Russ Vitale is a producer and rapper from the DIEMON crew, a collective of like-minded visual and musical artists. The acronym stands for “Do It Everyday Music Or Nothing,” and judging from the striking album cover (that’s an eye, by the way), I was expecting something really interesting and heady, if not a spectacular introduction to an unknown artist. Sigh. Straight From Limbo stands nowhere near a horrible effort, but the distance between his talents as a rapper and as a producer is quite puzzling.
Despite this being Russ’s third project, at least underneath the DIEMON banner, he still suffers from the incorrigible sameness regarding topical diversity that sets back rookie rappers. His remedy, although equally overdone, is to rap at a generally fast clip and sound like every bar was the best one he’s written, hoping that listeners rely more on his ability to flow than the other pretty important aspect. Sometimes he even sings, but its better to overlook that entirely.
The tactic works on the first track, “Straight From Limbo,” where he basically builds up a persona of sorts. Oh, he’s edgy! Oh, he might be mentally unstable! Oh no, he used the word “Devil” in his music! Then the songs tapers off as he pretends to “kill Katy Perry in [his] basement.” It’s such an out-of-left field road for the song to take, and a poor Eminem impersonation. After that, though, there’s nothing but fat blunts, fellatio and proverbial moneymaking on the topical roster. It gets old, and especially considering the 19-track length, it gets old fast.
But Russ’s saving grace, his surprisingly solid production, kept me vibing until the end. He may have a lack of things to spit about, but in terms of the musical bed, he brings a wealth of samples, high-quality stock drums and the ambitious drive to sculpt something with an undeniable groove. The sound on the title track felt like a lost Timbaland instrumental, with a synth line sauntering behind the hard-hitting, bass-rooted percussion, and the same applies for “Amazon” with the layered piano and soaring vocals under a funky drum pattern; the beat on “The Italian Job” has a choice guitar sample and classic MPC drums which follow the guttural rhythm of the bass. Aside from the overtly sunny beat on “Area 51″ and typical chillwave-esque drone on “Holy Trinity,” Russ successfully sculpted a moody, spacey palette that would have greatly complimented more diverse content.
OK, I guess for technicality sake, he does paint a rather vague yet sad picture of family problems on “Serenity,” detailing his mother’s stay in rehab, his newfound alcoholism, and his father’s failed attempts at keeping them together. It sounds genuine and immediate, but the fact still remains that it’s the fifteenth track. If he truly wanted listeners to consider his inner torment, he would not have layered it with his open love of chemical and alcoholic impairment on the latter fourteen.
I don’t want to slam the guy or anything, but Straight From Limbo is a disappointing example of misguided talent. It would not give me concern had he created speaker-destroying Lex Luger beats, because the context would be different. Russ thinks he’s the shit, as he states multiple times on the album. Well, he can try to mask the smell with his great beats, but until his lyrical game improves, the stench will persist.