"Chomp" Serves as a Step in the Right Direction for Russ
Reviewed by T.J. Morrison
Originally a producer, Russ broke onto the scene as a solo artist in 2017 with Soundcloud hits like “What They Want” and “Pull the Trigger”. These two tracks would make it onto his major-label debut “There’s Really a Wolf”, although Russ claims to have 14 non-major albums out. The project would eventually go platinum, and Russ would receive a Woody Award nomination in 2017.
There is no denying his catchy flow and decent skill as a rapper but Russ’ problem in his career is his overflowing confidence and ignorance. While confidence is a staple in his rap style, it has gotten him into some controversy in the public eye, especially in the eyes of hip-hop fans.
When a picture of him surfaced wearing a shirt displaying that said, “How much xan and lean do you have to do before you realize you’re a fucking loser”, Russ received major blowback on Twitter. People pointed out that calling addicts losers is not the helpful statement Russ may have intended to display with the shirt. Fredo Santana responded to Russ’ picture citing, “pain and the dead homies he’s lost”, as a reason for his own personal drug abuse. His feud with the late Fredo Santana over the mocking of substance abuse have painted him in a not so forgiving light as a white man who discredits the plight of African-American artists, while simultaneously profiting off of a predominantly black art form. Russ became the butt of the joke in hip hop, with even the likes of Lil Pump using him as twitter joke fodder.
As Russ began to fade into obscurity, he continued pumping out the same type of mainstream melody-based music, with his project “Zoo” in 2018. With much less recognition and a real lack of creativity, it’s safe to say that “Zoo” was commercially and creatively a flop. Russ aimed to recapture the moment he once had with “There’s Really a Wolf”, but after his public image had taken such a hit, it became clear this was not his wave anymore.
Russ’ shift came in January 2020, when he released “SHAKE THE GLOBE”, featuring Benny The Butcher, Ty Dolla $ign, and production from BOI-1da. This project was inarguably a more complete effort and saw Russ venturing away from the “no features” method popularized by J. Cole. While it was a start, it would take more for fans to really take Russ seriously.
On “Chomp”, Russ’ latest release, we see Russ’ evolution from a pop-rapper into a surprisingly formidable MC. Russ reached out to some hip-hop giants including Ab-Soul, Benny the Butcher, Busta Rhymes, and a production appearance from DJ Premier. If there was a sure-fire way to raise some eyebrows of the hip-hop community, getting a Premo beat is probably a home-run.
On “Inside Job”, Russ raps “Okay the last thing that my ego needs is rapping on a Premo beat” acknowledging his previous bouts with his massive ego impeding progress in his career. To Russ’ credit, his lyrical content all over this EP serves a higher purpose than his previous love song and teeny-bopper content. Russ raps “I try to use my past as a reference, But the media don’t want me to evolve, So they gon use it as my residence.” Russ shows a willingness to learn from his previous public mistakes and even dives into racial tensions, with lyrics like “White racists is what inflicts this nation, Of course there’s gonna be some indignation”.Russ holds his own next to some of the more talented lyricists in the game, as we see him go toe-to-toe with Busta Rhymes on “Line em up”.
On “Chomp” there is a promising hunger, and a vision laid out for Russ to turn around his public image and continue making impactful hip-hop music as he does on this EP. “Chomp” serves as a step in the right direction both artistically, and in the eyes of peers for Russ.