Moscow: Rap Star MC Pavlov, Part II

In the midst of his flourishing music career, rapper MC Pavlov took a vacation to Thailand, where he got hit by a bus on a Bangkok street. He sustained a catastrophic head injury, and was in a coma for a month.

The first week, friends and fellow musicians in Moscow put together a benefit concert for Pavlov, who says his hospital costs in Thailand approached $1,000 a day. "They didn't raise too much money," he says, shrugging, "but more important was the good energy they sent. All of Moscow was praying for me."



Rapper MC Pavlov, at Moscow's Krishna temple, says his faith in Krishna helped him recover from his accident.  (David Hillegas)

A practicing Hare Krishna, Pavlov is a true believer in the power of karma and positive energy. His stage act is all sharp suits, clever wordplay and high irony, but there's no hint of that irony when he talks about the energy people sent his way.

"I had my fourth operation after I got back to Moscow," he told me. "During the operation, they had a special service at the Krishna temple. They had a sacrifice fire, and chanted special mantras." He nods his head enthusiastically. "It definitely helped."

The accident and the surgeries left scars running across Pavlov's scalp, though he says he has no memory loss -- except for not remembering the accident itself, and the comatose weeks that followed. He will occasionally refer vaguely to other lingering health problems, but he won't elaborate or dwell on them.

"Hey," he says, throwing his arms open in a familiar pose, "I'm alive! That's what matters."

Pavlov spent a year in Moscow hospitals before finally being allowed to go home. He went right back to work. "First thing, we released the CD 'I'm Back,'" he says -- a compilation of dance and funk tracks recorded before the accident. "There's one track at the end that goes, 'People ask me where I was - I was on vacation! I had a good vacation! I got healthy!'" he says. "For those who know what happened to me, they know what I'm talking about. Those who don't, don't."

He also got back into doing his commercial presentations for Intel, which help pay the bills. "We go in and do this rap about Intel: 'Pentium 4 is the most powerful center of your digital world!'" he says, waving his hands in the air. "Then we get someone from the audience to come up and say, 'I love Pentium! I want Pentium!' And right then, during the presentation, we make a mix of that." The result is a funky soundtrack and video that the audience can take home.

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MC Pavlov, ready for the road in green overalls, yellow jacket and tank hat.  (David Hillegas)

Earlier this week, when I met MC Pavlov in the Dinamo metro station, I didn't recognize him right away. He's gotten heavier since the accident, and his face has filled out. He seems to move more deliberately, without the sprightly gait I remember from 1995.

But little else appears to have changed in his life. He's still making music, still a vegetarian, still a Krishna. There are dozens of rappers and DJs in Moscow now, many of them too young to remember his mid-90s heyday.- "They're like, 'MC Pavlov? Who's that?" says Pavlov. "They maybe have heard of Public Enemy, but that's about it."

Yet he's out there in search of the perfect new groove. He's working on a new album of funk music, a style that's still as unknown in Russia now as rap was in the '90s. "Russia wasn't ready for funk a few years ago," he says. "But it's time now!"

By Lisa Dickey |  November 3, 2005; 12:10 PM ET
Previous: Moscow: Rap Star MC Pavlov. Part I | Next: Moscow: A New Ambassador and the Bad Old Days

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The Hare Krishnas are a prominant feature of Moscow's old Arbat. They march and chant the length of it on a very regular basis. I think most people find it to be part of the tourism of the old Arbat, along with the street comedians, portrait artists and break dancers. Your blog, however, makes it sound like MC Pavlov finds in it a source of comfort, inspiration and assurance. Thanks for treating the subject so respectfully!

Posted by: Anne | November 4, 2005 03:57 AM

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