The up-and-coming hip-hop artist Russell Vitale, known as Russ, dropped his album "Zoo" on Sept. 7. The project by the Georgia native follows his debut album "There’s Really a Wolf," which went platinum early this year.
Russ tweeted a thank you to his fans before the album was released explaining the album title.
"New life is a zoo. It feels like constant contained chaos. Whether internal battles, family issues, industry bullshit, etc. And dealing with everything while everyone is watching is beyond stressful. This album feels like me not caring about keeping it together anymore. Music is my only hope to not go completely insane," Russ said.
It is clear from the lyrical content why Russ relies heavily on music to ensure his sanity. Throughout the album, tracks like "Parkstone Drive," he shares intimate struggles with his family, detailing his parents’ divorce and how his newfound fame changed their family structure.
The artist shares with fans how his parents’ separation was discussed, but was only able to come to fruition now because of his financial success. The artist boasts of his close relationship with his mom, for whom he recently bought a house, but shares how he never thought it would be under such circumstances.
While Russ celebrates his newfound fame and wealth on several tracks, he makes it clear that not everyone is his fan. The subject for ridicule on the internet, Russ addresses this hate several times in tracks like "The Flute Song" and "Outlaw."
As an artist who prides himself on producing, mixing and engineering the music he releases, Russ has expressed his unhappiness with the current state of the music industry and media outlets, which have not been supportive of his work. On the track "Kill Them All," not only is his discontent made clear, but he also expresses his dedication to topping the charts and competitive attitude toward other rappers.
However, this focus on his obstacles detracts from the positive persona often seen through his interviews and social media messages. There are several uplifting songs to back the positive message he sends. In "Parkstone Drive," Russ spreads an encouraging message.
"It rains sometimes even when it shines / Don't give up," Russ said.
"Zoo" keeps with Russ’s style of mixing smooth R&B beats with modern hip-hop trends. Leading up to the album, the artist released several singles, none of which were significantly successful. This lack of success could be due to Russ’ do-it-himself attitude and lack of features or artist collaborations, giving way to the critique that his work lacks dimension. The 14-track album has only two songs with features by Mahalia, Rick Ross and Snoop Dogg.
Russ’ sophomore album made it through the weekend without significant appearances on the top charts, but will hopefully gain popularity with greater exposure.
Overall, the album is fun to listen to, has a good balance of mellow and upbeat tracks, and allows for an intimate peek into the rapper’s life.