Tsoi then led the band Kino and became a leading member of the underground rock scene of Leningrad, where he made his stage debut singing "Elektrichka," a song about a man who does not want to go where his train is taking him. This metaphor for the frustration Soviet youth had with their lives propelled Tsoi, and Kino, to fame. His music was immediately banned from live performances, but he and his fans didn't mind, and he gave secret concerts.
He married Marianna in 1985, and later that year their son Sasha was born. In 1986, as Mikhail Gorbachev was beginning to liberalize the Soviet Union, Tsoi and Kino were allowed to perform in concerts. He released a song called "[We await/demand] changes!" This activist sentiment was carried over into 1987, when his album Blood Type unleashed "Kinomania," and Tsoi and Kino went on tours for the next three years.
His biggest concert was in 1990, when he sang to 62,000 fans in Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium. Sadly, he died in August 1990 in a car crash in Latvia, just as he had finished recording an album. He was remembered as the pioneer of Russian rock music, and a wall on Moscow's Arbat Street is covered with graffiti dedicated to him◊. His fans' motto is "Цой жив!" ("Tsoi is alive!").
- 45 (1982)
- 46 (1983)
- Nachalnik Kamchatki (Chief of Kamchatka) (1984)
- Eto ne lyubov (This is not Love) (1985)
- Noch (Night) (1986)
- Gruppa krovi (Blood Type) (1988)
- Posledny geroy (Last Hero) (1989)
- Zvezda po imeni Solntse (Star Called Sun) (1989)
- Chyorny albom (Black Album) (1990)
- Holidays' End (1986)
- Assa (1988)
- The Needle (1988) as Moro.
- Sex and Perestroika (1990)
- Asian Girl White Guy: Gender Flipped. Tsoi's father was Korean and his mother was Russian, and Tsoi himself married a Russian woman.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Expelled from art school for poor performance. His first album, 45, also had two songs about it, Bezdelnik and Bezdelnik 2. "Bezdelnik" is Russian for "slacker".
- Dark Is Not Evil: Known for wearing all-black outfits during Kinomania.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Discussed In Sledi za soboy (Watch Yourself), a song about all the numerous ways death can strike without warning or reason. Became Harsher in Hindsight after Tsoi's own death in a car crash.
- Elvis Lives: "Tsoi is alive" is a common saying among Russian rock fans: what Elvis Presley was to America, Tsoi was to Russia.
- Minimalistic Cover Art: Kino's last album, after Tsoi's death, was simply titled Kino. The cover was simply the word "Kino" on an all-black background, which earned it the popular name Black Album
- Mr. Fanservice
- Protest Song: Peremen (Changes).
- Shout Out:
- The song Gruppa krovi (Blood Type), one of Tsoi's most iconic and well-known works, is heard on the radio in Grand Theft Auto IV.
- Vosmiklassnitsa (Eighth-grade Girl) is heard in Stilyagi during the sex scene between Mel and Polly.
- Zvezda po imeni Solntse (Star Called Sun) was covered by the American indie band Brazzaville, with all new lyrics in English.
- The Cover Changes the Meaning: Zvezda po imeni Solnce is a rather melancholic piece about the circle of life and decay, while the adapted version by American band Brazzaville is a ballad about missing a mother after her death.
- Three Chords and the Truth: Tsoi's Signature Style, with a strong emphasis on "and the truth".
- Translated Cover Version: "Gruppa krovi" was covered (in Korean) by South Korea's Yoon Do Hyun Band, who considered Tsoi Korean enough to include him on a tribute to Korean rock. Tsoi himself also recorded the song in English for Joanna Stingray, a big fan of his from America.
- War Is Hell: Many of his songs. For example, V nashikh glazakh (In Our Eyes) features soldiers' misfortunes and Gruppa krovi is about unwillingness to engage in the conflict.
- Word Salad Lyrics: Most of Kino's songs' lyrics are fairly meaningful... with the exception of Alyuminevye ogurtsy (Aluminum Cucumbers). Tsoi himself said explicitly that its lyrics were meant to create certain associations without actually making any sense.