Stalley may say he is at the beginning of his career, but the 31-year-old rapper is a hip-hop veteran in his own right.
The Ohio native-who signed with Rick Ross‘s Maybach Music Group in 2011-has consistently dropped extremely well-received projects like Lincoln Way Nights, Savage Journey To The American Dream, and Honest Cowboy EP, avoided having to sell-out and resort to gimmicks to achieve mainstream acceptance, and earlier this week released his long-awaited debut album, Ohio. Last night the rapper sat down with fellow Ohio native and world famous photographer Jonathan Mannion at the Apple Store in SoHo to discuss Ohio, the love he has for his home state, his growth as an artist, and not having to change for MMG.
Related: Stalley Talks Rick Ross, Atlantic Granting Him “Full Control” Over ‘Ohio’ & De La Soul Collab
With the album’s title being Ohio, it is nearly to even speak about Stalley’s debut project without discussing the rapper’s home state.
“[Ohio] means everything. It’s a hardworking, family oriented community. It’s a place where everybody is prideful, everyone has each other’s back,” explains Stalley. “It’s just about having the morals of being a good person…That’s just the type of community I’m from and I appreciate it because I carried that on to my adulthood and I try to give those values through my music and to my family.”
Mainstream Hip Hop music in 2014 mostly can be easily described as drill, trap, or more simply “turn up” music with repetitive lines and beats. But it would be hard to imagine what the state of the genre would be if rap OG’s like West Coast pioneers like Dr. Dre did not embrace ’70s soul bands and artists. In fact, Stalley’s embrace of his hometown’s musical roots is what often gets him described as having a West Coast sound, even though the soulful songs of Ohio musicians have simply are so deep-rooted that the average listener would not recognize it.
“My love for the West Coast comes from just them producing good music. And someone like Dr.Dre having a genius ear to dig into Ohio sound and create his own version of that with his beats he made,” said Stalley. “It’s just definitely me paying homage to that because they paid homage to us. That west coast sound touches home, because it is home.”
The rapper also discussed how he takes friendship over features, and from the production by good friend and producer Rashad to the song features that appears on Ohio you can bet that anyone who had a hand in the album is someone the rapper is genuinely good friends with. Stalley simply said, “When you make music with friends it shows.”
It definitely does, and with the help of his label and boss Rick Ross, Stalley says it was easy for him to make the music he wanted to without feeling like he had to conform
But, with tracks like “Boomin,” “Chevelle,” “Jackin’ Chevys,” “System On Loud,” and the Ohio native leaning over a classic car on the album cover, it would not have been a proper Stalley interview if he did not discuss cars.
“Car culture is so heavy in Ohio. I think mainly one because a lot of the cars were made there, especially American cars. And people our grandparents our uncles our dads our older brothers even the homies in the hood was always working on cars or around cars,” explains Stalley. And every time I walked outside the house…it was somebody outside either in the trunk or under the hood fixing up the engine or fixing up the engine and you would crowd around and have conversation and just observe this car. But there was always music coming from this car…Music was so pivotal because it took you that place and helped you enjoy that car a little bit more.”
Knowing that Stalley used to ball before his rap career, Mannion asked the rapper how many points he would score against Lebron James. Stalley kept it real, ten points in four quarters, no points in a game of 21.
But the best part of the interview was when Stalley shared how he conceptualized the De La Soul-assisted track “Navajo Rugs.”
“I was actually online looking for a rug and as I’m doing so, I start to read about the way create these rugs, all the intricacies that come into it,” explains Stalley. “So I’m like man, there’s so much thought and so much spirituality that goes into these rugs and people do what? They walk over these rugs, they wipe their feet on them they lay on them they throw them to the side and im like man that kind of reminds me of my rhymes. Like if feel like I put so much time, so much energy so much of my spirit, and my soul into this music and sometimes people just brush past it because they wanna hear something not lyrical or the turn up or whatever it is so i’m like man, ‘Navajo Rugs.'”
Mannion also shared some never before seen pictures from the Ohio photoshoot, Stalley took some questions from the audience, and then he took the stage to perform some tracks from his album like “Welcome to O.H.I.O,” “Boomin,” “One More Shot,” and “Always Into Something.” He also gave a nice shout out to Mike Brown.
Stalley is just a different type of dude. He’s humble, he’s real, he sticks to what he knows and loves, and his album does not disappoint. All you other rappers take notes.
His debut album Ohio is available for purchase on Itunes.