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Russel Hobbs (also known as Russ) is the official drummer of Gorillaz.

Background

Russel was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 3, 1975. Known for his good manners and eloquent speech, he attended the Xavier School For Young Achievers but was expelled after attacking several students while possessed by a demon. He fell into a coma for the next four years, at the end of which, the demon was finally exorcised from his body by a priest named Father Merrin. [1]

After his old school refused to take him back, Russel attended Brooklyn High School, where he befriended many of the students that were gifted in hip-hop music.

One rainy night outside a 7-Eleven Store, Russel's companions were killed in a drive-by shooting by a gang of "gang bangers" driving a black Humvee. They were all wearing red hooded tops. One of them was wearing a black hood who Russel identified as The Grim Reaper. After the shooting, the spirits of Russel's friends came to reside in his body, the most prominent being Russel's best friend Del the Ghost Rapper. The process of possession permanently turned Russel's eyes milky white. [2]

After the drive-by shooting incident, Russel was sent to the UK for his own safety to live with his uncle in Belsize Park. He got a job working behind the counter at Big Rick Black's Record Shack in London's Soho area. That's when he first encountered Murdoc Niccals. While asking Russel for an obscure 50s record, Murdoc slipped a bag over Russel's head and forced him out of the shop. Russel was taken back to Kong Studios and was impressed with the music that Murdoc was working on, so he chose to stay.

Russel is based on Jamie Hewlett's love of Hip-hop, in particular, he is loosely based on Ice Cube, who is coincidentally the real-life cousin of Gorillaz collaborator Del The Funky Homosapien. Hewlett says "Russel is based on my love of hip hop. Somebody like an Ice Cube, I guess."[3] The idea of Russel having the spirit of rappers such as Del reside inside of him is what inspired the usage of collaborators in all Gorillaz albums from then onwards. "That was a key moment." Albarn says, "Once we started thinking like that, the idea of 'We can work with whoever we like' kind of evolved." [4]

Gorillaz Phase 1: 1998-2001

Russel Hobbs in Phase 1

 A hip-hop hard man from Brooklyn, New York, Russel draws upon spooky spirit mates to help guide his beats. The spirits that live within Russel's hulking frame pop out every so often to provide some undead rapping. Russel himself is well adjusted, with an enviable wardrobe. Very polite, educated and is a great musician. Without Russel, Gorillaz couldn't survive: he's the safety net, the linebacker, and the true defender. People love his solid safety and solid credentials. Multiple trainer owner and has a vast appetite. 

After multiple failed attempts to make a Gorillaz movie (due to drunk writers and directors and the band getting in trouble for multiple reasons), the band decided to break up and go their separate ways. 2-D got to work at his father's fairground, Noodle went back to Japan to learn more about her dark past and Murdoc got himself arrested in Tijuana, Mexico for giving fake checks to prostitutes at a local brothel. As for Russel, things went downhill for a long time for the drummer. The soul of his friend Del was ripped out of his body by Death which led to a huge breakdown. He secluded himself in Ike Turner's basement to write his own album but was plagued by hallucinations of demons flying out of the speakers. He never finished the album. Russel got a call from Noodle, now a teenager who was back at Kong Studios and finished writing the music for Demon Days, and needed Russel for the drums again.

Gorillaz Phase 2: 2005-2008

Russel Hobbs in Phase 2

After the El Mañana incident involving Noodle's windmill island getting gunned down by helicopters, Russel and 2-D were panic-stricken when they thought Noodle was killed (although she wasn't). Russel never appeared at the Apollo Theater in New York City, for he was off on another life journey to deal with his demons. After 2-D left Kong, leaving Murdoc to do shady businesses with a band of mercenaries and pirates called the Black Clouds and with Noodle nowhere in sight, the band ended again. But not for long. Murdoc, having kidnapped 2-D and constructed a cyborg replica of Noodle was searching for Russel to make his new album, Plastic Beach (named after the pink island of garbage in the ocean) but he couldn't find him, so instead Murdoc used a drum machine to record the drum parts.

Gorillaz Phase 3: 2010-2012

NoodleMeetsRusselPhase3

Russel meeting Noodle in the Pacific Ocean.

In 2010, Russel embarked on a journey to an unknown destination by diving off a dock and into the Pacific Ocean. Before he left, he wrote what appeared to be a suicide note, reading...

"This is it. The time has come. The demons have chased me down and now forced my heavyweight hip hop hand. I need to get there. The expanse, the calm of the eternal briny deep. The Ocean... The ..Ocean..b.bacon. So this is it......Throw myself into the sea.”

x Russel Hobbs

During his trek, Russel ate some radioactive, contaminated fish which resulted in a massive increase in Russel's body mass. He was last seen swimming near the wreckage of the M. Harriet where he was reunited with Noodle, his former bandmate, and long-time friend. Later, after reaching the island (being bombarded by Black Clouds), Russel tossed the whale guarding 2-D at one of the pirates' planes. He was present when Murdoc escaped Plastic Beach to Hawaii after the island was destroyed. It turned out Murdoc wasn't living in Hawaii at all, but in a shambled house in London with a Hawaii themed room. Russel was seen reclining on the roof of the house at the end of the "DoYaThing" video. The house the band lived in was being foreclosed so the fate of the band was unknown.

Russel had little to no dialogue in phase three, with the two pieces of dialogue he had being a sentence for a text interview promoting DoYaThing and Gorillaz' partnership with Converse in 2012, and the letter he wrote at the beginning of the phase. Russel was not a part of the recording of Plastic Beach and was replaced by a drum machine on the album. 

Gorillaz Phase 4: 2016-2017

Russel Humanz

Russel on the Humanz album cover.

After being attacked by pirates on Plastic Beach, Russel put Noodle inside his mouth and swam away. Somewhere off the coast of Japan, Russel was mistaken for a whale and harpooned. He managed to wiggle free, but Noodle was swept into the blood-red waters in the process. Wounded and delirious, he struggled on through the ocean, eventually losing consciousness. Eventually, he drifted into the warm waters of the Yellow Sea and washed up on a North Korean beach.

He was carted to Pyongyang, where he was exhibited inside a giant glass cage. The regime's leader declared he had captured Pulgasari, the legendary North Korean Godzilla. Russel became the country's greatest attraction. In time, the North's meager food rations caused Russel to shrink back to normal size. Realizing he was just a man, the Glorious Leader proclaimed that he had defeated Pulgasari, and Russel was released and sent back to England, where he wandered the streets of London until musician and Gorillaz collaborator Jeff Wootton let him crash on his futon.

A few days later, Jeff received a call from Murdoc. Without delay, Russel moved into Murdoc's new West London home and the band got back together.

Gorillaz- The Book Of Russel

Gorillaz- The Book Of Russel

In the music video for Saturnz Barz, the paranormal entities of the Spirit House are awoken as Russel tries to go to sleep after briefly attempting to look around in the house. At the end of the video, after they go back in the car Murdoc asks the band if they want breakfast, Russel says "Oh yeah. I got a real appetite.". In the Strobelite video, Russel is asleep on the couch at the party. Originally, the Strobelite video was to feature character dialogue and a boxing match between Russel and his voice actor Remi Kabaka, but it did not make it to the final version of the video. In the Garage Palace visualizer, Russel fights zombies along with the rest of the band, firing a canon with Murdoc behind him and 2-D driving the car that Murdoc and Russel stand on. In some parts of the Garage Palace video, Russel is a giant again, sleeping in the clouds as Noodle shoots off a flamethrower while she's standing on his stomach. However, for most of the video, he is in regular size. 

In the "Sounds Like Gorillaz" ad for Pandora, Russel comes in the last place in a driving race between the other three band members. In the ad for Gorillaz' The Lenz app, Russel sprays the color magenta on a building and other objects with the rest of the band before infiltrating a security room with them.

Russel makes an off-screen appearance for a phone call in 2D & Murdoc's interview with Mistajam. In the interview, he talks about the collaborations on Humanz and talks about the reasons they have so many collaborations on their albums. At one point in the phone call, Murdoc says "Russel, you gotta tell him about a problem you had with Remi, our producer.", implying there was a conflict between Remi and Russel. Russel is very paranoid in the phone call and asks 2D and Murdoc if they're copying him and accuses them of leaving him in Brooklyn.  In the middle of the phone call, Russel becomes overwhelmed and abruptly ends the call.

Russel also created a mixtape in phase 4 called 'Sounds of Chicago' that includes songs from all of his favorite artists and musicians from Chicago. He introduces the mixtape and says "Ayo, it's Big Russ, Chicago mix for y'all. What it do, it don't, and what it don't, it do."

Russel is in every group interview with Gorillaz in phase 4, and some interviews are even just with Russel alone, and a few interviews are with Russel and 2-D only. 

Gorillaz Phase 5: 2018-2019

No More Unicorns Anymore

Russel as shown in Humility.

At the end of phase 4, Russel started his own podcast called "Things I Like" in which he interviewed Gorillaz collaborators such as Posdnuos from De La Soul, Jenny Beth, Little Simz, Pauline Black, Peven Everett, Cheick Tidiane Seck, and Gorillaz' live drummer Gabriel Wallace.

In phase 5, Russel appears to have lost some weight, as acknowledged by Remi Kabaka in an interview. Russel is often shown wearing hoodies and jackets in phase 5, with few instances of him wearing t-shirts (such as the Tranz and Humility music videos) as he usually does. In the music video for Humility, he trips 2D while he's roller skating. His voice actor Remi Kabaka, in live-action, makes a cameo appearance in the video, playing chess with Noodle. He is shown frequently in the Tranz video, happily drumming on a drum kit and performing the song with the rest of the band with a large smile on his face.

In the first Gorillaz x G-Shock Ad, Russel is the one drives the vehicle that takes the band into outer space.

He is shown playing a ukelele performing a song with the rest of the band in one of the pictures in The Now Now's album booklet. This one of the only times Russel has been depicted in Gorillaz artwork as playing any instruments besides drums or percussion-based instruments at all, let alone a ukelele. 

Like Phase 4, Russel has been in almost every single interview with the band in Phase 5, aside from interviews with individual members, with some interviews being of simply Russel and 2-D. 

Gorillaz Phase 6: 2019-Present

On the 21st of September 2019, Russel sent a post-card to the band from Mexico while working on his hot sauce business, "Hobbs Hot Sauce". He included a message telling the band that he’d be seeing them "REAL soon”. The post-card arrived at Studio 13 on the 4th of October.[5]

In a statement to the press on the 29th of January, Russel detailed the band's next project, Song Machine, a multimedia series of songs/music videos released episodically through 2020. “Song Machine is a whole new way of doing what we do. Gorillaz breaking the mold ‘cos the mold got old. World is moving faster than a supercharged particle, so we’ve gotta stay ready to drop. We don’t even know who’s stepping through the studio next. Song Machine feeds on the unknown, runs on pure chaos. So whatever the hell’s coming, we’re primed and ready to produce like there’s no tomorrow. Y’know, just in case…” In the first Machine Bitez promoting Song Machine, he and Murdoc chat with 2-D about him bringing Slaves into the studio – when Murdoc asks about their backgrounds and 2-D admits to not knowing much, Russel asks if he knows their foregrounds, which 2-D quickly assures he knows very well.

Russel joined the rest of the band (minus Murdoc) through a portal to Lake Como for the song "Désolé," playing drums using some carrots. He also served as the official spokesperson for the song's release, saying of collaborator Fatoumata Diawara, "She’s an African Queen. This lady made the song what it is, beautiful, like life. What can I say about ‘Désolé’? They say sorry is the hardest word, but that’s not true… Try saying antidisestablishmentarianism with a mouth full of gluten-free cronuts on a speed boat without licking your lips.” . According to Murdoc, the monsters that appear in Désolé are actually one of Russel's visions, which Murdoc believes Russel triggered by watching too much Stranger Things.

In Aries, Russel drives a golf cart in a race with the rest of the band, seemingly missing texts from a concerned Noodle while intensely focused on the race. Immediately after the events of Aries, Russel punches Murdoc in the face and gives him a nosebleed after seeing that he injected 2-D with a truth serum syringe during the race, with Noodle attempting to restrain him. He suspects that Murdoc believed that 2-D was keeping a secret from him about the new portals in Kong. 

Quotes

  • It's still so vivid. The sound of a car coming around the back of us. Me and my friends were parked outside a 7-Eleven store, and it was raining, real hard. We was minding our own business, you know. The Humvee, a big black Humvee kinda crawled around the back of our vehicle, and we just knew this was trouble...
  • Stay sharp, people. Stay focused. The only way we'll get through this. We have the power.
  • To Murdoc: You can’t go dressin’ up as a goddamn Nazi! You cracker-ass...!!
  • He’s the Hip-Hop hardman. Dark, quiet and thoughtful. He hates Murdoc and is constantly putting him in his place. - Jamie Hewlett.

Trivia

  • Russel's name may have drawn inspiration from of may be a reference to the British household appliance manufacturer, Russell Hobbs, seeing as their names are very similar, down to a single letter. 
  • Russel is loosely based on American rapper Ice Cube, who is the cousin of Del The Funky Homosapien, the rapper on Gorillaz' self-titled debut album tracks Clint Eastwood & Rock The House.
  • Russel's voice actor Remi Kabaka became the actual drummer and co-producer for Gorillaz since Humanz in 2017 and The Now Now in 2018. Previously, he had only provided Russel's speaking voice.
  • According to Albarn, Russel's backstory of having the spirit of various rappers inside of him is a part of what inspired the usage of guests and collaborators in all Gorillaz albums from the debut album onwards.
  • For Phase 1, Russel's accent leaned largely American with hints of British: in Bananaz, Jamie Hewlett explains to Remi Kabaka Jr that even though Russel is from Brooklyn he has lived in England for some time. In his speaking appearances from Phase 4 onwards Russel has more of a British accent––in-canon, this reflects the length of time he has spent in England.
  • In The Jump The Gut G-Bite, Del Tha Ghost Rapper is voiced by British voice over artist Redd Pepper, a legendary movie trailer announcer who has done narrations for 100s of trailers in the UK including Space Jam, Men In Black, Boogie Nights, The Blair Witch Project, Armageddon and various others. Originally, Pepper had auditioned to be the voice of Russel, but the crew decided that he didn't fit their vision for Russel's rhythm, so they gave the role to Remi Kabaka, who was just considering going into voice acting at the time.
  • Although drums are his primary instrument, since 2018, Russel has been shown to have the ability to play many different instruments aside from just drums and percussion. For example, in The Now Now's back cover, he is shown playing the ukelele, and in the first Song Machine print, he can be seen playing the trumpet. 

Gallery

Russel Hobbs in Phase 1 10 11313650 121713708162570 1515282125 n
The full image gallery for Russel may be viewed at Russel/Gallery.

References

  1. Gorillaz. Page 23-25 Rise of the Ogre. Penguin Group. Published 26 October 2006.
  2. Gorillaz. Page 25 Rise of the Ogre. Penguin Group. Published 26 October 2006.
  3. https://www.franceinter.fr/emissions/popopop/popopop-15-novembre-2017
  4. https://youtu.be/WKMIv__EgUA?t=279
  5. https://twitter.com/gorillaz/status/1180201855135211520
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