Ruslan’s Americana| Album Review| @ruslankd @kennyfresh_1914 @trackstarz

King’s Dream founder and front man Ruslan has quite a unique story to tell. He was born in Baku, Azerbaijan and his family was forced to flee religious persecution, which is how he ended up in the United States. In his 2013 album Carry On, he gave us a peek into his world and background. Americana, according to Ruslan is similar to Carry On but more self-aware. This album tells the story of America from Ruslan’s point of view and his interaction with it. Let’s go through the journey of Ruslan’s Americana together.

By definition, Americana deals with all things and history of America specifically United States, and that title is so fitting. Ruslan kicks off the album with a spoken word introduction telling his listeners about his life. From having to flee to the other side of the world, the deterioration of his parents’ marriage six month after their entry to the country, to many other topics. This was produced by longtime collaborator DJ Rek. The title track was produced by friend and producer extraordinaire Curtiss King. The drums sound as if Ruslan is about to go to war accompanied by some sort of singing or chant that brings a haunting feel to it. The premise of the song encapsulated in Ruslan’s bars “This is my Americana my version of the American Dream/ don’t believe none of what I hear and half of what I see.”

The following two songs “Petty” produced by Sojourn and “Raw Sugar” featuring Joey Jewish produced by Anthony Cruz and Erik Kingsley were the singles released before the album dropped. Very strong production and very strong raps made these the perfect songs to be singles, as well as give fans a taste of what Americana would hold for them. Erik Kingsley produced the song “They Don’t Know” in which Ruslan pretty much says he doesn’t care much about people understanding him or his brand. In a day and age in which it seems many people a lot of time trying to be understood, Ruslan side steps that because he realizes “They Don’t Know” what his intentions are. This song was a very laid back song that you could just ride to. Ruslan gives a peek into his childhood as he speaks about a childhood crush that he pursued for a minute. Erik Kingsley and Anthony Cruz came together to make a funky record for Ruslan to tell this tale on, the guitar just gives the track a little extra “stank” if you will. At the end, the girl has her doubts because she is religious but Ruslan thought he was too. “I don’t know what Jehovah she had witnessed/felt like she was talking Krishna and I was talking Christian” bar landed very well on this track.

Right around the hallway mark we come to a very special track produced by Erik Kingsley titled “Love for you” featuring ABIV. This song with the production and Ruslan’s delivery, which is barely above a whisper seems to set the mood that this is going to be a love ballad. Turns out this song is dedicated to the haters! However, it is not done in the cliche way of praying for them in the song or bashing his haters. The first verse he addresses some concerns but flips it on those who hate on him by asking why they care so much, have so much to say online but never in person among other things. The second verse finds Ruslan fielding questions from what appears to be an old acquaintance who is curious about Ruslan’s faith. Those who are cynical of the church ask the same questions that were in the song. While it seemed as if there was no resolve on the verses, ABIV’s hook summed it all up with “I still have love for you.”

Next on the album we have “Cuz it Failed” produced by Erik Kingsley where Ruslan spoke about the failures he had actually worked out for his good without the Christianese, and “I’m that Guy” produced by Erik and Anthony on which Ruslan dips between rapping and spoken word on the hybrid he is how he fits in some stereotypes and defies many others. This track is a good look into what makes Ruslan who is is and is summed up in “I’m a hybrid who’s mutant free.” King’s Dream is based in California so that Cali living often meanders it’s way into the artists’ music and that is not a bad thing. Track ten “Left Coast 2” continues this grand tradition assisted by John Givez crooning on the hook. This track has a super west coast vibe to it and is accompanied some epic guitar riffs near the end of the track. This is the song you want to ride around the city with the windows down right before sunset and just vibe.

Good Religion gave us a look at what life is like on the road in a few songs and it seems Americana also has a track dedicated to the life on the road with “Looking So High” produced by Christian Sager. Ruslan speaks on looking high when he is feeling low, taking charge of the day, being who wanted to be when he grew up and credited it to Yeshua. This song is a direct reflection of where Ruslan is at in terms of artist responsibility and personal responsibility. Little habits like not hitting the snooze button, being dressed in under an hour, and feeling empowered for the day are key to getting where you want to go as an entrepreneur and a creative. Track number 12 is probably one of my favorite songs on the album. The song is titled “Day Off” produced by Erik Kingsley featuring Sarah Juers and it is a home-run. Erik’s soft production alongside with his drums set the perfect soundscape for Ruslan to talk to his wife about taking the day off. The first verse is dedicated to Ruslan remembering how his wife worked two jobs while he was in school and now to see where they are at is amazing, and now they can take the day off and go on a date. Ruslan on the next verse is still in awe of where he and his family are at and wants to go traveling with his wife and see places from her point of view and even asks for some PDA so he know it’s real because life seems like a dream. This song is nothing short of amazing.

We are coming to a close on the album with the final three songs. The next song “Wildest Dreams” produced by JuiceBangers and Erik Kingsley set the tone for Ruslan to reflect on how his life is beyond his wildest dreams because God intervened. After two verses the beat switches up and gets a little slower as Ruslan goes into some spoken word about some really intimate things in his life. I won’t ruin it. It’s something you need to hear for yourself. He goes on to say how he’s been victimized but refuses to be defined by it, taking the good with the bad, and even with all things considered he is blessed to be in America. He ends this song powerfully with “I know this to be true/ I am not a victim and neither are you.” Mr. Cruz and Mr. Kingsley joined forces for the final song “Have It All” where Ruslan gets really real on the track. He’s low key preaching with lies like “Praying to God shouldn’t be our last option/we should be transformed by praying so often.” That line hit me especially hard and convicted me. He really calls Christians to carpet on some things such as giving up the right to be right, and even when we are right, we should be full of love and grace. This song sounds so peaceful, serene and solemn at the same time as Ruslan tells the Lord He can have it all. Beleaf who was noticeably absent from the project comes through and wraps up the project on “Beleaf’s Outro” with production from Anthony Cruz and Erik Kingsley. This smooth beat just gives Beleaf room to talk about life, racism in and out of both the church, and touch on his Americana.

In conclusion, King’s Dream has consistently put out great music. What’s so impressive is they just put out Good Religion in March of this year and at the end of September they released Americana. This album is by and large autobiographical and there is not one single rap feature on the album outside of Beleaf on the Outro. The album is fifteen tracks long and I wouldn’t cut a single song off of the project. Each piece gives you a piece of Ruslan and plays a role in the story of Americana. This may be Ruslan’s best project to date from the production, to Ruslan’s writing, the story itself, the project Americana is an experience. It’s a view of America through the eyes of a most unique lens. Do yourself a favor and check out Ruslan’s Americana.