In October 2014, Russ Vitale logged on to SoundCloud for the first time. His strategy was simple yet deadly: post one new song every week.

By August 2015, he had amassed 5,000 followers. In September 2016, he surpassed 200,000 followers. It is now February 2017, and Russ has 368,000 SoundCloud followers, as well as a record deal with Columbia Records and co-signs from everyone from Kylie Jenner to Rick Rubin.

How did Russ pull himself up from the gutter of SoundCloud to become one of the music platform’s brightest stars? In a nutshell, he spoke his success into existence. With each weekly release, he expounded upon themes of aspiration, determination, and self-reliance. His music, an exotic cross-breed of Bear Gryllz and Anthony Robbins, is an exercise in self-motivation. His YouTube username used to be “wakethenation0345.” And he’s not done yet: “I want to be the biggest, most impactful artist ever in the world. Ever.”

He’s a part of DIEMON crew

Russ was born in New Jersey and primarily raised in Alpharetta, Georgia, in the northern suburbs of Atlanta. He is one of four siblings in a Sicilian-American family. His mother works as a life coach.

He made his first beat at age 14. It wasn’t before long that he and his friends — Bugus, Dartlin, Paulo, DJ Adam Golden, Macivan Musa, John Anthony, and the rest — formed the musical collective known as DIEMON: Do It Everyday Music Or Nothing. A 2012 interview refers to Russ as “the crew’s in-house producer who also raps and does some public relations work for the crew.” He released his first album in December 2011. He would release ten more over the course of the next three years, up until he made his SoundCloud account. 

He handles every step of his music production

One hallmark of Russ’ music is that every song is self-produced. In fact, he alone handles each step of the process: songwriting, engineering, production, rapping, singing, mixing, and mastering. He has flaunted his creative independence at every turn and on every song, most notably on”Do It Myself:” “Y’all do too much, I just record.”

He’s not going to stop calling out industry bullshit

As Russ’ popularity has increased, a new through-line has emerged in his music, a tributary branching off his central themes of ambition and autonomy: rampant fraudulence in the music industry. His criticism spans from derivative rappers (“You believing the propaganda, why everybody sound like they wanna be from Atlanta / Are you the voice or the echo, are you the nail or the hammer?”) to label’s screen of smoke and mirrors. (“Pitching rappers as these independent grinds, meanwhile there’s been a label right behind them the whole time”) Russ views the latter as a violation of artistic integrity, and he made his deal with Columbia known to his fans the day he signed in June 2016.

Thus, the chip on Russ’ shoulder remains even though he’s at the stage in his career where he’s playing shows in Beirut. He is still an underdog warrior fighting the massive, immovable “corrupt system.” He has deemed the 2016 XXL freshman class “terrible,” though he is likely to be inducted into the 2017 class. 

Russ is a man of great stubbornness, virtue, and talent who has not compromised to get where he’s at today. His achievements validate his approach. If you think he is going to stop calling out industry gatekeepers, think again.