Russ has made a successful career creating multicultural hip hop in which the Atlanta raised artists produces, engineers, and masters all his tracks in addition to rapping and singing all the hooks. Starting off as a popular SoundCloud rapper, over the last couple of years, he’s built up a rabid fanbase that's allowed him to pick up a pair of RIAA certifications with not much help from the mainstream until last year when signed a 50/50 deal with Columbia Records.
If you were unaware of his talent, then you’ll be surprised by the end of his debut album “There’s Really a Wolf” because it is essentially the album's main focus.
His album opener, “I’m Here” is a great way to start the album when he has been “in the shadows for so long”. The song is featured over a two-part piano loop and Kanye like vocal samples that repeat through one long verse. Russ had a clear talent for capturing the fullness of his come up, alternating on his confidence, though he has not let the money change him. He raps, “Last June I was broke, this June I made a hundred, before and after, didn’t change me, though I stayed a hundred”. The song itself reflects on the costs of success, thus earning a feature on the new NBA Live 18 soundtrack.
The album then continues with “The Stakeout”, which reflects on how his journey to becoming where he is now was much like a stakeout. Featuring a subtle guitar loop, the energy of the song creates an arouse to get you on your grind, but reflective enough to make it feel like it’s made to motivate. In the song, there is a line that Russ explains that he’s trying to pursue his dream to repay his mother back for what she does when he raps, “I wanna give my mom the world without worrying ‘bout the cost”, but he also understands that the dream does not happen overnight. It’s not about counting the days but making the days count.
Although his success is portrayed in most of his songs, he also showcases his softer side on his R&B songs such as “Losin’ Control, “Cherry hill”, or “scared”. The end of these songs is one of the best mixtures of his talent as he balances his naturally high singing voice with the nice bass.
“Losin Control” is one of Russ’s most popular songs and his highest-charting single. It is also one of the most cohesive stories on “There’s Really A Wolf”. The song focuses on an early unsuccessful relationship that happened during his teenage years and is one of the album's best organized moments with “Scared” coming immediately after.
As great as the album was sequenced, there were several songs where his repetitiveness could’ve been replaced by artists that flow with the melody he creates through his songs. Being a huge Russ fan I believe that hearing features on the album would have been something nice and different for the fan base. Although Russ featuring artists in his music is rare, some of his best songs have features such as “Keep On Goin’’ which features Bas and his feature on Rexx Life Raj’s song “Waiting For You”.
Despite the success that Russ has received in the past couple of years, there are still more doors open for his talent to grow. “Only time will tell but I been feelin’ like it’s my time, How long you gonna keep your star player on the sidelines?” he raps on the album’s final song “MVP”.
Although the album being feature free, “There’s Really a Wolf” provides catchy songs that can shoot up his stats as the successful artist he is such as “Got This”, “Do it Myself” or his platinum single “What they Want”. With some of the tracks being longer than others, it shows more than enough proof he is very talented. With being the five-tool musician, he has been working on scheduling collaborations already (with artists such as Maluma--- an urban Latino singer) as recently discussed on his twitter.
Overall the album told Russ’s origin story in a successful way and was structured nicely to gain more support for what he does. I’m very excited to see what he will have in store for his fans next.