Dollar signs, yeah I know, it’s what they want

Russ Vitale, simply known as Russ, is an American hip-hop/rap artist slowly emerging from the Atlanta underground rap scene who I feel is seriously underrated. Why I was attracted to his music was hard to figure out at first, and I realized, like every other artist, he was using his individual sound to openly talk about truths some people don’t see or understand. “What They Want” was first released in 2015 and garnered him attention for his blunt response to music labels.

‘Got a chick I call her Lola
She feels like the ocean
Plus she good at charmin’ cobras
I feel like I’m chosen’

There’s no denying these lines had a sexual representation, but they also held a hidden meaning about a girl that calms him and he can easily kick it back with. With this first verse he goes on to rap about the kinds of girls he’d be around and the way they change themselves, not for the better and he can’t really vibe with people who aren’t around him for the right reasons. He also bluntly and, in a cocky manner, raps about how the relationships he has with these girls get others jealous.

‘What they want, what they want, what they want
Dollar signs, yeah I know, it’s what they want
What they want, what they want, what they want
Y’all ain’t fooling me at all’

The chorus was simply and honestly written to blast the music industry for it being a shallow money sucker and controlling artists and their music career. The attention he was starting to gain as a rapper who made his own beats garnered label attention but he wasn’t blind to the possibilities he’d lose by being signed to one.

Big music businesses/labels have grown to be billion dollar business that dominate the market and the independent record labels; unfortunately when independent labels or artists make noise the big labels will swoop in to pick either one to control and gain the percentages from the sales. Russ is one of the many artists not blind to this kind of thing, aiming to make music for his pure passion for it and also gain from it in all kinds of ways possible.

‘I been at this shit for 9 years, now they starting to call
I’m a DIY pioneer, they tryna get involved’

Speaking in a Genius YouTube interview, Russ was blunt about his 9-year journey as an independent artist (through Soundcloud and his band, DIEMON, website) wondering when the big guns would see his talent and potential. He adds on that you never know the truth about music labels until you get behind the doors and all your hard will be tightly held on to. He dubs himself the DIY pioneer here to mean that he’s one of the few independent artists who keeps going through the hustle. Majority of this second verse portrays his ability to not give up and defend himself and his art when necessary, with a little ego stroking ‘Taking the shots like Kobe, almost 81’. His third verse goes on to talk about labels that fights over him have to be good enough, offer him a deal worthy of his art ‘It ain’t nothing personal, it’s business and I’m a commodity’, taking a line from The Godfather.

Russ, before the final chorus repeats, honours his grandfather and the stories he was told growing up. Like every single one of us, he looked up to him, referring to him as the boss, because of his strong character and daring things he’d do. He was, however, signed to Columbia records just last year, explaining that they understood his vision the most. I probably loved this song for its vibe at first, and the lyrics just reminded me why all artist, dancers, singers, rappers, visual artists, deserve respect. They are people who work blood, sweat and tears to express their thoughts, visions and emotions through their passions and to connect with society and should never be taken advantage of.

Ines Makuza
Ines is majoring in mass communication. She's a great singer, loves dancing, reading, writing and spending time with her friends.