Bar Exam: Ruslan – Indie Jones III (One Listen Review)
Today I’m reviewing the newest release from Ruslan, the incredibly creative and talented entrepreneur who is constantly encouraging and challenging the culture at large through his vlogs and innovation. Indie Jones III was released digitally on May 31st.
The bar exam is a sharing of notes from my true first listen to a project. I typically provide in-depth thoughts and commentary on anything from flows, rhymes, beats, creative direction, track placement, and concepts.
Intro – “Trying to figure out what the future means/then I had a real encounter with the future me.” An upbeat tempo on some keys and a flute sample lay a nice bed for Ruslan to flow on. He seems like he’s pondering life, and it all seems to be just a stream of consciousness. There’s a continuous flow to it, which sets this song up to be a nice intro.
Future Me – “Felt so low but when I talk to the future me I listen.” The beginning of this song is subdued, and the keys in the back are matching the pulse of his opening hook. Once Ruslan begins to flow, he’s got a hushed tone to his voice, and the drums are layering in. When the beat finally is in full force, so is Ruslan with some pretty technical rhyme schemes. This is some diaphragm rapping here, he’s really digging in. The next verse he couples the hushed voice with the faster rapping. It’s pretty dope.
“I was cooking but afraid to release what they ask fo’/I was shook and it was like my soul was kidnapped all up in that/mind was took and the point that he was making it was my/time to book it/I know rookie/I know hooky/I know play/I been looking but the kid lookin away/I been climbin/I been grindin/I don’t got no time to play”
Million Heirs – There’s a strings sample and a pretty tough hip-hop beat that lays in. Not pulling any punches, Ruslan is right back into a flow. The multi-syllables right at the end of the first verse are tight. He’s relaxed at that point too so it comes off naturally. There’s a nod to Nas here with the “I… Will… Not… Lose…” pre-chorus. I’m really digging everything on this one from the beat that leans toward summertime to the rhyme schemes.
We On That ft. Paul Russel and Tre King – Paul Russel jumps on the track at the top, followed by Tre. The instrumental here has a melodic vibe to it, with a Talib Kweli like vocal sample sprinkled on top. It feels good.
Pocket Watchin’ ft. Jodie Jermaine & Sharp Dialect – This one has a funk groove to it, and Ruslan’s vocals are pulled back here at first, but after the hook, he’s back into his normal ways. I’m not sure I’m the biggest fan of this hook. The sound is a bit dated, but also the vocals are pretty naked. If the EQ on them was a bit thicker or if the performance had more layers to it, this hook may have been more appealing to my ear.
Nothin’ Else ft. Jon Keith – We have a trap beat here, and Jon Keith absolutely lights it up. He rolls with a tight rhyme scheme off of the word “Pop” and at one point when you could probably predict he’d say the word “Rock,” he says Dwayne Johnson instead and then keeps going. You have to listen to understand. Ruslan’s verse here is flames, it’s like he’s pulling out every one of his tricks for all to hear.
Puzzled – “If you see me on the come up you don’t need to look puzzled.” Ruslan acknowledges a lot of the puzzling things happening in the world, in his life, and just touches on them. He finishes it all in under three minutes.
3rd Option – Everything is relaxed here, trying to follow this instrumental because of the tension building as it rolls along. He’s talking about unity and his kid being carefree for now, but should he be that way? The world is a tough place. He’s so personable here that he’s able to get you to reckon with his thoughts from your own perspective.
“Choose to understand before being understood/Jesus was still my rock when I was nothing good.”
33rd – Alright the vibes here are laid back once again and I’m beginning to lose focus. There’s nothing bad about the way anything sounds, and the performance here is once again above the bar. I’m just ready for some momentum here again. Right as I type that, the beat lays in a little better, and the Rhodes get a little more aggressive. The final four bars of the beat though were screaming “wake up!”
“I’ve been socialized to be silent which makes me an island”
So Good – Ruslan is sharing his beliefs and the thoughts that he holds dear about his faith. “33rd” and this song have similar beds and leave a lot of room for Ruslan to bust over.
Outlier – This is a straight up west coast vibe here. Alright, we’re back up above the bar. “Defy the odds of everything we up against.”
To conclude, Indie Jones III picked up where IJ2 left off. I feel like Ruslan took a huge leap stylistically and performance wise from 1 to 2, and now on 3, he’s just showing off. The instrumentals towards the end kind of all blended together and there was nothing that really stuck out for me for a few minutes. All in all, this is a solid album from a rapper’s rapper who can flow with the best of them.
Overall Rating – Above The Bar
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