Russ is a 29 year old rapper, producer & singer-songwriter from Secaucus, New Jersey who’s released a total of 11 mixtapes on SoundCloud from 2011 up to 2014. He wound up signing Columbia Records in 2016 & made his full-length debut last year with There’s Really a Wolf, quickly becoming one of hip hop’s most polarizing figures in recent memory. Primarily because of being a “fake activist” against drugs & then there’s his infamous 2016 interview with DJ Vlad the culture vulture where he literally said “we need to blame producers for all the wack music today”. His 2018 follow-up ZOO kinda caught my interest due to “The Flute Song”, but the end result of it being taken over by this annoyingly bitter demeanor. Shake the Snowglobe was slightly better & his debut EP CHOMP last year ended up being his best work so far, although it’s because the features & producers carried. But to close out the year, Russ bringing an all-star cast of well-respected names for his 12th mixtape.
“Sheep” kicks off the whole thing with a skeletal boom bap beat from Jake One with fake woke lyrics attached onto it whereas “Blue Chip” works in a groovy mR. pOrTeR instrumental & Ransom’s verse at the backend is more aggressive than Russ’ at the start. “Bucket Hat Low” has some cool background vocals & Papoose’s verse starts it off well, but Russ’ signature narcissistic attitude at the end straight up kills it. Hi-Tek provides a more west coast sound for “Nothin’ New” where The Game’s wordplay is really the star of it all leading into the soulful “Salute” produced by 9th Wonder which starts off with a mediocre verse, but then Styles P & Westside Gunn pick it back up talking about being undisputed.
Meanwhile on “Faith”, we have Jadakiss accompanying Russ to encourage trusting yourself even though the beat is plain as fuck just before the DJ Premier-laced “Free” goes into boom bap turf talking about being only human as Big K.R.I.T. & Snoop Dogg dominate it. “Top of the World” with Jay Electronica has an airy Harry Fraud beat serving as a cool victory lap, but then “Note to Self” feels like a microwaved leftover from Big Sean’s latest EP What You Expect? down to the Hit-Boy instrumental.
“Hustler” is basically a short yet decent freestyle with a more interesting Jake One beat while “Distance” has a NASTY boom bap instrumental from The Alchemist taking shots at their doubters even though it doesn’t sound like Conway the Machine or Ghostface Killah are throwing a temper tantrum on wax. The song “Get It” fuses some dusty drums & pianos with the help of Statik Selektah motivating listeners with CyHi the Prynce & Lloyd Banks’ verses not sounding forced while the penultimate track “Enjoy the View” has an explosive Bink! beat & Russ keeps up with Mozzy talking about letting the success continue to roll in. “Golden” then ends the album with a wintery Boi-1da instrumental addressing people turning on him & the hook is just atrocious.
I will say that this tape is better than it’s predecessor, but by a small margin. Much like the first Chomp, the features & production are all A1. However, it’s Russ’ actual songwriting & performances that bog it down. Like it’s cool for him to bring these bigger names on board, but they shouldn’t have to carry a whole project from him or anyone. Out of touch old heads will still eat it up though.