Ukrainian pop star Max Barskih has a very simple message for anyone interested in taking on his nation’s armed forces: “Don’t F–k With Ukraine.” That’s the refrain of the “Bude Vesna (It Will Be Spring)” singer’s new single, a whisper rap club tune with the simple refrain: “We attack, we don’t play/ Don’t f–k with Ukraine.”
The video for the song with the banging techno beat, a female choir singing one of the war’s most famous viral quotes (“Russian warship, go f–k yourself”) and Barskih’s guttural warning features footage of Ukrainian soldiers firing tanks and missiles in the field mingled with more peaceful shots of civilians dancing and celebrating. According to a statement accompanying the track, it is dedicated to the Ukrainian armed forces and the “people’s resistance” against Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s two month-old assault on the sovereign nation.
The singer’s goal, according to the statement, was to write a track that would show the strength of the Ukrainian people to the world, mixing verses in English with traditional Ukrainian folk music. “Many people did not believe in Ukraine from the very beginning, and thought that our people would break down and our army would not be strong and courageous enough,” said Barskih in the statement. “However, for the third month in a row, our state is heroically fighting the Russian invasion. And this precedent is changing not only our country, but the whole world. Our example is designed to infect other nations.”
Barskih, 32, who rose to fame after appearing on the Ukrainian American Idol-like show Star Factory 2 in 2008 and has since released 6 albums, canceled a planned Russian tour after the invasion in February. Speaking to Rolling Stone, he described helping his family escape the nation and then returning to the capitol of Kyiv, where he signed up to fight as a reservist in the country’s army. He wrote the song before taking up a military communications job, after he began getting a stream of hateful comments from some of his once-beloved Russian fans following the March 24th launch of the assault on Ukraine.
“So from that moment, from the 24th of February, Russia doesn’t exist for me anymore. We broke all our contracts with our Russian label, and I also transferred all the money that was supposed to be from the Russian tour to Ukrainian humanitarian aid,” he told the magazine. “I went through all my DM messages, and it’s so funny to see. There’s messages from a year ago that are like, ‘I love you so much. I can’t live without your music.’ And after the 24th, it’s like, ‘I wish you death. Death to all Ukrainians.'”
Barskih said he recorded the song in his military unit, covering his head with a towel for better acoustics, recording the basic track on his computer and then sending it off to a friend to finish production. And though he’s more used to dancing around on stage in sequined jackets, on “Don’t F–k” Barskih has no time for silly love songs. “I got ice in my veins/ Loaded guns, I’m insane/ Fight for peace in my land/ Enemies lying dead,” he sings in a raspy murmur over a spare beat before the big drums kick in.
Barskih is slated to be a guest speaker at the upcoming inaugural Billboard MusicCon (May 13-14) at Las Vegas’ AREA15, which is also scheduled to feature appearances by Anitta, Burna Boy, Latto, Machine Gun Kelly, Rauw Alejandro and Shenseea.
Watch the “Don’t Fuck With Ukraine” video here.