Fresh off a huge 2021, which included his first number one single, VIPER caught up with London rapper Russ Millions on the set of the JD Christmas advert to talk about his upcoming project, collaborating with Popcaan and remixing Christmas songs…
What’s been the highlight of your year?
Probably ‘Body’ still, being number one for three weeks, going number one in the first place, the whole period of ‘Body’, 100%. Nothing’s beating that still, number one is too crazy.
Also you’ve been there from the start with the backlash of Drill music in the media, so with the first number one Drill song you were part of that change. Was that important to you?
Yeah 100%, I was happy that I was part of it, I was always doing Drill though, I was never gonna stop. I always had faith in it.
I respect the fact you didn’t compromise your sound to try to get the number one too, it was natural.
Nah I’ve tried other stuff but I was always gonna stick to Drill.
You managed to escape to Jamaica, what were you working on?
A few music adventures and just studio, chilling, planning because I’m working on my new mixtape, so just relaxing, doing a bit of music, meeting a few people and that’s it really.
When are you planning on dropping it?
Not this year, I’ll drop my project probably next year.
Popcaan commented on your picture, is there a collaboration on the way?
Maybe, you never know, you’ll see on my mixtape. You’ll have to wait and see.
Is there anyone that you can tell me you collaborated with?
I don’t wanna leak anything, you have to wait and see early next year.
Did you link up with Skillibeng?
Yeah we was with Skilli [smiles].
What draws you to the Jamaican music scene?
It’s the way I was brought up, I was brought up listening to Jamaican music, Dancehall, it’s just in me. My parents are Jamaican, it’s just a part of me, I love it literally. That’s all I listen to other than UK music, but I’ll be real, I mostly listen to Dancehall the most then probably a bit of American and a bit of UK music but Dancehall is at the top.
The production in Jamaican music is mad, were you linking up with producers out there?
Yeah I love it. 100%, I’ve got a few instrumentals from a few producers in Jamaica so I’ve definitely got a few plans for that.
You’ve got a lot of fans amongst women in the American rap scene, what’s your secret?
I don’t even know you know! [Laughs] I don’t have a clue, I think they just like my music, must be my music, I don’t know.
How did your ‘Big Shark’ video concept come about?
That was, you see that one there, that’s a mad story. That came about through some leaked DMs and then obviously I just ran with the concept, me and my team just said ‘fuck it’! Am I allowed to swear? Sorry for swearing. We just said yeah, let’s call it ‘Baby Shark’ but we couldn’t for copyright reasons and I’m not no ‘Baby Shark’, I’m a big shark so we changed it to ‘Big Shark’, that’s how it came about literally, let’s make a song about it instead of getting upset about it.
You could’ve taken that very badly.
The old Russ would have but I’m a big man now, I’m grown up.
Was that a natural thing where you were like fuck it I’m gonna play around with it.
Yeah cause I got a number one, it’s just people’s opinions innit! Can’t get upset, people are entitled to their opinions, you just gotta prove them wrong.
Visually that video was very different for the whole UK music scene, but it was different to your other music videos, very conceptual.
Yeah it was different to what I usually do, I had green screen scenes and outfits and some actors as well.
Did the director come to you with the concept for it?
I had a few treatments that I had to pick out of and out of them all. I liked that one the best. I wanted to try something different from the usual, like outside a warehouse dancing around a few girls and that. I wanted to try something a bit different.
You jumped on Buni’s track recently, is he your brother?
Yeah my blood brother, we’re tight. It’s more than music, we’re actually family; blood.
What’s it like to get in the studio with your family? What’s the difference compared to working with another musician?
I wouldn’t say there’s much difference when it comes to getting in the booth or rapping together.
Do you vibe better?
Yeah we’re brothers innit so we’ll naturally vibe together but when it comes to specifically going in the booth, I wouldn’t know because we naturally vibe together. Maybe because of that it makes it easier to make songs but it’s gonna be good vibes regardless.
You have your own label right?
I’ve got an artist and I’ve got my own label, one of a kind music. My artist YV, he’ll be dropping an EP very soon and then everyone will know about him. Hopefully everyone will enjoy the music, he makes lovely music, different to what I make, he don’t make Drill. He makes sort of singing, wavy kinda music.
I would be a bit surprised if you described Drill as lovely.
Nah Drill’s more like… but I don’t make the Drill that other people make. I make like party Drill, you can dance to it, I don’t make hardcore Drill or whatever.
Have you tried blending bashment with Drill?
I think because of how I am, it happens naturally so I would say yeah, I’ve been doing that.
How do you balance making music with running your label?
I’ve got a business partner.
What are your plans for the next year? You gonna sign more artists?
100%, I got a producer as well. My producer’s the one that made the beat for me and Buni, ‘So Exciting’, I’m looking into more producers definitely.
You shot the video in Jamaica, do you feel it’s gonna push the levels up when it comes to making future videos?
Yeah kind of, to a certain extent definitely. I have to keep it at a certain level, no going back. Gotta keep the bar high.
Do you have a bucket list goal?
I wanna get a number one album, or a number one mixtape. Some more number ones, literally. I need a number one album, a number one mixtape and some number one singles. There’s no stopping, still. That’s my plan.
Your next project is going to be a tape so when will we get an album?
I’ll drop a tape and then probably an album by the end of 2022 or the start of 2023. Definitely I’ll be ready, album mode, right now I’m in mixtape mode. After mixtape mode, album mode.
What’s the difference in your approach?
I always try to make my work better than my previous work so I’m just going to try and elevate naturally. Probably with my album, I’ll tell more of a story about my life and personal things.
In your Zeze Millz interview you showed a lot of sides to you that I hadn’t seen before, that made me even more appreciative of who you are as an artist.
Do you feel that by showing that side, a lot more people opened up to who you are on a personal level, not just as a musician?
Yeah I do actually, that’s why I feel like I should do some more work like that. This is probably only the second interview I’ve done.
Basically, yeah other than the Zeze Millz one.
I feel honoured, thank you.
I didn’t really do interviews but this one, I like this. This don’t even feel like an interview, it feels like we’re just having a chat. I like this still, this is cool.
Do you think we’ll hear some more reflective lyrics from you in future?
100%, that’s what’s gonna be on my project, you can see that stuff on my mixtape and album 100%.
Percentage wise, how done is it?
[Laughs] About 30% still but I’ve only gone into mixtape mode recently though. I had a crash recently, So if it didn’t have a crash, I would have been about 40, 45%. But I’m still breathing, God’s good. I’m still working, I’ll get back in the booth probably late this week. Then stay in the booth and work, work, work.
When you make a project, do you switch up the songs a lot, so maybe it’s 30% then you decide to add 10 more songs?
Yeah but not every song is gonna make it to the mixtape so I’m gonna have to do the track list and select from the track list so not every song I make is gonna make the mixtape. It’s one of those ones, keep making music and when it gets to the time, we gotta pick the best ones. What makes it makes it and what don’t, gotta stay on the computer until we find something that do.
Is there anyone you rely on to help you pick the tracks?
Shall I be honest with you? When it comes to making my music, it’s just me. Obviously I ask opinions and that and I take opinions but at the end of the day, it’s gonna be me doing it, I’m gonna get the
backlash so yeah. It’s just me more time but I listen to opinions and if it makes sense then I’m like, you know what that makes sense and if it don’t then I’m like, you know what let me just stick to my plan. That’s how it happens.
Has there ever been a song that your whole team wants to free?
It’s more the fans you know, my supporters. Fans are people like trolls and that, sometimes they’re your fans, they’re not here for you, my supporters, the ones that are really there for me all the time. They love all my songs but I don’t think there’s a song that I previewed recently that they don’t want, but they have favourites, like a song called ‘Back Seat’ and ‘Ring Ding’, they ain’t out yet though. They’ll be out soon though, very soon.
Has there been something your supporters have messaged you that meant a lot to you?
Yeah even the other day I screenshot it, but sometimes I don’t know if they’re just saying it or if they mean it. They’ll say your music helped save my life and stuff but I’m thinking, are you saying this because you see this on the Internet or do you really mean it? But I get messages like that, if they’re not joking and they’re being serious, that means a lot to me. When I read it, I just take it as they’re being serious but sometimes I think, are these people trying to pull my leg to make me reply? I get crazy messages but if that’s what’s going on and I’m really helping people in life, I’m grateful and I’ll continue to do so. If they’re puling my legs, they better stop pulling my legs, you get me?
Personally I feel like they must mean it if they say it.
Yeah but when I look at their accounts… but you can’t tell really, you can’t tell. Well if you hear this, you know who you are. Russ loves you.
You said you get crazy messages, what’s the craziest thing that’s not explicit?
Oh man! Oh not explicit? I don’t know man, I get crazy messages but I’m not sure. People say stuff like I’m their dad and that and they’re like big big people, just crazy things like that. They’ll be a big man, whole completely different colour, saying ‘Russ you’re my dad’, or ‘Russ can you do this for me?’ Just mad weird stuff, crazy DMs.
It’s a compliment I guess to say you’re their dad! It’s a bit weird.
Yeah, I’m like bro, you’re a big man. They might not be a big man but they’re like 18, 20. So just weird stuff like that.
What’s been the highlight of performing live again now shows are back?
Being able to connect with my supporters live in the flesh and partying with them. It’s not the same as virtual shows. You get to feel the energy, I love that.
Also you must still be getting a crazy reaction to ‘Body’ even though it’s been out for a few months.
I get to see how people act to it live, it’s crazy, it’s overwhelming. Sometimes I don’t even have to sing the chorus, they sing it for me. It’s immense.
How did you end up with Jack Harlow on the ’Body’ Remix?
You see Jack Harlow? That was more the label, they suggested it and we were like cool, that sounds like a plan, it makes sense. It was more Atlantic though, I’m not signed to Atlantic, Tion is.
You and Tion have such great chemistry, are people on your case to make a project together?
Yeah but right now we’ve both got things that we’re doing separately so nice we get through that, definitely we’ll be doing an album together.
What is your earliest memory of JD as a kid?
Probably seeing trainers that I wanted that I couldn’t get, that’s probably it. That’s the first thing that came to my head, seeing stuff I wanted but couldn’t get.
Are you making up for it now with your shopping?
I make up for it now still, if I like it I get it but yeah, I’ve always been a JD customer from young. Nike Tech, white Airs, the usuals.
If you could pick one thing from JD Sports that you would like under the tree this year, what would it be?
If you could only wear one pair of sneakers forever, which would they be?
White airs, you can’t go wrong. Right now, I’m not wearing white airs, I’m wearing dunks but white airs are my go-to’s.. Actually you know what, B22s. B22s and Air Forces are my go-to’s.
Have you always loved streetwear, if so what did you like the most as a kid?
Yeah always still, but I’m more of a jeans man than a trainer or jacket. Or shall I be honest, I’m a jacket man as well, but I’m a trainer man as well but I think jeans, more jeans, they’re my favourite. But JD don’t sell jeans I don’t think, they might sell McKenzie jeans or something.
Have you ever performed in jeans?
Yeah I only perform in jeans, well I don’t only perform in jeans but 90% of the time I’m in jeans. The only reason I’m not in jeans now is because I had like a five hour trip up here, it’s a bit mad really, I wanted to be comfortable. But I’m a jeans man more than tracksuit, I probably just wear tracksuit to studio or a long journey. I love jeans still, I’m a rockstar still.
You are, you’re a rap rockstar. When you were growing up, what did you like the most as a kid?
Trainers and then as I started getting older I started loving jackets. This is what happened, I went from trainers to jackets then jeans, I don’t think nothing’s gonna pass jeans. I’m recently starting to like hats, but it’s not gonna pass my love for jeans. Jeans are at the top of my list.
Could we ever see you suited and booted?
Yeah 100%, I may have something coming.
What was your favourite part about shooting the campaign?
The photo shoot, the modelling, this is my second time modelling. I’m learning.
What’s your tip for modelling?
It’s not as easy as it looks but it’s fun still.
How do you keep your energy up on long days like this?
Red Bull, I don’t know, just work innit. You gotta work. I’m cool right now, I’m not even tired, I’m chilled.
What’s a sure-fire way for someone to ruin your Christmas?
Me not dropping my mixtape in January. Pressure for the labels and the managers, Russ is ready to drop his mixtape, Russ is in the lab. But I don’t think like that, I’m trying to think positive, I’m trying to think who’s gonna make me happy this year, I might get a special gift. The best is yet to come.
Best gift you ever gave someone?
The best is yet to come, I don’t even know what I should get my mum this year, I’ve got her basically everything so far.
Is she one of your main inspirations?
That’s my world, my mum and my sisters and my nan, that’s my world.
It’s not Christmas unless this food is on the table? What are you picking?
Gotta have rice and peas, gotta have white rice, gotta have some curry goat, or chicken or jerk chicken, oxtail, you gotta have roast potatoes, roast chicken, you gotta have options, you know what I mean.
What’s your favourite Christmas movie?
Home Alone, a classic, you can’t go wrong. But you know I wouldn’t even pick one, two, three or four because they’re all good. The whole saga or whatever it’s called.
If you remixed a Christmas song what would it be?
I was gonna say ‘Jingle Bells’ but because of the music I make, I might have to get a mad sample for a Drill song. If I’m tryna make a smash hit, ‘All I Want For Christmas’, I’m gonna get that sampled and I’m gonna drop that near Christmas.
Interview by Lily Mercer
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