An Intro To Russ
Russ is a 27 year old rapper and producer from New Jersey who grew up and spent most of his life in Atlanta. Since he started rapping in 2011 he has had quite a slow rise to fame, finally blowing up in around 2016 when he partnered with Columbia records and started having singles reach the Billboard hot 100.
Russ started producing beats back in 2006, but it wasn’t until 2010 that he first started rapping over them. He started taking things more seriously when he appeared on MTV in 2011 alongside his friend and producer/rapper Bugus, in support of Bugus’ song ‘El Jefe’. This is where the grind started for Russ, and between December of 2011 and August of 2014 he released a total of 11 albums and 87 singles, all on Soundcloud and all for free. Despite the steady releases Russ had barely generated any buzz, and so from then on he began to release a song a week on Soundcloud, a trend that continued for 3 years.
In 2016 Russ signed to Columbia Records, and followed this up by releasing to singles which charted on the Billboard 100, What They Want & Losin Control. He capitalised on this by releasing his studio debut and 12th total album ‘There’s Really A Wolf’, which debuted at number 7 on the Billboard 200 and went on to be certified platinum in 2018. He followed this up by releasing his thirteenth album ‘Zoo’ in September of 2018, which debuted at number 4, and then in 2019 released a steady stream of singles throughout the year.
And that brings us up to the present day! On January 31st 2020 Russ released his 14th album ‘SHAKE THE SNOW GLOBE’, and album with 14 tracks and boasting features from rappers such as Rick Ross and Benny The Butcher. Below I’ve reviewed the album in 2 parts, first will be my informal and unedited notes on each track as I listened through for the first time, and following that will be my thoughts on the album as a whole. I’ll include links to stream the album as well as some discussion questions at the end. Enjoy!
Track By Track Review
1. NEED A MINUTE – Lyrics are a bit lame. Gets a little better when the rapping starts, some solid rhymes. Beat is chill, quite pleasant actually. Hook isn’t too good even after the 3rd appearance. Average song
2. GUESS WHAT (ft. Rick Ross) – Another lame hook that isn’t too exciting. Verse isn’t too bad, some more great rhymes and decent bars too. Beat has this addictive little stringed section, but is quite basic otherwise. Rick Ross feature is actually fire, rides the beat excellently and flows so smoothly for the duration of his verse, good rhymes and bars too. Decent song
3. A LOT MORE – Hook isn’t as lame, but is repetitive and doesn’t sound too exciting. Verse is okay, some more decent rhymes and bars but nothing too special, flows and deliveries are average. No memorable moments, ehhh track
4. CAN’T GO ON – Hook is a bit poppy and lame again, but the melodies are really nice on this one. Beat is also poppy but isn’t too bad, fits the vibe of the song well. Verses are real average, nothing really stands out. Like the vibe of this, but song is just average overall
5. A******E (ft. Bugus) – First Verse is fire, great flow and delivery and some quality rhymes too. “People tell me I’m an arsehole” hahah I enjoyed the self awareness in this from Russ, Hook is decent too. Beat is super mellow, has this elevator music vibe with a tropical twist. Russ rides the beat really well too, not a great verse but nothing bad enough to take away from the song. Good song overall
6. NIGHTTIME (Interlude) – Basic but mellow beat, some pleasant melodies from Russ. Enjoy the pitched up section too. Whole song has this real somber vibe. Some of the best singing so far, no lame bars either. Surprisingly good and enjoyable interlude
7. ALL TO YOU (ft. Kiana Ledé) – Enjoy the rawness Of the guitar, sounds like actual guitar and sounds real crisp. Hook is quite boring, the melodies themselves aren’t too good but the harmonies sound really nice. Russ has an average verse offering nothing new. Kiana Lede was a nice touch, her voice sounds amazing and her delivery is super enjoyable. Average song overall
8. SHOTS – Melodies on the hook are nice, but lyrics are basic, and the hook overall isn’t very catchy. Some really impressive multisyllabic rhyme schemes in the first verse, enjoyable flow and delivery too. Second verse is also real impressive and quite enjoyable. Quite good, on the fence about this one
9. PATIENCE – Intro sounds messy, whole song actually sounds like a bit of a mess, unneeded repetition and vocal effects that add nothing. Verses are okay, nothing too special though, average flows and delivery. Don’t enjoy the hook at all on this. Below average track, really lacked something good
10. I THOUGHT YOU GOT ME (ft. Benny The Butcher) – Enjoy the array of vocal effects on the hook, the screwed/pitched down vocals sound great in this case and the harmonies sound amazing too. Starts the song on this real sorrowful vibe. A couple lame bars but the rhymes, flow, and storytelling from Russ is real solid and meshes well with the hook and beat. Benny sounds just as good, some amazing bars and rhymes, and rides the beat with ease. Great song
11. FOOT ON THE GAS (ft. Devin The Dude) – More impressive storytelling and bars but the flows are basic and the delivery is nothing special. Hook is okay, some nice melodies but a bit boring. Not a fan of Devins feature, his delivery is weak and nothing stood out. Average song
12. MOMMA – Takes too long to get going. Hook is lame. Beat is basic mostly. Some real solid bars and rhymes on siplay again during the verses. Song has a nice message but lacks excitement and therefore enjoyability. Verses are okay, rest is average
13. CIVIL WAR – Heard this last year when it dropped and wasn’t a fan. Nice melodies but real poppy feel and no exciting lyrics or moments. Hook is catchy, song is just okay overall
14. BEST ON EARTH (ft. BIA) – Also Heard this last year, but I enjoyed this one. Some nice melodies on the intro/hook. BIA goes hard and sounds amazing. Russ himself has some decent bars and rhymes, and had nothing too lame. Decently enjoyable track all the way through
When reviewing an album part of my critique is always going to be based on prior expectations, and with SHAKE THE SNOW GLOBE I was expecting a whole bunch of pretentious bars, some catchy hooks, but also some quality songs. After listening through this album I can say that I pretty much got what I expected, and as someone who has never liked Russ but has enjoyed quite a bit of his music, my opinion remains pretty much the same. I don’t usually rate albums, but this one is like a 6/10, being mid most of the way through but certainly having some high points and standout tracks.
I went in thinking there would be at least a couple of songs I would end up enjoying, and fortunately I was correct and ended up finding multiple of the tracks thoroughly enjoyable. His big head and pretentious lyrics shone through in the best of ways on ‘A******E’, in which he at least shows some self awareness, repeating “People tell me I’m an asshole, Tell me something that I don’t know”, all over this super calming, reminiscent instrumental. The song is just funny enough and has this lighthearted feel to it that makes the lyrics excusable. The ‘NIGHTTIME (interlude)’ pleasantly surprised me, with Russ utilising vocal effects and displaying some pleasant enough melodies that you don’t even have to focus on the lyrics to enjoy the song. Perhaps my favourite song on the album, ‘I Thought You Got Me’ showcases both Russ and Benny The Butcher flowing with ease over this mellow beat and nostalgic screwed hook, both taking a storytelling approach to their verses spitting some impressive bars with great rhyme schemes. And on that note, one of the best parts of this album was the features. Apart from Benny, I was thoroughly impressed by the performances given by Rick Ross, Bugus, Kiana Ledé & BIA, with the only bad one being the Devin The Dude feature. I don’t think any of the features outshone Russ, but each one complimented him well and contributed to the overall feel of their track wonderfully.
Apart from the high points, almost every thing else was either mediocre or unenjoyable, with most songs falling into the mediocre category. One of the biggest downfalls with this album I think is the production, and considering Russ himself handles the production himself and is so proud of it, this is an L for him personally. I wouldn’t say that the production is bad, everything is mixed and mastered well, the drums are crisp, and the beats often to a good job of setting the vibe for the song. The problem was that there was nothing too exciting to the production in any of the songs, which may not have been an issue years ago, but in this day and age you really need to have some more exciting production to standout against your peers. I’ve listened over 20 albums this year, and this is the only one that didn’t have a single beat that drew me in. Like just to put it into numbers, all the beats on this albums are between 4/10 and 7/10, but every other album this year has had a minimum of one 8/10 beat. Apart from the production I felt like Russ was quite average most of the album, often delivering decent bars but with basic flows and boring delivery. And the bars themselves weren’t always decent, containing just as many pretentious and corny bars as I was expecting, and having no real theme throughout the album.
So in summary this wasn’t really a bad album and it wasn’t really a good album, was just your average pop rap album. I feel like this is the kind of album that would be quite enjoyable to people who like rap but don’t listen to it much at all, with simple accessible beats, pleasant melodies, and bars that are easy to understand and decipher. But for anyone who listens to a decent amount of hiphop this album pales in comparison to a majority of what is being released. If you like Russ I’m sure you’ll enjoy this, if you hate him you probably won’t, but if you’re open minded then I’d say this is definitely worth a listen to see if Russ is for you!
Or listen to the album for free on YouTube here!
My favourite songs were ‘A******E’, ‘Nighttime (interlude)’, ‘I Thought You Got Me’, & ‘Best On Earth’.
What were your favourite songs or moments on SHAKE THE SNOW GLOBE?
What is your favourite Russ project?
Thanks For Reading!
– Shan –