Exploding out of the trap-metropolis that is Atlanta, Georgia, Russ howls out his defiance to the “mumble-rap” genre with his debut album, “There’s Really A Wolf.”
Combining the carefully crafted lyrics and flawless delivery of Drake with the pure bravado of Dr. Dre, Russ asserts his well-earned spot among rap’s few remaining legends.
One of Russ’ most important traits, which he stresses over and over again, is his dedication to creating a unique sound. “Singin’, rappin’, mixin’, masterin’, engineerin’, producin’, that’s every song with no exception,” the rapper boasts on the intro, “I’m Here.”
While the primary intention of the project is to declare Russ’ presence as rap’s new Renaissance man, “Wolf” can also be seen a collection of love songs. True, many of the songs focus on Russ’ love for his work, in songs like “Do It Myself” and “Act Now,” but just as many center on his struggle to get over a past love.
On “Cherry Hill,” one of the only tracks featuring Russ singing in his upper register, he pleads, “Maybe I’m a fool for you.” The song’s pulsing guitar loop, overlaid with plucks reminiscent of Carlos Santana, tug at the listener’s heartstrings, and convey Russ’ emotional distress.
“Ride Slow,” a track seemingly made for the sole purpose of wistfully driving through your ex’s neighborhood, finds the rapper caught up in the past again, saying, “This car just ain’t the same without you here next to me.”
However, Russ’ true strength comes from his awareness and unwavering self-belief. This perseverance, which clearly drove him to put out eleven successive mixtapes before “Wolf,” also allowed Russ to get over his past romantic failures and move on, evident in the song “Losin’ Control.”
The song, which was released as a single and eventually went platinum by itself, describes a new relationship in which both Russ and his partner learn from their past mistakes to treat each other better. “He redefines in every way what love is / She fell for him and hasn’t gotten up since.”
Don’t worry though, Russ isn’t just an overconfident rapper stuck in his feelings. He supplies plenty of tracks you can party to. From the defiant “Me You,” where Russ outlines the difference between himself and rap’s standard fare, to the dancehall-inspired “One More Shot,” to “What They Want,” the album’s first single and already a staple in rap playlists, Russ has a sound that can appeal to everyone.
As impressive as the lyricism and substance packed into the twenty-song project are, the production and engineering of the album are also nearly perfect.
Sonically, the album is fluid start to finish. The kicks and snares are placed to a razor’s edge, and with the right speakers, hit like a brick wall. Russ’ overwhelming perfectionism demonstrates the lone wolf’s hunger and willingness to work harder than most for everything he gets.
My favorite song is “Pull The Trigger.” Besides slapping ridiculously hard, Russ’ message on the track is to motivate all of his supporters. The hook chants, “Pull the trigger, ain’t nobody gonna do it for you.” Russ makes a point of relating himself to the masses, claiming if he can make it to the top, anyone else can too.