Russ scored a platinum plaque with his 2017 debut album There’s Really a Wolf entirely by virtue of his own artistry. The project is void of guest features or the help of outside production, just another symptom of Russ’ disinterest in operating outside of his own terms. That includes the whole being-a-rap-superstar thing.
“I’m not obsessed with the idea of doing what you’re supposed to be doing when you’re a rapper,” Russ tells XXL. “Walking around with cash that you haven’t even provisioned for tax. Spending all of your time in the designer store to create some weird impression. I’m not interested, bro. I just like making music and that’s it. I like making songs and playing 2K [laughs].”
Russ may sound nonchalant about his success, but it’s something he’s relentlessly worked toward for several years now, hitting the studio every day as he perfects his tight brand of lyricism and smooth crooning ability.
With plenty of tracks in the stash and the first leg of his I See You Tour coming up in a few weeks, the Georgia-bred rapper recently took some time to chat with XXL about Drake, dealing with the media, misconceptions about his approach to music and his new album—which will, in fact, include features and production from folks other than himself.
XXL: Congrats on There’s Really a Wolf Going platinum.
You produced the whole thing yourself.
Absolutely. Yup, produced it, mixed it, mastered it, wrote it—whole shit. Solo dolo.
Do you plan on changing any of that for your next project? If you do, who are some producers you plan on working with?
Scott Storch [laughs]. How many songs I put out with him? Five or six, already. We have a super-good chemistry. So we’ve been making a bunch of shit. He’s definitely on the new album.
How’d you and Storch first link up?
His people emailed my manager. I didn’t really believe it, ’cause it’s like, Scott Storch is one of my favorite producers of all time. [He’s] pretty much the reason I started making beats. So, pretty nuts. Then we linked up, went to his spot in L.A. and started building from there.
Would you say there are some stylistic similarities between the two of you?
Yeah. I think Scott Storch is a really musical person, obviously, and I think my style meshes well because my style is musical as well. There’s always a melodic aspect to it.
As far as the whole do-it- yourself approach, it also goes for your rapping. Are you looking at putting any guests on your new album?
Yeah, I got some features on the new album. That’s the thing: I’m not opposed to working with people. I’m just not one of these people that feels the need to hop around the industry and get this guy’s beat and get this guy’s hook. I never gave a fuck about that—at all. I do shit based off if I’m a fan of the music, period. If I’m not a fan of your music in real life, I’m not doing some weird politics shit based on the sake of politicking.
Sounds like you’re not someone who wants to force the issue.
Who are some of the artists you’re working with on the new project.
I can’t even tell you that. All I can tell you is, it’s fire.
On your There’s Really a Wolf track “MVP,” you rap about contemplating whether you should introduce yourself to Drake, who was in a neighboring room in an Atlanta studio you were recording in a while back. Have you met him yet?
Nah, I’ve never talked to Drake.
To me, Drake is like the ultimate inspiration, so, yeah. Drake is fire.
Why do you like him so much? Is it the whole singing-rapping thing? Him being a complete artist?
Drake is my favorite rapper. Whether or not he’s the best or whatever, all that shit is opinions. But to me, personally, that’s my favorite rapper right now. That’s been my favorite rapper for a good little bit. For me, he just pushes the fucking boundaries, just vocal execution-wise. Just doing the sickest shit on the mic. The craziest melodies, the songwriting is fucking nuts. I don’t know how you can hate on it. It’s fire.
You must be open to working with Drizzy one day. You’re a platinum-selling rapper and you could definitely get into contact with him. What’s prevented that from happening so far?
The universe does shit when it’s time for it to do it, you know what I mean? I don’t force anything. When shit happens, it happens.
Looking back to “MVP,” you rapped, “Only time will tell but I been feelin’ like it’s my time/How long you gonna keep a star player on the sidelines?” Which people or forces used to keep you on the sideline?
It wasn’t really people. It was more so like, when you’re trying to get on and you’re in your fucking basement talking to the universe like, “Yo, let me come through.” I wasn’t really talking about any people trying to hold me down or [any of] that fucking cliché-ass shit. I was more so like, “How long is the universe gonna make me wait to finally actualize everything that’s in my head.”
You’ve spoken out about the media in the past. What is your biggest problem with the media?
My biggest problem with the media is that y’all are gonna ask that question so you can use that as your headline [laughs]. That’s my biggest problem. [Laughs] ‘ If I answer that question you’re gonna say, “Russ says the media…” and that just continues this narrative of like, “Russ hates the industry” and “Russ is always talking about how much he hates the industry,” and it’s like, no, I don’t. Y’all ask me the same questions over and over again, then I answer it, ’cause I’m not just gonna not answer it. I think that’s why. I think the media is very manipulative, but you know, it’s fucking hilarious just watching people fall for the media manipulation. I mean, as you can see, there’s an interview from fucking two years [ago] that people are butt hurt about now, in 2018. It’s pathetic [laughs].
Looking at the timing of that interview, the way it resurfaced was confusing.
It was from two years ago. Two years. I just think it’s hilarious. It’s pretty hilarious to me. Like, I’ve been felt like that, bro. You just now decided to cry about it? Okay. And the only reason why is because the media chose—for whatever reason—to start spreading it around again.
So you’re saying that it’s your responses to questions from the media that created this idea that you’re anti-rap trends?
I think it’s this, bro: People need to understand, I don’t sit myself down on camera and write the questions that I ask myself [laughs]. People ask me the questions; all I do is answer them, and at the end of the day, because I don’t give these politically safe, correct, not-trying-to-make-anyone-angry-ass answers, because I just say the truth, like I’m talking to someone just in my basement, muthafuckas get burnt. And it’s like, whatever. Y’all just not used to people giving their actual, real opinion. The problem with this world is that anyone who actually gives the truth and their opinion is looked at as, “They’re hating.” No, I’m just giving my opinion and y’all are just fucking sensitive.
Recently that interview about your opinions on producers came back up and people went crazy. Did you expect that reaction?
I mean, I did the interview two years ago, so did I expect people to start crying in 2018? No. I wasn’t talking to any producers that I think are dope. I’ve already talked to a bunch of producers that I fuck with that saw nothing wrong with that. Like I said, I be going over to Scott Storch’s house every other fucking day. So he doesn’t have a problem with it. There’s a lot of producers that didn’t have a problem with it, because I wasn’t talking to them. I wasn’t talking about any of them. I was really talking about the vast majority of the production. But if you’re dope, I wasn’t talking about you. So if you feel offended, that’s on you. If the shoe fits then wear it. If you feel offended, you gotta take that shit up with you and yourself. All these people that are getting offended, I wasn’t even talking about them. But they got mad, so, maybe I was talking about them [laughs].
Getting back to your There’s Really a Wolf follow-up: How many tracks have you recorded for the project?
I’ve recorded a lot for the new album. That’s all I’ll say: I’ve recorded a lot. It’s all just kinda like a natural process. I just naturally record a lot of music. Not necessarily for the album, [or] for this [or] whatever. Ever since the first album came out, I’ve been recording [laughs].
At this point you’ve got a platinum-selling album and you sell out a lot of shows, but it feels as if you’re under-appreciated.
All I know is that I do what the fuck I like, I make the music I like and my fans fuck with it. Everyone else is kinda just like, on the outside. You don’t have to fuck with this, but I fuck with it, and have a whole bunch of fans who fuck with it. That’s the reality. I don’t need to do the whole, buddy-up-with-rappers thing and be on the scene. The whole, “Take this pic of me with every rapper I’ve ever come across in life.” I don’t be doing that shit. So I can like, play the game and make it seem like I’m way more on the scene and in the mix more than I am. To me it’s just wack. I just be doing what the fuck I want. I be minding my business, making my music, doing these shows and living this fucking fire-ass life.
How have things changed since you dropped your debut album?
I probably talk to people a lot less [laughs].
It’s just not much to talk about [laughs]. Nah, that was just a joke. In all seriousness, nothing’s really changed bro, it’s the same exact shit. I still have the exact same people around me. We still do the exact same shit; we make music, we chill, pop out, do these tours, go back home, make music. The routine has been completely the same.
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