Video: Levii Ru$$ell – “Mastermind”

As with great singers, sometimes the purest enjoyment that rap can offer comes from great technique. Often rap fans seem to demand substance over style (a perception perhaps made disproportionate by the blogosphere), forgetting that satisfaction can come purely as a function of observing polished craft at work.

Houston’s Levii Ru$$ell doesn’t exactly break new ground in his content, but his delivery is a draw in itself, a raw study in styles old and new, featuring feral Future/Young Thug-esque vocal explosions (though less melodically-inclined, so perhaps a bit more like Danny Brown), front-loaded bars that leave breathing room for the beat (reminiscent, for example, of Houston legends like Scarface and Bushwick Bill), and occasional changes in pace and detours off beat that show an awareness and subtle understanding of rhythm.

Ru$$ell doesn’t display the sort of breathless technical pyrotechnics employed by rappers like Kendrick Lamar or Tech N9ne, or the steady flow of a J. Cole; he does manage to craft a flow that feels both in deliberate and unhinged, wasting no space.┬áSome will complain Ru$$ell’s delivery is too simple, but simplicity can work wonders in the right hands. Now it’s a matter of latching onto the content that will elevate him as an artist.

(Steady Leanin)