Russ, There’s Really a Wolf | Album Review
Rapper and singer Russ delivers a promising debut album with There’s Really a Wolf. Russ writes, produces, and engineers the album himself.
“Yeah, one of eleven, yeah, I put out eleven.” Wow, that’s some kind of work ethic, Russ! Russ goes on to say at the end of the opener, “Produced, mixed, mastered, engineered, written by me.” Indeed, the wolf is amongst us – There’s Really a Wolf. There’s Really a Wolf marks the debut album by do-it-yourself, rapper and singer, who has carved his success in the industry slowly but steadily. All in all, the wolf possesses plenty of potential on this featureless, hour-long affair.
“I’m Here” kicks off There’s Really a Wolf with oomph. Russ has an excellent flow going, showcasing aggressiveness and hunger to rule the rap game. The listener gets a glimpse into his self-made persona and feels the vibe that the wolf has arrived. This isn’t the flashiest song, but it’s sound, a characteristic that continues throughout the course of his debut. He follows up with another winner in “The Stakeout” which is essentially a continuation of Russ’ mad hustle. From the jump, he’s fired up:
“Doors are openin’ that were previously locked / Treat this game like any other b*tch, I just need me the top.”
He continues to flaunt swagger on “Act Now,” touting his come-up.
“Yeah, I’m tryna go on my phone less and less these days / And I don’t talk to women ‘less it’s sex these days / I’m on my second presidential Rolex these days / I could chill but I would rather flex these days.”
Essentially, he’s grateful that he’s arrived and unafraid to show it. “Act Now” isn’t quite the gem of the opening duo, but still captures the inner beast of Russ.
“Cherry Hill” is one of the more intriguing moments from There’s Really a Wolf. For the first time, Russ exclusively sings, and there’s a more experimental vibe. “Cherry Hill” slackens the pace and eschews the profane. An element of romance rears its head throughout the course of the song. That romance is for music and of course women. “Me You” restores the toughness (and explicitness) of the album. The hook is both confident and catchy:
“Me got it out the mud, they respect that / Me always spread the love when I get back / You, got your hand out, that’s a b*tch move / You, always complaining like a b*tch do.”
Once more, he plays hard, with a “chip on his shoulder.” Hard not to respect his hustle.
If “Cherry Hill” romanced the game, “Ride Slow” focuses on romancing one particular woman. She’s a tough one for sure – she has commitment issues, which Russ tackles on both verses.
“We been goin’ back and forth, you think I only want sex / Of course I want it, look at you, but that ain’t my intentions.”
He takes an unapologetic shot on the second verse of “Don’t Lie,” shutting down a girl who remains nameless. Clearly, there’s really a wolf, and he’s not afraid to bite.
“Do It Myself”
“Do It Myself” is straight forward to the nth degree. Like the title proclaims, Russ states, “F*ck it, I’ll do it myself.” What exactly will he do himself? Building his music career. Confirming his independence, on the second verse he raps about turning down collaborations:
“Facts, whole game hittin’ up my phone because my hooks, beats, and my raps / Only reason I pick up is ‘cause my family needs the cash.”
Hunger for the game changes into hunger for a serious relationship on “I Wanna Go Down with You,” another vocal number. Moody and passionate, the desire is real. The respectable, somewhat simple “Family & Friends” is all about the inner circle. This is Russ’ best Drake mentality of “Keep the Family Close,” “Fake Friends,” and “No New Friends.” All in all, it goes without a hitch. It’s well-produced and balances singing and pop-rapping.
“What They Want”
“What They Want” is relatively brief and simplistic with minimal production. Nonetheless, it’s charming, unveiling its rationale for its success. Once more, Russ touts his self-made status – his “start from the bottom”:
“I been at this shit for nine years, now they start to call / I’m a DIY pioneer, they try to get involved.”
“Got This” benefits from its minor-key production, a continuation from “What They Want.” Still, at this point of There’s Really a Wolf, it sounds more cliché or recycled as opposed to brand new. The same can be said lyrically of the brief “No Turning Back,” even with a different backdrop behind Russ. Still, it vibes and “There’s no turning back.”
“Losin Control” marks progression – from the perspective of the girl. Another love-oriented joint, previously, Russ had issues ‘sealing the deal’ with a girl he liked, but she had her share of issues. Here, she’s finally “fallin’ in love now, losin’ control now.” Russ sings smoothly, particularly on the beautiful chorus:
“She’s fallin’ in love now, losin’ control now / Fightin’ the truth, tryin’ to hide / But I think it’s alright girl / Yeah, I think it’s alright, girl.”
Russ addresses his own fears on another buttery smooth record, “Scared.” What is he scared of? Falling back into a bad relationship.
“Yeah, I tried to give you everything, I was thinking wedding ring / You were cheating every chance you got while I was faithful.”
The better question is, why is he even indulging into the superficial?
“Back to You” is okay, but doesn’t assert anything that hasn’t already been asserted. The production contrast on “One More Shot” is worth noting, even if the song itself is so-so.
The soulful production work on “Emergency” stands out instantly. The ambience of the dusty drums and lush piano is breathtaking. If There’s Really a Wolf had lost a bit of its luster, “Emergency” takes a step at refocusing. Russ “pulls the trigger” to his dreams and aspirations on “Pull the Trigger.” It’s by no means violent, but rather, a statement about being unafraid and showing initiative. “MVP” concludes the album with a bang, much like how it commenced with “I’m Here.” What’s most impressive about “MVP” is his flow, though the production bangs too.
Ultimately, there’s plenty to like about There’s Really a Wolf. Russ is talented, without question. He has a nice flow as a rapper, a good voice as a singer, and a knack for the boards. His self-made story is impressive as well. More often than not, the material is sound, even if it’s not particularly flashy. This album runs too long at over an hour, and had it been trimmed, it may have been even better than it is. That’s a rub because there aren’t any features and Russ handles everything. It’s a lot of Russ, which is mostly good, but sometimes too much.
Gems: “I’m Here,” “The Stakeout,” “Cherry Hill,” “What They Want,” “Losin Control,” “Scared” & “MVP”