We reflexively define artists in absolutist terms. You’re ostensibly regionally rooted or creatively rootless, but the truth is rarely that one-dimensional. Too Short was raised in LA until high school. Eminem didn’t move to Michigan until age 11. DJ Premier comes from Texas.
It doesn’t necessarily matter where you’re from or where you’re at, when you’re always on the run (word to N.OR.E, Tony Starks, and Paul McCartney.). Creative artists invariably re-combine old palettes to create new shades. Russ is a 21-year old rapper and producer from Alpharetta, Georgia with the potential to realize a uniquely cross-faded style: one as informed by The Beatles as The Beatnuts. G-Unit and Jim Morrison passing blunts within the same circle. (See also: my previous post here)
It’s the eclecticism expected from someone who grew up everywhere: New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Kentucky and Ohio. When he was a teenager, his family eventually settled 20 miles outside of Atlanta. Around the same time, he started making beats. Towards the end of high school, he picked up a mic. He taught himself to play the piano, guitar, and drums.
Shortly after dropping out of Kennesaw State as a freshman, Russ formed the crew and label, Diemon. They shoot their own videos, make their own merchandise, and record in mostly isolation. As expected from the innately experimental, things are all over the place. But in an Internet landscape awash in Stepford trap-rap, 808s & Drake-core, 90s revival, and sub-TDE zombies, I’ll take inconsistent originality over meticulous mimicry every time.
Russ dropped Silence on Monday. It’s not his debut, but it’s the first time where his vision has begun to come into sharp focus. The melodies stick, the flows are unpredictable and passionate, and his voice has a scraped-raw quality that’s immediately distinctive. He even sticks the landing on a reggae duet with Colie Budz — an idea that would sink the less talented. I hesitate to hype it too much, because I sense that better things are soon on the way. But there are some very good songs from a searcher who refuses boundaries.
In the interest of understanding the interesting, I asked him a few questions:
You have a song called 90s babies on your new record. What are your five favorite things about the 90s that no longer exist in 2014.
MJ was the one. Oregon Trail was thaaaattt game. Parachute day in gym was excitement at its finest. Gettin the new pack of Pokemon cards got very real. Heads Up Seven Up made you realize who the real ones in the class were.
If you had 24 hours to live, what would you do (answer to this must be different than Black Rob/and Jadakiss/Mase)
Do as much stuff with my family and friends as possible
If you could invite anyone, dead or alive, to your dinner party (eight person capacity), who would it be?
Jim Morrison, Tupac, Steve Jobs, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Eminem
Vice of choice
Best advice anyone ever gave you?
I don’t know if i can pick the best, but something that has stuck in my head is what my music theory teacher in high school told me. I was saying something about “I don’t know about going to school for music and putting all my eggs in one basket” and he said “russell, just make sure you have a basket.” Its always stuck with me and made me go confidently in the direction of my dreams. Mr. Spraggins came thru with that truth.
Qualities you admire most in a person.
What Would You Be Doing if You Weren’t Making Music.
I’d be in the NBA cuz ya boy has the high IQ and the nicest jumper in the country
Matrix (first one) . Complete mind fuck on what life is about to me.
Favorite Line from a Book or Poem
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” – Paulo Coelho (The Alchemist). That’s the realest book I’ve ever read in my life
Musician (dead or alive) whose career you’d most like to have
Mine. I love what i love but there’s no one id rather be than me.
Least Favorite Trend in Music.
How did you arrive upon the album title, Silence?
It’s not a conceptual album as far as substance, but I’m trying to give people a message through the title. People need to turn their shit off sometimes. People need to operate off of silence. The album is the sound of that silence. That Namaste shit that I want to operate in. It’s something that’s happened to me in the the last year. At 17, I was really into Napoleon Hill and Deepak Chopra. I’ve always been trying to get in tune with the universe, but more recently, I zenned the fuck out. You grow. I’m 21, you’re supposed to grow and be smarter. I just want to continue doing that.
How would you want to be remembered and what would you want people to take away from your music?
Great music. truth. real soul. i want people to take away a message of self empowerment and self belief to do whatever it is that you truly wanna do.