Russ has been releasing music since the early 2010s, but with his 16th full-length album, the MC, producer, and songwriter is starting anew. “It feels like this is my debut album,” he tells Apple Music’s Zane Lowe. “In a sense, it is. This version of myself has never been heard.” On SANTIAGO, Russ pairs his clear-eyed observations about himself and his place in the world with music that shape-shifts and spins up into moments of beauty—orchestral flourishes and intricate fingerpicking, not to mention the nature sounds that bracket the album. If at times it resembles a hyper-stylized therapy session, that's no accident. “I did therapy in my studio on Zoom, right next to the mic,” he tells Lowe. “I would do therapy, and then turn to the mic. Literally, the album is therapy, straight-up.” Take the pensive “Fraud,” where Russ confronts his tendencies toward people-pleasing, asking himself questions like “Who am I if I'm not perfect?” and “Who am I if I need help but I can't ask for it?” The tension of Russ’ rapid-fire internal monologue is broken up by a stretched-out chorus that's almost soothing. “For a long time, starting in my childhood, I got my identity from helping and making sure everyone else was good,” he says. “Then when you inevitably can't save everyone, it's a threat to who you are. And I crumbled when that happened.” Russ’ tendencies toward people-pleasing began at a young age because of his chaotic home life. They persisted after he had grown, eventually extending to his relationship with his art and people who consume it. As his success grew, he became consumed by, as he put it, “chasing plaques.” “I became a slave to the perception of myself,” he says. “I leaned in because I didn't know where else to lean. I thought, ‘Well, this is a good identity. It's working.’ I didn't know any better. That realization is the one that's so hard. I couldn't have said that sentence two years ago because of the omnipotence—I always knew better. I always knew everything.” “I Love You Boy,” which traces Russ' life back to the days when he “grew up in an environment that was hostile and got wild,” grapples with this. “Omnipotence is the opposite of confidence,” he says. “All of that know-it-all energy was really from a place of insecurity, which is why [I wrote] that second verse, where I'm saying, ‘Supreme confidence, deep crippling insecurities’—it's such a vicious mixture. I had supreme confidence in myself, but I was deeply insecure internally with who I was and what I was supposed to do, and in true man fashion, you just act like you got it all figured out.” SANTIAGO presents Russ as someone who's piecing the world together in real time, finding contentment and beauty even in those moments when the process of looking for answers excavates painful and ugly truths. “I'm at this place in my life where I have the humility to understand that I don't have it figured out,” says Russ. “I'm trying to figure it out, and I'm trying my best. And I'm going to let y'all know what I'm doing to figure this out, and maybe it'll help.”

Select a country or region

Africa, Middle East, and India

Asia Pacific


Latin America and the Caribbean

The United States and Canada