Which came first, the hitmaking or the hate? When it comes to prolific Atlanta-based rapper, singer, and producer Russ, it really depends on who you ask. For a portion of his eventual converts, their introduction to the multi-hyphenate star came via a series of interviews he gave in the wake of his breakout 2017 album There’s Really a Wolf, wherein he admonished the music industry for its indulgence in gimmicky backstories and established relationships, wondering openly why he wasn’t a bigger star. The attention would only help grow his legend, however, and the singer continued to appease fans new and old with his unique brand of R&B melodies and cocksure storytelling on ZOO, his 13th official project. For his 14th, though, one that comes on the heels of the viral hit “BEST ON EARTH,” Russ has yet to let go of the underdog mentality and he’s still coming for his props. In one regard, SHAKE THE SNOW GLOBE is a celebration. Album opener “NEED A MINUTE” is about taking the time to appreciate how much life has changed since fame. Songs like “GUESS WHAT,” and “A LOT MORE,” and even “CAN’T GO ON” itemize the many creature comforts his success has afforded him. But there’s also an edge—Russ needs listeners to acknowledge that he has yet to fully receive his due. “I want roses when I’m living, not just roses when I die,” he raps on “GUESS WHAT.” Russ the romantic pops up on songs like “ALL TO YOU” and “I THOUGHT YOU GOT ME,” which features an uncharacteristically vulnerable BENNY THE BUTCHER. And then there’s the Russ of “ASSHOLE,” the singer admitting, “People tell me I’m an asshole/Tell me something that I don’t know.” Elsewhere, SHAKE THE SNOW GLOBE boasts guest spots from longtime collaborator Bugus, Rick Ross, and Devin the Dude, the latter two sounding as if they’ve amended their styles ever so slightly to better align with Russ’ sonic template. These performances, along with Benny’s, are enough to give credence to the many claims Russ makes about finding success on his own terms—like the one he makes on “A LOT MORE,” rapping, “I think I finally understand why they hating it/I beat the fucking game without playing.”

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