Russ is known to be one of those rappers that some people love and some people hate. I have been on the loving side for a while, however, his latest project demonstrates a lot of his flaws his haters often point out. Zoo is a collection of emotions from the young 25-year-old rapper-producer, and while much of the album feels like Russ is working out his issues through music, you can’t help but notice some of the stylistic intricacies that make his music stand out.
The Atlanta-based artist doesn’t have a special sound to his voice; instead more of a stylistic way of rapping. Certain tracks, like “Keep It Pushin'” and “Missing You Crazy”, have this very poppy R&B style of rapping where it sounds light and airy combined with him singing on the choruses. Yet, other tracks are the complete opposite, with Russ bringing faster flows and an angrier tone, especially on “F**k That” and “Kill Them All”. The haters on social media often go after Russ’s competitive and narcissistic lyrics, however, if you dig into the lyrics, you start to notice much of the competitiveness is clearly related to his issues with the rap industry and his narcissism is more of a character. Sure, Russ talks a lotttttttttttt about himself but don’t we all do that in some way or another. Look, I get it if you don’t like a rapper talking about himself but when it comes down to it, at least he isn’t praising the drug game or talking about conquering women like objects. Is it the best topic? Eh no. Is he lyrically artistic in the way he does it? Yes.
Russ has been producing for a long time now. That’s where he originated and I often feel that his talent there shines through more on certain projects than his rapping. There’s Really a Wolf is a perfect example of the beats being top-notch, and while the rapping is strong, the beats are that album’s true strength. Just go back and listen to “What They Want” or “Pull The Trigger”. Zoo was different. The beats were decent at best. Not much stood out to me, which was disappointing, to say the least. Russ starts with “The Flute Song”, which has this very clean looping flute sample. The beat, produced by Avedon and Scott Storch, includes good hi-hats, solid bass drops, and a nice bass balance. However, after that nothing stands out other than “Parkstone Drive”, which Russ self-produced. I don’t know what it is with rappers recently but they love Sting, with this track being the third of the year to feature a sample of “Shape of My Heart” (the others rappers being Juice WRLD and Tory Lanez).
This was a very standard album for Russ. It had all his signatures including the little wolf howl in the closing seconds of the record. It has emotion and storytelling like on “Parkstone Drive” and “Voicemail”. It also has his so-called “beef” with the industry throughout. The transitions are surprisingly fluid with is most likely due to Russ’s heavy hand in the overall production of the record. Most importantly, the flow feels very smooth and the order of the tracks feels right.
“The Flute Song,” “Parkstone Drive,” and “From a Distance”
His vocals are solid, the production is smooth, and the beats…work. Even with that, this still is no There’s Really a Wolf. It’s good but it most likely will not be going platinum. Prove me wrong Russ but this album gets a:
This album has everything he needs to grow his following and don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to be keeping it in my rotation. However, Russ still has a way to go to reach the heights his last album got him.