A One Listen Album Review
I remember the first time I heard Ruslan with theBreax. That’s a group that was out of the box for me at the time in regards to creativity and innovation. I felt like they were kinda paving their own way. Now, years later, Ruslan is (still) a bright spot in a culture that can sometimes be unoriginal. Bearing witness to how he interacts with fans and is so knowledgable about the industry on vlogs and other social media, you see a guy who cares about educating and fostering the next generation. He’s a terrific example of someone who is Kingdom minded, and it’s incredibly refreshing to be lead by someone like Ruslan. Christian Hip Hop is not dead, and it’s because of hard work put in by people like Ruslan KD.
Anticipation Before Pressing Play
Needless to say, I was anticipating this review for weeks. Indie Jones II presents well before you hit play. Ruslan is standing on the front with neon lights glowing behind him, his garb reminiscent of the actual Indiana Jones. There’s already something about it that feels fresh. Let’s just hit play already.
Track One is entitled “Dozen Intro,” and a beat rolls in with some claps and a raspy vocal sample weaving through it. The beat is laid back, and Ruslan’s first rap of the album is full of candor and personality. Some chuckles in the background and he’s trying to match vocals at the end. Light hearted but a very solid opener.
Straight away on “Time To Go” Ruslan is in with a flow. Topically, he’s talking about how he shoots it straight and tells it like it is. “He didn’t come all this way to play with you” and he doesn’t just tell you, he shows you. The writing is full of wordplay… he rattles off some double entendre lines using the word “back” that are bonkers. I won’t quote it here because I don’t want to ruin it. The beat is unorthodox, and there’s a chipmunk soul sample that’s very prevalent throughout. It’s dope.
On Point Production
The bass lines on this album are crazy. A lot of movement. I’d be surprised if some weren’t programmed and were played by a musician in the studio. “Cool Guy Raps” is a track talking about things in the culture that are popular to talk about. Ruslan’s confidence and charisma leaps out of these songs. There’s so much personality on these tracks and Ruslan is so personable it’s like he’s sitting across the table from you.
RG continues his impressive run with a feature on “Cold Flow.” Of course RG comes with the best hook of this young year. “Been through hell and back and the flow’s still cold.” The instrumental lays an almost eerie bed of strings and samples with big bass, and Ruslan’s flow is on point. He even switches up his tone and digs in a bit later in the track.
“Cali boy but colder than the winter of Lake Michigan.”
“Like That” – At first glance, this was the track I was looking forward to the most. I haven’t heard much Jon Keith, and Derek Minor is usually a boss on a feature. The keys here bring you in slowly, with cymbal swells as the beat drops. The music on this track is intricate, with samples layered over samples. Mixing a track like this seems like it’d be quite difficult. Making all of those samples sound like they belong together could make that instrumental feel disjointed, but it’s so fluid there’s nothing that distracts. The raps on this track are fire too. Everything here is above the bar, and so far this project is off the charts.
Track 6 “Back Against The Wall” starts with a hook and brings in a slower beat. This beat is easy and chilled out, but Ruslan absolutely spazzes on it. The juxtaposition of that seems very intentional though. He starts his flow with a melody and to increase dynamic as the song progresses, he takes you somewhere. The construction of that alone works hand in hand with the concept of the track – paving your own way, rebelling against the status quo.
“Money’s gonna come we gon’ make it through/if they never had a doubt then they never knew/ that the kid doesn’t follow the rules cuz he’s supposed to.”
Intentionality Is Important
This is the point where I have to talk about Ruslan’s intentionality with creating art. Intentionality is a huge value of mine. When it comes to how I operate on a day to day basis, and when it comes to how I interact with others, I am an intentional person. To see intentionality behind everything that Ruslan does is so refreshing for me. He’s not just throwing songs at random onto an album and then handing them to you… he crafts them and packages them like gifts. He cares about the transitions between and he cares about the direction, because he cares about the listener.
I felt a slump on this album, just because of a break in energy… but man it was cool to feel like Ruslan anticipated that, and so he paired 3 songs together (Back Against the Wall, Hyena, and Wrong Time) that worked for that section of the project. The third switched up the beat at the end to take us somewhere. He also chose a song out of this section to be the first single, which was brilliant as well.
“Hyena” is a great track on it’s own. The choices Ru makes in production and tone throughout keep intrigue and that hook is extremely catchy. That beat is very similar to the previous one though, and “Wrong Time” even begins with a similar vibe. In the context of an album full of big beats and uptempo vibes, it’s just easy for the listener to slump in this spot. I’m not knocking the songs necessarily, I’m just saying there’s a chill spot in this record and it entails these three songs. I can’t help but think that Ruslan knew this, and it’s navigated to perfection. This is a perfect example of intentional album flow and it’s awesome. The song “Wrong Time,” while it begins with that similar vibe to the previous two, there’s some layers added, as well as a switch in the beat to 6/8 in places, which provides a ramp out of the slump.
Track 9 is “Winona’s Song” and it’s a story about addiction and redemption. The beat is full-on 6/8 and Ruslan bobs and weaves with this beat seemingly effortlessly, while still maintaining natural inflections in his voice. Again this feels like a conversation. Mannywellz kills the hook, a John Legend-like vibe, and the performances here I feel are the best on the entire project.
“Paul’s Dime” plays like an interlude, and throws back to the theme that was introduced in the intro of the album. Ruslan jumps in with his least polished flow here, but keeps intentionality around the tone he chooses.
“Never posing like I’m closer to Jesus/ But He chose to move in and I don’t think He’s planning to leave us.”
The final track is called “Bring Me To Life.” The beat is quintessential West Coast. Think “Richie Rich: Pillow.” Once more, Ruslan is solid in candor, and as the track progresses we move into a heartfelt prayer, with emotion in his voice. We then close the book on Indie Jones II with a reciting of Romans 12. A terrific song to close out the strongest project of 2018 so far.
To conclude, I was thoroughly impressed by this project. It sounds original, the content is challenging, and the intentionality behind every decision is glaringly evident. It’s artists like Ruslan who will be advocates for creative change in the CHH culture. Thank you Ruslan for this breath of fresh air.
Overall Rating: Above The Bar