Russ: “Belgium’s always been fucking with me. Antwerp especially.”
With over 119.000 followers on SoundCloud, almost 61.700 likes on Facebook, a sold out concert of an 1.100 people’s worth venue on a Sunday evening, and about 3.000.000 views of his last two released videos on his diemondotcom YouTube channel, Russ is “finally blowing up”. And that is, to quote him from the interview below, “long overdue”. Russ has been releasing 76 tracks on his SoundCloud in the last year only, mostly with one week intervals between releases. It’s almost as if one your favorite series has been going on for years straight… You could try to remain calm about this man, but we advise you go check out what might easily become ‘Your Favorite Rapper’. But of course, you’d want some proof that the man’s a nice and hardworking guy… an interview you say? “Okay, let’s do it.”
Interview by Nathan Wittock, editing by Hendrik Wittock
James Brown holds the title of hardest working man in show business but we think you might be the hardest working man in hip hop right now.
Russ: Thank you.
You have 76 tracks on your SoundCloud, mostly with one week intervals between them. How do you manage to keep up that tempo?
Russ: I think it starts with that I’m super self-sufficient when it comes to the studio. I don't have to call anyone to get anything done. So, it's super easy for me to make songs in that sense. I think a lot of artists who are thinking about making a song, they're thinking, “Ok, where do I get the beat from? Who's going to record it? Who's going to mix it, who's going to master it?” To me it's just like, I do everything. So, you know, maybe the idea of making a song, I think, is more fun for me than most artists because I know that, “Oooh in an hour I get the entire thing done!”
In one of your recent songs, the song ‘Manifest’, you kind of seem to be talking about the journey you're going through. And to use your words, how you're finally blowing up. How does that feel to you?
Russ: It's weird. It doesn't feel like it's actually happening, cause I’m the one in it. So, it's kind of like this surreal fog, or just like "what the fuck", you know what I mean? Cause, obviously, this show tonight is like 1100 people. Sold out! The universe is funny because, as fast as you want anything to move, everything comes a day at a time. So when I was seventeen and this was happening, if I made my first song and the next day I’d be doing an 1100 people sold out, it would be cool as shit. But because everything happened so gradually for me - like it wasn't overnight - it just feels more like, "Yeah! It's about time!" It doesn't feel like, “Oh my god what the fuck is this?” My mind is already on doing arenas and shit. it's fucked up because I should be embracing the present.
It feels like there are three fragrances of Russ. You have the smooth things like 'Losing Control' and 'Someone To Drink With', and then you have the tongue-in-cheek stuff like 'Don't Waste My Time' and things like that, but then you also have these more in-your-face beats like 'Yung God' and 'I Can Tell'-
Russ: Yeah right, and like 'Pull The Trigger', would you put that in there?
Russ: That's interesting…
Tour manager: I love that.
Russ: Yeah me too.
Do you know how the song's supposed to sound when you make it, or is it something that comes natural to you, during the process?
Russ: Yeah um, I know what I’m trying to do, you know what I mean? But I don't break it down into categories like that (laughs).
Yeah but you don't have to draft up interview questions of course…
Russ: Yeah right! I know what I’m trying to do, I know like, “Ok this is going to be some shit that is for the girls”, or whatever. It really starts with, “This is what I want to do. I know I’m going to fuck with this.” Sometimes I feel like doing that smooth slowed down shit like 'Losing Control' or 'Potential', and 'In Between', and sometimes I feel like turning it up and doing 'Too Many' or 'Waste My Time' and 'Do It Myself'. But then sometimes I just feel like giving you bars, like 'Pull The Trigger' or those freestyle things on each album so um yeah… But then sometimes – (suddenly realizing something) you forgot a category. There's also this like super, super personal things like 'Goodbye' and 'Titanic' and 'Gypsy' and... The shit that's like mad personal.
Would you include 'Single Parent Anthem' in the last one?
Russ: Yeah, ‘Single Parent Anthem’ would be in that last one too for sure. You know, that one didn't work as well as I thought it would work. I thought that shit was going to be huge for single parents. It wasn't. I remember driving it and it still wasn't doing as well as the ones I did previously and I was like how is this happening?
Perhaps it is because it's so personal?
Russ: Yeah for sure, it's such a specific thing yeah.
In 'Favorite Rapper' you rap about how you wanted to be our favorite rapper since you were 17. A rather more classical question: who were your favorite rappers and how did they inspire you?
Russ: Yeah, growing up it was Eminem. Yeah Eminem and 50 cent, when I was seven, which was my first stop in hip hop. But you know, now it's like Drake, it's Kanye. I go through phases with rappers. There was a time when I was a super big J.Cole and Kendrick fan, like earlier, before they blew up. But I’ve always been a Drake fan, always been a Kanye fan. There was this phase where I was a massive Lil Wayne fan. Yeah, I go through phases. But Drake and Kanye, they always had a stable - like consistently… I always fucked with them.
A lot of people admire the thing you do. Which is your DIY process. But what a lot of commentators forget is that you tend to give everything, ‘the fruits of your labour’ if you will, away for free.
Russ: For free, yeah (laughs).
What’s your motivation to do so?
Russ: For me, the whole goal is to get the music to as many people as possible. I knew that if I was putting out these songs, and only making them be on iTunes and that's the only place you can get them, I was going to lose a lot of people. My stuff is on iTunes so you can buy it if you want, but it's always going to be for free. I mean, you can get my shit for free regardless, so… I just want my music to be accessible to the most amount of people as possible, that's the whole goal.
And it pays off because your concert on the other side of this planet is sold out.
Russ: (excited) yeah man 1.100 people in Antwerp! Man, let's get it!
Final question for me, and some stats to add with that… You have 119.000 followers on SoundCloud…
You have 61.633 likes on Facebook…
Tour manager: That's crazy…
And, of course, the concert today is sold out. So, how does it feel to know that so many people on the other side of the planet came out to see you here?
Russ: I think it's bat shit fucking crazy. I think it's not going to hit me ‘till I walk out on the stage, you know what I mean? It's like... FUCK, 1.100 people! The only time I’ve done a venue this big is when I’m opening for someone. Belgium's been fucking with me though, and especially Antwerp. It's a fucking mind fuck. It doesn't even make sense, it's absurd. It's the biggest show of the tour.
We'll definitely enjoy it.
Russ: Ow, you guys are coming right? Sick.
Of course, and to give you an idea, we were here a couple of hours earlier and there were already people standing outside.
Russ: Jesus Christ, what the fuck?!
Tour manager: That's surreal.
Yeah, eating cookies and sitting on the ground like “We want to be there up front!”
Russ: No shit! Fuck me... Epic.
Even more epic was Russ’s concert later that night, following a more than convincing performance of the opening act K1D, whom we’ll be sure to follow in the months to come too. As part of a perfect story, the girls who had been waiting outside four hours in advance got their wish too. They entered the venue screaming and rushing toward the front of the stage… well earned. To those of you who don’t know it yet, and to quote another one of his songs, “hold on I’m coming to the rescue”. Thanks for the evening, Russ!
Special thanks to Trix Antwerpen for making the interview possible.