Feature image courtesy of Russ

‘SANTIAGO,’ the new manifestation of Russ

By Jose Hernandez, September 19, 2023

Take a voyage along the emotional landscape of “SANTIAGO,” the long-awaited fifth studio album and triumphant return of artist Russ.

Released Aug. 18 through his own independent label, DIEMON, the album features a total of 13 freshly pressed tracks. Fans from all around the world were in a state of agitation after his nearly two-year hiatus following the release of “Chomp 2.”

Russ goes into this album with more to say than ever. Known for his braggadocios-melodic flow, he unexpectedly vents true emotions across the entire 13 songs. The tone of his delivery in each song rekindles emotions filled with nostalgia. The confidence within every song channels the solidification he has earned within his short span in the rap game. He speaks the language of true hip-hop artists. The amount of vulnerability manifested throughout “SANTIAGO” opens the deepest parts of his inner self. Fans are graciously hearing a version of Russ which never existed before, as he demonstrates a type of music that feels like a rebirth.

Curating a vibe with the darkest undertones of self-criticism, self-doubt and endless questioning of his existence in the rap game, Russ hides a smirk on the album cover despite all the physical pain he portrays within his wounded face while holding a nosebleed and a slashed wound across his red eye. Amidst the evident pain there exists a rejoicing because the other side of Russ’s pain, rings in optimism through the baby-blue hues and the gold ring on his finger; disregarding all the obvious suffering, he can still show everyone he’s finally made it.

The evolution of his musicality brings to fruition a revitalized version of Russ. Accepting one’s imperfections and understanding the beauty in one’s flaws, along with the feeling of acceptance of self. Russ boasts about the power of self and how validation exists within the eye of the beholder. Regardless of what pain and tribulations one may experience within life, one thing is for certain: it is never too late to turn the table destiny.

Within the album there are thundering symbols of money, fame and status. Russ claims there is plenty of manufacturing of wealth within the industry, and this generates a genuine type of confusion for artists and manipulates their perspective and focuses on what truly matters. He mentions avoiding living within a “fool’s paradise” and convincing yourself of being a part of a figment of your imagination, a façade.

In the album’s ninth track “Oasis,” Russ sings along with a dulcet melody featuring artist Bibi Bourelly and says he has tried everything else in life and may try to self-destruct. At this point in his career, the materialism he’s accumulated has only made him realize how meaningless it all is. Consuming alcohol and marijuana excessively shows him nothing but a tolerance for substances. Russ then mentions an “oasis,” describing a physical space where no one else can enter and everything feels as it is supposed to be. His cadence and calmness exerted on this track smoothly transitions each experience he has gone through while allowing the listener to witness a musically crafted marvelous feat.

This track combines the feelings of using drugs, being with countless women and ultimately feeling like there is no future in any of it. Despite all the success and materialism surrounding Russ, he feels like he’s figuratively slipping and falling with anxiety beating him alive while overeating. Living with excessive vices makes him fill in the empty void with food, and this plays a large part in the titular oasis he’s created for himself and brings the feeling of euphoric nostalgia. Regardless of what he does in his life, he’s validating his success through a platinum plaque. At least this is what he initially believed to be true, fast-forward to the present-day Russ ponders if materialistic gain will ever be enough?

“Enough” draws the audience in. Purposefully pushing his pen in a potent lyrical way, there’s endless depth shown in this track. He touches on the topic of high suicide rates and mentions how men suppress their emotions. Crying is viewed as lesser than a man with tattooed tears shouting a deeper cut lyric that exposes the pressures men face by keeping their emotions and internal thoughts to the grave.

Russ’s self-identity is constructed on the fact his rise to fame came with the price of losing his identity to substances and dealing with self-hatred while craving a new awakening. These nonstop bars hit the track at bullet-speed and bring forth the pain behind the words Russ uses and executes his message stylistically. I believe these evident truths embrace the challenges men must overcome and struggle with by existing in a world that seizes to forget how much empathy men are capable of feeling. The fact these topics are brought to light gives listeners a therapeutic type of grounding with each listen.

On “Fatima,” Russ embraces his exceptional melodic style by using enchanting melodies and thought-provoking lyrics to enrapture listeners and concludes with a permanent impression of Russ’s lyrical capability of how captivating a woman’s appearance may be. This romantic version of Russ’s lyrical talent shows a flirtatious and loveable approach executed perfectly. His appreciation of this feminine persona upholds the assurance he feels when being with her and thanks God he has someone he can call his “baby.”

The hooks on this track perfectly showcase Russ’s singing prowess, reminding fans exactly how easily he can switch his style up and give the track a run for its money. Multifaceted audial components can be found within the album. The element of wind repeats itself throughout the album and ends the track at the very end while organically morphing into the start of the following track, “Distracted.”

On “Empty,” the message is simple: being unable to escape the sadness and emptiness. His repetitive and the boom-bap beat with loud bass and snares exemplify the inner pain Russ explains through another shorter length track. Filling in the inner void with accomplishments, women and materialism ends up leaving Russ feeling withdrawn and neglected in countless ways. This emptiness leads to a spiral of confusion and shouts like a cry for help. At the very end of the song, it introduced the melody of “I Love You Boy,” reintroducing a refreshing spirit of optimism and closure.

On “I Love You Boy,” a fully vulnerable version of Russ creatively portrays his childhood memories in descriptive ways. Specific pain and screenshot moments highlighting wounds from his heart leaving him in “survival mode.” This depressing reality sets the tone of the song in a very somber way and increases as the second’s pass. The lifetime struggle of feeling he never had the validation from his father, he pursued the hip-hop industry to give him that form of validation. I believe this album serves as a personally written ode to himself and Russ repeatedly apologies to himself for his past mistakes. Reminiscing about his accomplishments and patting his ego.

Feature image courtesy of Russ 

Verified by MonsterInsights