Russ – “CHOMP 2.5” review

This is the 3rd EP from New Jersey rapper, producer & singer-songwriter Russ. Dropping off a total of 11 mixtapes on SoundCloud from 2011 up to 2014, he wound up signing Columbia Records a couple years later & 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 in the process by 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 in 2020 ended up being his best work so far, although it’s because the features & producers carried. Funny enough, the same thing happened on the sequel a year & a half ago. But to prelude the 3rd installment, he’s rockin’ it by himself on CHOMP 2.5.

“Wicked Race”’ is a self-produced opener with no real stand-out lines even though the instrumental that he cooks up here is actually pretty decent whereas “Blow the Whistle” calls this a warmup to CHOMP 3 dropping this summer & even though Statik Selektah’s boom bap production is groovy, bars like “Stand tall like who? Like Tyler” & that he “never had to chase clout or do a bunch of weird shit” when he started to blow by constantly making a narcissistically bitter ass-hat of himself.

The “Buckle Up Freestyle” is more sample-based courtesy of Havoc talking about calling himself out on my bullshit & luckily he picked up, which I’m actually happy to hear him acknowledge that because it takes a real man to own up to his mistakes & don’t have any personal vendetta against the guy whatsoever. “Easy” weaves in some soulful chops from The Alchemist talking about showin’ why no one can fuck with him lyrically even though he literally made a whole fuckin’ tape where the features outshined him although the self-improvement line I felt was sincere.

“Reflection” has a more summery vibe to it thanks to Boi-1da & the melodic delivery that Russ executes here just isn’t doing it for me at all which is a shame considering it’s overall theme of rarely getting a second to put himself first. “Perfectionist” closes out the EP with a soulful boom bap ballad that 9th Wonder cooked up confessing that he had 32 sessions with a therapist about being a recovering purist although the “in my Depeche Mode” line was cringe.

Although the first 2 installments of the CHOMP series were loaded with guest verses, the fact that Russ took the risk of proving that he doesn’t need features for a project to be good is admirable. However, this is as average as the predecessors. The production is remarkable, but the songwriting & performances from Russ himself are both mid at best. That being said though: I can’t deny that he’s trying to improve himself both artistically & personally and continue to hope for that down the road.

Score: 2.5/5

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