Russ’ newest single (released November 13, 2020), pays homage to the classic BET show Rap City: Tha Basement. Russ brings along TDE’s Ab-Soul for a track that features the two artists rapping in a freestyle format. In the video, Russ also gets Rap City host Big Tigger (‘98-’05) to introduce the two rappers in a style that harkens back to the nostalgia the song is channeling. It’s a fantastic move on Russ’ part. He gets a feature out of Ab-Soul years after he tried to hit him up on Twitter and The Basement style video is the perfect venue for the two old soul spitters.
For hip-hop fans of a certain age, Rap City: Tha Basement was the shit. Between the years of 1989-2008, Rap City featured some of my favorite Hip Hop artists honoring the hallowed tradition of a freestyle. We see “freestyles” every day on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube but the feel of these modern iterations just doesn’t feel the same. They’re too crisp, too written, or they just seem fake. What The Basement did was present rappers in an improv-style element that felt organic even if it was staged. Just check out this freestyle from Dipset in 2009 so you can see what I mean. That’s real energy and real hip-hop on display.
That kind of energy is what Russ tries to channel into his new single with Ab-Soul. Let’s take a closer look at the track and the two verses the artists lay down for us.
Say what you want about Russ but the man can rap his ass off. In this verse, he name drops Robert Plant, Ariana Grande and Paul McCartney without skipping a beat. His confidence is always at 100 and that alone makes him endearing. At one point he says “This is Nipsey mixed with Kobe, yeah, I merge mentalities” and it doesn’t feel off-brand. When it comes to his actual flow, Russ is solid. He’s succinct and doesn’t mince words. His punchlines hit and then he’s onto the next line. In a song like this, it’s perfect. Fittingly since this is a freestyle inspired verse, Russ decides to take some shots at his haters. “You’re annoyed by my confidence, how beta of you//You didn’t feed your wolves, so now they ’bout to take you for food” You gotta love his confidence.
Ab-Soul is my favorite rapper with Top Dog Entertainment. As I was watching the music video though, I couldn’t help but notice this comment by a random Youtuber: “Ab-Soul is like that best friend you don’t see often enough. You trust that every time you meet and catch-up, no matter how long it’s been, it wont be awkward”. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Getting a new verse from Soul Brother number 2 is like waking up after drinking all night and not having a hangover. It’s a welcome and exciting surprise and as usual, Ab-Soul doesn’t disappoint. He gives us a verse packed with quotables and a flow that’s just as deadly as it was in his Long Term days.
Soulo absolutely destroys this verse in a way only he can. Ab-Soul’s particular style of rap is ripe for rewinds so I’m just going to use the space below to showcase my favorite lines.
- “I took a spoonful of the puddin’//The proof was put in, the truth is digustin’”
- “They want the old Soul, I can’t deny my ascension//They want the branzino, but they ain’t tryna go fishin’”
- “I had to enrich my sense without no money”
- “Been on me globally, from the omens I’ve spoken openly//Not ’cause I pose to be what they told me I’m ‘posed to be“
- “Mind over matter, respect the telekinetics//I move a mountain by the mile ’cause I said it//The rapper’s rapper, black-lipped pastor, the prophet, the God//Playin’ fetch with blank checks at the top with my dawgs“
- “Who want what? (Huh)//Nobody, I’m ’bout to go potty//That shit, I’m kickin it, but I don’t know no karate//No need for cold feet, I ain’t playin’ no hockey”
If the goal with Russ’ new single was to craft a song that feels like a Rap City: Tha Basement freestyle, he came through. Getting Ab-Soul on here was a great move and recording it with Big Tigger in the actual Rap Basement studio was a stroke of nostalgic genius. Regardless of how you feel about Russ personally, you can tell the dude is a student of Hip Hop and that should be commended. Songs like this prove how much he lives, breathes and loves this rap shit. I’ll give it an 8/10.
Written by Sean Curley
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