Russ is a 28-year-old rapper/producer who’s received a fair amount of hate over the years due to his huge ego and fake wokeness. Despite his three previous albums being mediocre at best, the New Jersey native has built up one of the biggest cult followings in all of hip hop today. Yesterday, he released a brand new EP titled CHOMP, which features Black Thought, Benny the Butcher, DJ Premier, and many more. Being the most star-studded record of his entire career, will Russ be able to deliver his best offering yet?
With all-time greats appearing on every single track, Russ’s illegitimacy as an MC is blatantly apparent. While I give him credit for trying his best at keeping up with Black Hippy’s Ab-Soul on “Who Wants What”, lines like “I own property and land, I’m in popular demand” feel nursery compared to everything else going on. This is a reoccurring theme as Busta Rhymes’s intense verse on “Line Em UP” rightfully dominates the track, which somewhat salvages it from Russ’s ear screeching and robotic hook. “Inside Job” is the vocal low point of the entire project as over a Premo beat, Russ comes off overly pretentious as he talks himself up as the best at everything he puts his foot in. Coming together with Griselda’s Benny the Butcher and The Roots Black Thought, “Momentum” is mere perfection as the two bring out Russ’s a-game for a beautiful track that will go down in infamy for its perfect blend of flare and introspectiveness. Despite his inability to spit remotely close near the level of these god-tier wordsmiths, I have little to say about the negatives in the self-made rapper’s performance. This is mainly attributed to Russ’s decent flow and charisma, which is all that’s needed to cover up his subpar songwriting on a handful of occasions. When it comes to the 28-year-old’s performances, “Stockholm Syndrome” is top tier as on top of the hard-hitting appearance from Slaughterhouse member KXNG Crooked, Russ delivers one of his most prolific verses to date. From flexing the ownership of his masters to using witty wordplay like “You fake Pat Beverlys, Always tryna shut down Russ”, there’s a lot to be admired here. With support from some of the illest MC’s alive, Russ is able to put together one of his most engaging journeys to date.
Sonically, CHOMP does not have a single dull moment. Off the rip, the self-produced “Stockholm Syndrome” is a perfect intro as its atmospheric trap beat is dramatic and tense at the same time. Even though “Who Wants What” is not as courageous as its predecessor, the background vocals’ intricacies are something to admire. Aside from Russ, we see some of the greatest producers of all time in DJ Premier, The Alchemist, and 9th Wonder on the final three tracks. Premo’s “Inside Job” is super nostalgic to the prime Gang Starr days with its raw woodwind section that masterfully plays over some standard boom-bap drums. While “Line Em UP” is just a typical Alchemist instrumental, 9th Wonder’s “Momentum” is a surefire candidate for beat of the year as its chopped up soul sample makes for a one of a kind angelic experience. With production that is so rich and intuitive, theirs no doubt this is the best-sounding record Russ has ever touched.
While it’s far from perfect, CHOMP is an awesome EP and Russ’s best project ever. Bringing in this illustrious talent pool didn’t just up each song’s quality, it challenged Russ to think out of the box and find new ways to transcend himself. Even when his artistic expansion falls flat, seeing something this unique and bold from a rapper known for being one dimensional is remarkable. Going forward, I don’t think Russ will get any better from here, but I would love for him to make this the first of many EP’s where he throws himself into a sub-genre he’s not accustomed to and challenges himself to work with some of its top names.
- Features dominant every single apperance
- A-list artists bring the best out in Russ
- Great production all around
- Russ’s ceiling is very low
- Russ brings down a lot of the tracks with awkward musical choices
Written by: Marc Dator
Scored and edited by: Marc Dator, founder and owner of Fantastic Hip Hop