Russ, Russ, Russ. He's the guy all your friends and faves love to hate. But, the more I think about it the more I wonder… is that warranted? There are worse rappers out there, and for what it's worth, his hair always looks properly conditioned. He does carry himself with the confidence of a jock in a high-school comedy, but that isn't really isn't any different than the sky-high arrogance your favorite rapper might exude. So, why do people love roasting him so much? Today, the Atlanta-based rapper stopped by The Breakfast Club for an interview that provided a rare look at the man at the center of the controversy.
Seconds in, Charlamagne asks the question of the moment" "I was wondering, like why do people hate Russ?" That, of course, prompts some self-searching, navelgazing, and general self-aggrandizment, the exact sort of stuff critics might take him to task for to begin with. But I wanted to solved the big questions once and for all. Why do people hate Russ? Does anything interesting ever happen in these marathon morning radio interviews? How does he get his hair to look like that? So, on behalf of Noisey, I sacrificed my morning to get down to these burning question, based solely on watching a nearly hour-long interview and not listening to a single second of his music: does Russ deserve the hate? Let's break it down, moment-by-moment.
[0:54]: "When I was coming up, I was and am, producing, mixing, mastering, and writing everything. I would say that all the time. For one, self-sufficiency is a message that should be put out there, you don't have to outsource everything. Two, I'm proud of it."
This reminds me of that Beyoncé documentary that was written, directed, and starring Beyoncé herself, which got a chuckle out of people. As a creative, shameless promoting yourself and the work that you do is hard! Downplaying your talents is not the answer, but does sort of dilute the message by making a huge deal of the fact that you did everything. Are you creating art for people to enjoy it or for people to enjoy you?
[1:36] "[People hate me because of] my stance on drug abuse promotion via Instagram and Twitter to the kids. People don't like where I stood on that."
The good thing here is that Russ knows exactly what it is that pisses people off and stands firmly on his stance about drugs. This isn't exactly a cause that should get him ex-communicated from hip-hop. But, on a scale of Logic to J. Cole, where does Russ fall? It's all about your delivery. There's a fine line between condescending, finger-wagging rap, and J. Cole's KOD, which sometimes felt like his version of a D.A.R.E. lecture.
[5:30] "I wore a t-shirt that said, and this is what really started the whole F Russ, you're making addiction a joke. The shirt said, How much lean and Xanax do you have to do before you realize you're a fucking loser. "
My only problem here is that he hesitated to say "fuck" both times. It's okay to curse, Russ.
[8:30] "On your Instagram, if you are sitting here and everyday it's, 'Yo, how do we make good content?' Okay, pour me up some lean. Let's pop a Xan on camera.. Now you're making a game out of substance abuse in order to gain notoriety. If you don't realize what it does to kids you're wrong and if you do realize what it does to kids and you're still doing it, you're still wrong."
This is actually how you hold celebrities accountable for their actions. Unfortunately for Russ, if someone else were making these claims there would be a real conversation had about the imagery some of our faves are portraying, but because his name is attached to it, in one ear and out the other.
[9:05] "In the culture that we live in, in hip-hop, I am going to be the bad guy because I'm not what's going on."
My personal opinion is that no one who calls themselves the "bad guy" is ever as interesting or villainous as they make themselves out to be.
[9:54] "My friends had to convince me to get a Twitter and Instagram."
Okay, so this is where the interview started taking a nose dive for me. It's not even a Russ-specific thing. Remember the kids in high school who acted like they were too cool for social media? They never were.
[10:58] "I got a chain made of the SoundCloud thing with the crown on it…the King of SoundCloud. Someone's gonna have to come talk to me about it if you feel a way."
The world could have gone without knowing this chain existed.
[12:27] "I did 40 kids in a basement in Glasgow, 100 kids here, 200 kids in Houston… I was touring every other month… and I was headlining it, no openers."
I would truly hope there were no openers for a rap show in Glasgow with 40 attendees.
[15:02] "You gotta go into the psyche of even idolizing booking agents. That's the thing artists are not on. Y'all are idolizing getting a chain from this rapper who might sign you and shelve you. I was idolizing booking agents."
Here we go. I think I'm beginning to understand the hate. It's very possible to co-exist with rappers who do this without needed to lump everyone in the same category. Building bonds with booking agents was an incredibly smart move, but can you blame people for having such a visceral reaction to your personality or music when you're the one perpetuating this "me vs. them" rhetoric.
[18:21] "You know what's really screwed up, is that y'all are the same people that will rob someone of their peace of mind when they're alive but when they die wish them to rest in peace. How are you going to wish that I rest in peace, but you don't want me to live in peace?"
People will probably not believe it, but there were some gems that Russ dropped in this interview. This being a poignant message, especially on the tails of Mac Miller's death. There's a weird groupthink mentality that causes the bandwagon of hating an artist, as they do Russ, and then have remorse when that hatred bubbles over.
[27:37] "I was voted Most Likely to Make a Teacher Retire."
His brags are unlike any I've ever heard before. I'm not sure whether that's a good or bad thing.
[35:48] "I didn't go to my prom, I didn't go to my homecoming… Even then, I was just like why are we doing this?"
So now we're prom-shaming people? Way to go, Russ! Prom was fun, you should have gone.
[38:02] "Y'all so obsessed with me, I've never even talked to y'all bitches."
Anybody else read this in Mariah Carey's voice?
[39:02] "At the end of the day, I'm not the tough guy online. I leave that for the WWE rappers, bro. I leave that for the rappers that think that because they have face tats and tote guns that we're supposed to be scared or something. Y'all are only scaring 14-year-old white kids who don't know any better."
I think I've hit the jackpot. Throughout this interview, Russ seemed like an OK guy. It's when he makes comments like these that cause me to raise an eyebrow. At multiple points in the conversation, he made it a point to say he doesn't speak or engage with a lot of his peers, so these are essentially sweeping generalizations based on his perception of them. That's fine. We all generalize and have inherent bias, but that doesn't make your message any more important than theirs.
[41:57] "You're not gonna catch me saying anything about a Kanye, a Drake, a J Cole, you're not gonna catch it… I'm going to have conversations in private but you're not going to catch me publicly putting that out there because I respect those people a little bit too much to do that."
I get where he was going with this, without those artists there would be no Russ. (Take that as you will.) But, that's also a poor way of holding our heroes accountable. Russ made mention of the "face tat, gun-toting" rappers, but how do we hold Kanye West accountable for his right-wing friends? How do we hold him accountable for a new friendship with 6ix9ine? Earlier in the conversation, he threw a shot to rappers who co-signed newer artists only to shelf them, but you don't want to speak ill of Drake? There's a weird inconsistency here based on appearances when his faves aren't without flaw either.
[43:45] "At this point in time if you mention Russ in a negative fashion on Twitter, you're bound to get more retweets."
No arguments there.
Forty-six minutes later, I still don't really see what all the hate is about. Do I agree with everything he said? No. Did he bring up some great points? Absolutely. My takeaway from listening to him talk for nearly an hour is that although he told his story, I still don't feel like I really "know" him. There's a seriousness to him, and for good reason, which leaves him heavily guarded. Throughout the interview, he only laughed one time and it was at a joke he made. It's not his cockiness that causes me to tune out, but it's the same condescending undertone that turns me away from Logic. It's one thing to carve out your own lane and to stand up for what you believe to be true. When doing that means you're throwing subliminals to what people perceive to be hip-hop, that feels like it undercuts your point. Just put it in the music.
Kristin Corry is a staff writer for Noisey. Follow her on Twitter.