Russ: ZOO Album Review
This album review includes explicit content
Twenty-five-year-old Russell Vitale, better known by his stage name, Russ, raps and sings about family issues, women and the state of rap on his second studio album, Zoo. He moves through this record with the same vibe as his last, There’s Really A Wolf. Russ uses this piece as an outlet for emotional relief. Longtime Russ fans know what to expect from him in this new Hip-Hop album.
The self-made rapper begins this album coming straight after anyone who may be doubting, discouraging or downplaying him as an artist, producer and engineer. People who know what it feels like to be doubted or seen as the underdog will feel his every word. In “Outlaw,” he speaks to how confident he is in himself, as he blocks out the haters and continues down this partially indie path.
On “Kill Them All” he lets off on the media who have tried to discredit him or joke about his craft. He is tired of the critics who speak negatively about his solo approach to his music. Responding to all the social media jokes about him, he uses the album as a stress reliever. He came for all the rappers who diss him or hop on the recent internet hashtag "F*** Russ". He believes they are going after clout on the internet instead of learning and mastering the rap game.
In a tweet prior to the album release, Russ says “New life is a zoo. It feels like constant contained chaos. Whether internal battles, family issues, industry bull****, etc. And dealing with everything while everyone is watching is beyond stressful. This album feels like me not caring about keeping it together anymore. Music is my only hope to not go completely insane."
The coincidence of him being from the ‘zoo’ of Atlanta and dealing with fame, family, constant battle for legend status, media and other outside forces has him harping through the music.
Russ walks people through his life since he grew as a rapper with the song “Voicemail.” He explains how he moved his mother from her house without his father, saying that his relationship with his father is rocky and nearly non-existent. Money hasn’t helped his family issues. He talks deeply about his dad throughout the album and how he’s doing better than his father as an entrepreneur, which is a common theme throughout the album.
For the last chapter of the album, he moves into the R&B side of himself with samples on songs like “Serious,” which is taken from the Jagged Edge song, “He Can’t Love You.” He slows the album down even more than it already was with the R&B side. With thoughts that may be going through his head or past relationships he been through. Songs like “Keep It Pushin” featuring Mahalia and “Our Time” show just how in touch he is with his feelings.
These songs showcased his great ability to rap consciously and be very descriptive and candid of his feelings in a creative way. He is at his best when he goes off and raps without hesitation. As he continues to make music he continues to improve. His first album cannot compare to this one which gives him upside as his career goes on. Out of the few features he had on this album, they were all timely and perfect for the chosen songs they were a part of. “Last Forever,” which featured Snoop Dogg and Rick Ross, mixed in perfectly with the tempo and direction of the song.
Zoo, was a good, cohesive album that involved average beat production and a chill but intense feel throughout, rather through beats or bars. He split songs into sections that were straight rap, conscious and R&B, which worked in his favor for flow of artwork. The transitions were impeccable, as every beat seemed chill with high tempo hints to them. For Russ to produce, rap and engineer this entire album, it’s good, but could be better.
Songs like “From a distance” could be better lyrically as far as how the hook is done. The lyrics to the hook can be worded in a more creative way or with a better bridge before the actual hook. On “Begging You,” the vibe of the song didn’t seem to go well with the lyrics. The hook was consistent, but the verses might be better served with a more intense beat or vocals. The production of some of the beats could’ve been more up-tempo for certain songs, which would have improved each track’s delivery.
It wasn’t a complete garbage album, but there are some songs that can be stronger either through better production of beats or lyrically. At the same time, he shows great talent as an artist and producer on songs like “Missin You Crazy,” “Voicemail” and “Keep it pushin”.
With Russ’ next release, listeners hope that he raises the bar for indie rappers and producers. With a style most closely related with Drake, it is up to Russ to reach that next level in his career.
Jibril Washington is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in theatre arts. To contact him, email at email@example.com.