Album Review: Russ – Zoo

Album+cover+provided+by+Russ%E2%80%99+Instagram+page.
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Album Review: Russ – Zoo

Album cover provided by Russ’ Instagram page.

Album cover provided by Russ’ Instagram page.

Album cover provided by Russ’ Instagram page.

Album cover provided by Russ’ Instagram page.

Isaiah Opatz, Staff Writer

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Artist: Russ 

Album: Zoo

Tracklist

1.The Flute

2. Outlaw

3. Kill Them All

4. Missin You Crazy

5. Voicemail

6. Parkstone Drive

7. Begging You

8. Serious

9. Keep My Wits

10. Our Time

11. From a Distance

12. Last Forever

13. Keep It Pushin

14. Fuck That

 

Release Date: September 7th, 2018

Runtime: 51 minutes

 

The Flute Song

Russ opens his sophomore effort from where he left off on his debut album ‘There’s Really a Wolf,’ even with The Flute Song being the only track off the album that Russ himself did not self produce, instead, entrusting that responsibility with Scott Storch, Storch still manages to lure the listener in with catchy loops, drum patterns, and a, (you guess it), flute melody. These are things we’ve come to appreciate out of Russ’ production, and so it is appreciated that is not lost when he allows Scorch to take the reins on his opening the album. Russ still is bringing us the lyrical goods and his ever consistent flow, both complemented by his very distinguishable vocals, ensuring us he is still in full command of his craft.

 

Outlaw

The first Russ produced track he gives us is welcomed with open arms, hard hitting claps and a deep pounding bass, provide us our rhythmic center, allowing Russ to sputter off a more sporadic flow than we’ve been accustomed to. His flex on the entirety of the album is perhaps his strongest here, or at least, most felt by the listener. The transition from the opening track The Flute Song to his following in Outlaw, feels natural, and you begin to settle in to experience the rest Zoo has to offer.

 

Kill Them All

Our introduction to the truth behind the album’s title, Zoo. Kill Them All is the first of many of Russ’ lashings, making his first cuts as he attacks in revenge to those who have done him harm. It’s our initial peek into the personal nature (no pun intended) of what is Zoo. It plays well, it belongs, it feels right, it demands attention, and it provokes thought. Kill Them All is not Russ’ best track on the album, but it’s something rarely seen among artists when you can pinpoint the moment he or she began sharpening the blades. This was that moment for Russ, and he gives it to us. Kill Them All is the true ignition of his torch, a torch that will no doubt be a raging inferno engulfed in its’ entirety by album’s end.

 

Missin You Crazy

Russ takes a different approach on his sophomore entry, opting for a softer angle, lightened in the heart. Releasing Missin You Crazy to act as his album’s single, may be the best example of that. In Russ like fashion, the beat is an easy vibe, making good of the natural instinct to nod your head to groove with his production. If nothing else, Russ is a master at this. That’s what Missin You Crazy is meant to be, even with the lyrics telling a story of a lost love, this song feels good, and it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Russ didn’t intend it to be received that way.

 

Voicemail

Voicemail leads us into the meat of Zoo, and my personal favorite 3 track line up, where I believe Russ best highlights himself, setting the project apart, and elevating it. The track is Russ “calling God,” and that theme is the pressure Russ uses to push the blood from his wounds. Russ digs deeper than ever before, proclaiming the world’s dismissal of him when he says, “I’m listening to Say Goodbye to Hollywood and Runaway. I guess be careful what you wish for, right? You say the truth and they come at you with pitchforks, right?” It’s always enjoyable  to see nods to the legends of the genre, like here, when Russ references Eminem’s ‘Saying Goodbye to Hollywood,’ taking heed to Em’s warning about the cost of fame. Russ delivers perhaps his strongest line on the song, and perhaps the entire album, on the second verse, when he speaks on his relationship with his family, and the painful state the two remain in. This is brought to light best in Russ’ dry emotion, almost forced from his throat in saying, “But money’s not an adhesive that can take all the pieces. Of a broken family and put them back together, arenas. Ain’t as loud as inner turmoil, get to the roots, replace any burnt soil.“ If you aren’t a fan of Russ, this track may be the one to change your mind. The flow is meshed with a smooth hook, and everything works.

 

Parkstone Drive

My favorite song on Zoo, going deeper into the relationship and struggles Russ currently endures with both his father, and family as a whole. Russ takes his time telling the story, one focused on the decaying relationship between him and his father, bringing the dynamic front and center, and exposing its’ ugly. This is the most pure Russ there has ever been to his listeners, and to say it’s welcomed, would be an understatement. He is best in this realm. With both his most moving hook, and the lyrical depth in each verse, Russ delivers his best song he has ever recorded.  

 

Begging You

Another, “feel good, but this is a sad song,” sad song. It’s a bit quirky at first listen, syncing a mouse-like voice with his own on the hook that opens the song. In fact, I hit the skip button about 30 seconds into it the first time around. The song grows on you, strangely enough, to the point where it’s now one of the tracks I look forward to when listening to the album.

 

Serious

So, here we are, the first low point Russ delivers on ‘Zoo.’ It’s not that ‘Serious’ is a bad song necessarily, it’s that it feels, more so, out of place. The jump from the lower and and more serious mood Russ has just established, to a song that doesn’t feel like it belongs to its’ title at all, is unbalanced. This song may best be heard while listening to a mix, rather than the experience an album delivers.

 

Keep My Wits

I’ll keep this one brief. Hard hitting bass, catchy kicks, and the vibes. This song just belongs, and it may be out of order in the tracklist, but look, you came to hear a Russ album, right? Well, here you go. This is Russ.

 

Our Time

This was the part I was dreading, the string of songs that are the garbage heap of the album. Honestly, if you threw away the next four songs on the album, it and you, would be much better off. Russ kind of, not really, sings, the entirety of the track. It’s hard to enjoy. His vocals don’t carry him all the way through, and half of the fault must be placed on the beat Russ chose to put his tone-holding vocals to. It’s awkward the whole time. Clunky and awkward. Sorry Russ, I can’t get behind you on this one.

 

From a Distance

Sigh. Russ follows his worst song on the album, with his worst song on the album. He attempts to, perhaps, improve upon his experiment on his previous song ‘Our Time?’ Whatever Russ’ intentions were, it plays out the same as before, awkward and clunky. Russ proved he was better than both of these tracks, on both his first album, and every single track prior to these. Hit skip. You’re welcome.

 

Last Forever

Hit skip again. Okay, it says something about Russ that he features both Snoop Dogg and Rick Ross on his album, you’re paying homage to some of the “Caterpillars” of the game. You’re cool Russ. The issue with this song, however, is strictly in those features. The one artist that feels out of place, is Russ. It sounds as if Russ is a featured act on his own album in this track, rather than the lead. ‘Last Forever’ sounds like nothing else on the album, making you wonder if its’ only purpose was to draw listeners in using the featured names, and ignoring that the entire song screams “skip me!”

 

Keep It Pushin

The first 2 minutes and 50 seconds are excellent. Russ owns the slow Rn’B feel, his vocals falling in line, again, proving he’s capable of doing exactly this. Mahalia lends her sultry and soothing vocals to the background of Russ’ on the hook, greatly enhancing what could have felt flat on their own. Everything seems to be going perfectly, and the moment Mahalia does her solo, her beautiful voice can’t save the derailment. She sing-talks her way through the verse, and her voice is lovely, and what seems like a blessing, becomes a curse with every finishing of a sentence. When she begins to reach the end of her verse, each time Mahalia finishes a line, she adds a very unnecessary and awkward moment that has no business being there. Whether it be a giggle, weird pronunciation, or her long drawn out “hmmmmmm,” she kills what could have been a highlight of the album.

 

Fuck That

The finale of Russ’ sophomore album ‘Zoo,’ and the reminder of why we tuned in. Yeah, this is what I wanted, some aggressive, raw, in my face, angry, Russ. Church boys couldn’t help themselves from throwing two middle fingers in the air and chant the anthem of ‘Zoo.’ “They want me to shut the fuck up, fuck that. They want my talent, my nuts tucked, fuck that. They’re tryna get me to hate me, fuck that. ‘Cause y’all can’t ever ever play me, fuck that. Stop playin’ with me, playin’ with me. Somebody gon’ end up hurt. Stop playin’ with me, playin’ with me. I promise I see every word.” Whatever stumbles we had along the way to finish line can all be forgiven, simply because ‘Fuck That’ exists, and Russ couldn’t have scripted a better finish.

 

Assessment: Bottom Line

Russ mostly succeeds in what he set out to do. Zoo improves upon his debut album ‘There’s Really a Wolf,’ by giving the listener a more personal and emotional experience. We get the best of Russ. ‘Zoo’ is not an album to ignore.

 

Favorite Songs (In Order)

Parkstone Drive

Voicemail

Fuck That

Outlaw

Kill Them All

 

Least Favorite Songs (In Order)

Our Time

From a Distance

Last Forever ft. Rick Ross & Snoop Dogg

Keep It Pushin ft. Mahalia

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Isaiah Opatz, Staff Writer

Isaiah Opatz is a Music Producer, Musical Artist, Film Maker, and aspiring Screenwriter and Novelist. He lives in San Diego, CA with his wife and their...

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