herself in five years. Then, like a cannon, Savranenko unleashes her absurdist rap on a group of small children. The video racked up hundreds of thousand of views; later videos, like “Open” (“Vidichnyae”) and “Head” (“Golovi”), have accumulated millions. Her latest single “Pushka,” off the album of the same name that was released earlier this week, is up to 420,000 and counting.
VOGUE: Meet Alyona Alyona, Ukraine’s Most Unlikely Rap Star
Where female rappers are either hypersexualized or take on prototypically masculine tropes in the West, Savranenko does not subscribe to any specific aesthetic in Ukraine’s relatively new space