By Jared Graf
Asst. Arts & Features Editor
“Shake the Snow Globe” is the latest and most daring release yet from do-it-all rap artist Russ.
Debuting at number four on the Billboard 200 chart, Russ lets fans and haters alike know his consistency is something they’re going to have to get used to.
The hype for Russ’ 14th studio album began to build in October 2019 following the release of the album’s single “Best on Earth” featuring rap’s princess – and Medford native – Bia. The song features a bed-squeaking and eerie production that sounds like a sped-up sample of the classic hip-hop hit “I Got 5 On It.”
A week after the song’s release, Rihanna – yes, the Rihanna – posted a video of her defiantly strutting in a tropical paradise, while the song played in the background to her almost 80 million Instagram followers.
“Thank you @bia and @russ for my new fav song #BestOnEarth,” the megastar captioned the video. This major cosign caused “Best on Earth” to catapult up the iTunes charts, becoming Russ’ highest charting single to date and increasing the demand for “Shake the Snow Globe.”
Now, the wait is over and Russ has delivered a beautifully polished product with a little something for everyone.
Choosing to start the album on a lighter note, “Need a Minute” is a relaxed bop with an infectious melody that finds Russ reminiscing on his achievements and how far he’s come. “I used to count change / Now it’s 8-figure deals and I spent about a million on the wheels,” he brags on the hook.
“All to You” is a more solemn ballad where Russ speaks to a significant other. “This ain’t punishment, this is a suitable test / Nah, this ain’t punishment, this is a beautiful mess,” Russ croons with conviction over an airy guitar loop. Kiana Ledé lends her smooth vocals on the chorus and verse, making for one of the album’s most emotional and captivating features.
Although “Shake the Snow Globe” has its fair share of pop undertones – i.e. “Can’t Go On” and “Nighttime (Interlude)” – Rick Ross and Benny the Butcher stop by and challenge Russ to match their tightly-woven bars and gritty flows.
On “Guess What,” Rick Ross feeds off Russ’ energy and ignorant hook. “Guess what? / I just made a porno in the booth / Guess what? / They be taking photos when I move,” Russ declares on the Boi-1da production. Another braggadocios anthem, only this one feels necessary.
But the highlight of the project comes 10 tracks in with “I Thought You Got Me” – which finds Benny the Butcher stepping out of his comfort zone on yet another laid-back production, courtesy of Russ himself.
Fans of The Butcher know it’s not often he slows it down and puts his aggressive lyricism on hold, but he did just that for Russ – and it sounds incredible.
“I Thought You Got Me” finds the duo rapping in a more conversational tone as they address a lover’s betrayal on the head-nodding, speaker-rattling beat. Benny spits a passionate verse, his gritty tone not wavering even for a second.
Both “Guess What” and “I Thought You Got Me” are unconventional beats for their respective guests, but Ross and Benny hold their own and provide an impressive performance.
Other tracks worth checking out are “Shots” and “Momma.” On the fiery verses of the latter, Russ details the lavish lifestyle his mother is fortunate enough to live.
With 14 studio albums and enough versatility to create a new subgenre of rap, it’s hard to believe Russ is only 27 years old. The rapper-singer-producer-engineer has always been one to operate on his own terms – making his crazy work ethic and output something to be applauded.
The only change to Russ’ steadfast formula this time around is his inclusion of other acclaimed producers, such as Boi-1da and !llmind. On previous offerings, Russ takes pride in producing all – if not most of the album’s songs. Seeing him form a working relationship with Boi-1da, who produced four tracks, is unusual but necessary.
Although “Shake the Snow Globe” does rely on some big name hit makers, Russ’ ability to write, produce, and mix songs himself shouldn’t be dismissed and needs to be credited more often.
How many rap artists nowadays genuinely have such an affection for music they create (most of) their own songs from scratch in their living room with no industry help?
Russ finds a way to shake things up 14 albums deep.