Russ is an American hip-hop recording artist, record producer, and singer-songwriter who is a part of the rap group ‘Diemon Crew.’ His father had a job which had the family travelling around quite a lot and hence, after being born in New Jersey, Russ travelled around with his family before finally settling down in Atlanta. He had a keen interest in music and rapping during early years of his life and that interest led him to start writing raps when he was just 7 years of age. By the age of 14, he had started making beats and just as he graduated from high school, he started recording his songs at the age of 18. He first built a steady fan following through social media interactions with his fans via platforms such as SoundCloud and YouTube. He also made his own website, via which he released some of his early tracks such as ‘Goodbye’, ‘Psycho’ and ‘Too Many’. In May 2017, Russ released his debut album titled ‘There’s Really a Wolf’, which debuted at the 7th spot on Billboard 200. The album was certified platinum by RIAA and launched Russ’ career with a bang.
Childhood & Early Life
Russ was born Russell Vitale on September 26, 1992 in Secaucus, New Jersey to a middle class family. He was born with an eye condition called heterochromia, which meant that his eyes had different colours. His pupil is much darker than the other.
His father did not have a stable career and he kept moving around the country to find better job opportunities. The family eventually got settled in a permanent home in Atlanta, Georgia after moving through places such as Kentucky, North Carolina and New York. Russ was 12 years old then and he got heavily influenced by Georgia’s culture, which was inspired by the country music. Although the rap music scene was also thriving there in those times, but country music was what Russ’ parents listened to.
His grandfather was a guitarist and he taught little Russ’ how to play the guitar and with that, Russ further got hooked to making music. As he grew up, he realized that he connected more with the more contemporary music, made by the likes of Eminem and Dr. Dre. He had already started writing poems by the time he was 7 years old. He later turned the poems into raps.
By the time he was 14 years of age, he had already started making his very own beats. He was in junior high studying in a school in Atlanta and he became locally famous owing to his music. He started looking for people to collaborate with on music, but he failed big time in the earlier stages. Eventually, just as he graduated, things started falling into right places and he came in touch with the right people, which kick-started his musical career at an amateur level at first.
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Around 2011, at the age of 19, Russ became highly determined to make music and formed the rap group named Diemon. Some of his friends belonging to the group were Bugus, Dartlin, Paulo, DJ Adam Golden, Musa and John Anthony. The name of the group stood for Do It Everyday Music or Nothing. Russ worked as the in-house producer for the group and also wrote rap lyrics while all other members either rapped or wrote or did both.
Now the local hip hop music scene was filled with new artists emerging everyday with their trap induced beats but Russ decided to take a different way through his music. Most locales churned out mix-tapes after mix-tapes and sold them on the streets and to the night clubs. Russ and his group took a slightly different route, which was more tech-savvy. The group created their very own website named Diemon.com. Subsequently in September 2017, the group created their very own YouTube and SoundCloud account and started posting their music there and made it free to download.
The group came out with their debut mix-tape in December 2011 with the title ‘Velvet’ and after this explosive beginning, they churned out many mix-tapes back to back. Working as a group, several rappers collaborated on each others’ singles and by the end of 2012, Diemon was a locally well known music crew. Russ made his debut as a rapper for the single ‘Corleone’, which was released on Diemon’s official channel in May 2012. Before the single first came out, Russ had already made a steady fan following owing to the success of his mix tapes ‘Velvet’ and ‘Apollo 13’.
As he created his SoundCloud account in late 2014, he immediately earned 5000 followers owing to the fact that he had released 11 mix-tapes already. What further made him different than all other new musicians on the block was the fact that Russ made his music free to download digitally. Russ was climbing towards the success fast with his slightly different approach to music. His core theme remained hip-hop but he also introduced cozy R&B induced tunes and sometimes, relaxing soul music to his songs, which made him stand out among the rest.
Slowly, many rappers from Diemon started pulling apart from the group as they started their own solo musical journies, Russ waited for a long time before he zeroed in on a label that would have done justice to his talent. Major rap publications wrote stories about them, printed his interviews and on the side, his YouTube and SoundCloud fan following kept growing by heaps.
After months of speculations, he finally joined hands with Columbia Records, the most successful record label in Georgia. He signed the contract in 2016 and immediately started working on his solo studio effort. His last mix-tape with Diemon was released in August 2014 and was titled ‘How to Rob’. In 2015, Russ released two singles under Columbia, titled ‘Losin Control’ and ‘What They Want’. Both the singles entered the Billboard charts and further created anticipation about Russ’ debut studio album.
The single ‘What they Want’, released in 2015 became the most successful of his singles till date and was certified platinum by Music Canada and Recording Industry Association of America. Another single ‘Pull the Trigger’ was a gold success as certified by RIAA. In May 2017, the album ‘There’s Really a Wolf’ was released and was an immediate success. It peaked on the seventh spot on the Billboard 200 chart and remained in top 5 of several other hip-hop and rap charts.
The album featured 20 singles in total and 16 of them were already released by Russ in the previous two years in order to build further anticipation for his album. The album sold more than a million copies and was eventually certified platinum by the RIAA.
Even after the release of his debut album, Russ refused to slow down and picked up a relentless pace with making music. However, his speed was not as fast as it was in 2014, when he was churning out a new single almost every other week. In 2018, he released some non album singles such as ‘Alone’, ‘Sometime’, ‘Basement’ and ‘Flip’.
Russ has Italian blood in his veins and he is proud of that. It showed in the lyrics and the music video for his song ‘Corleone’, where he posed as the Italian Don Vito Corleone from the cult classic film ‘The Godfather’.
Except the guitar, that his grandfather taught him, Russ plays a lot of musical instruments, which he taught himself to play.