I have long been a fan of Russ Shanks, and so I was eager to hear his latest effort titled Supremacy. Russ is never flashy, yet he raps with a skilled subtlety that forces the listener to be very attentive in order to catch the meanings in his bars. On the track Dragon’s Lair Russ enlists the help of fellow emcee Sho, who delivers these lines “Is he a Christian Rapper? I’m an emcee…” and “[There’s] No writer’s block when coming from experience.” These sum up the approach Russ takes with this project as he tackles topics such as police brutality, racism, false piety, enduring in the faith, and much more. Not to be outdone Russ counters on the second verse of Dragon’s Lair when he says, “Who cares who’s the best, I let my bars do the arguing,” and his bars definitely do some litigating over the 14 track album.
The first track Let’s Go has Russ showing off what he calls “holy trash talk” as he intertwines showing off his rap skills with giving the listener gospel tidbits. This is where Russ shines because his braggadocio is toned down by his constant insistence that it is only because of God that he even has the ability to rap. Random is pure Hip-Hop with a nice verse from SheFlowz, a female rapper who I have to admit is pretty sick on the mic even though I bump heads with her from time to time. This track is probably one of my favorites, the beat is nice and the flows are on point. The next track is Love High, it is a good song, but at the end of the day it is the generic Hip-Hop love song you’d find on most rappers’ albums. Russ gets socially conscious with Rigged as he explains how the system is rigged against blacks. This track has some teeth to it as well as wit, Russ raps “I can’t knock you off your high horse it’s too tall for me to mount, so I take the gloves off and punch the horse in the mouth.” There is nothing deeply lyrical in the line, but the angst, the anger, the frustration it expresses is enough to warrant a shout from those who share his exasperation. Take Off That Tie is excellent, honestly it is beyond just being a good song, it has a powerful and poignant message; he addresses false appearances and arrogance in ministry. I could write a whole piece dissecting the track, but I’ll just tell you to go listen for yourself.
Enough Is Enough addresses the current issues in America surrounding the numerous shootings of young black men and women by police. No matter your views on the issue Russ’s heartfelt call for communities to unite and fight against injustice is worth listening to and considering his perspective. The lovely Kyla Simone offers some nice vocals on the track as well. I’ll go ahead and plug Kyla and SheFlowz radio show the Thirsty Soul Radio Show on www.thirstysoulradio.com every Wednesday and Friday 8-9pm ET, they play a lot of great Christian Hip-Hop. Anyway, the next track is Dragon’s Lair but I’ve remarked on that above, it is followed by Dreams. Here’s the thing about Dreams, it is a very smooth and laid back track, and I like Russ’s telling of his journey in the rap game, AND I’ve accepted that he always does at least one song with MLiK. I’ve concluded that MLiK is Russ’s Birdman, he’s not that great of a rapper, but he has supported and walked with Russ through his journey, and you got to ride with your homies no matter what, that’s how the game works, I know it well. So MLiK much respect to you for holding Russ down, and you know what, it’s still a decent song.
Use Me is another good track with Russ calling on God to use him for his purposes, really nice flows, really good lyrics, overall just a solid track. Russ boldly proclaims his intention to continue spitting dope rhymes and doing the Lord’s work on the title track Supremacy. “Four albums deep, multi award winner, some felt it undeserved but I’m not a sore winner,” in case you were wondering how Russ feels about his body of work he ends the speculation on Supremacy. The next track Exile is pretty decent, although it could have done without the auto-tune. Russ delivers some nice verses expressing his feelings of being ostracized for his faith, but also being shunned by the church at times because of his style of worship and being a rapper. Javon Inman as always shines with a great performance at the end of the track. Monster is a cool track mostly because of the musical progression, it would have been nice to hear Russ change up his flow as the music changed. Out on the Edge is another great Hip-Hop track with great performances from all those involved. The final track Fun With It brings a nice and warm feeling conclusion to the album. Russ raps:
“Dudes was killing the game but now they lost their weapons//acting ashamed of honed skill like it’s a scarlet letter//but people soak in whatever they seem to toss together//I’m at the table with kings eating on Hasenpfeffer.”
Look up what Hasenpfeffer is and you’ll know why the line is dope. These bars sum up the album and its title. Supremacy is Russ Shanks letting folks know that he’s not just playing the game, he’s running it, and there’s more to come. Great production and artistry results in a great project from Russ, some weak points cause it to drag at times, but overall it is a solid effort. Definitely grab you a copy from iTunes, Google Play Music, or Spotify.