Stalley’s debut album “OHIO,” is an ode to his home town and American muscle cars.
Stalley, a Midwest native, burst onto the rap scene in 2008 with his highly praised debut Lincoln Way Nights. Fast forward to present day: a major label deal with Rick Ross’ MMG/Atlantic imprint, a slew of acclaimed guest verses, and two EP/mixtapes, the Blue Collar Gang general serves up an ode to his hometown on OHIO. Stalley teams up with longtime friend and collaborator, Rashad, to infuse the sound we’ve all become accustomed to hearing from the duo using G – funk era/ Dr. Dre-ish production, while sampling popular 1970’s soul bands like the Ohio Players, The O.J.’s, The Parliament Funkadelic, and Bootsy Collins.
The album opens with “Welcome to O.H.I.O,” the Massillon native spits:
“Just watch me turn nothing into something keep it jumpin’ y’all don’t hear me though. Music try a young ni**a, like a ni**a was invincible. Now I’m feeling invincible ‘Cuz over here I’m original…”
The laid back opening letts us know from the jump he’s not a cookie cutter MC. Next up is the Easy E sampled ‘Boyz N Tha Hood’ track ‘Jackin’ Chevys.’ Stalley brags about enjoying the benefits of stealing someone else’s Chevy, and riding around the city with his boys. If you aren’t catching on by now, American Muscle cars are Stalley’s passion and on “Chevelle”, he takes the R. Kelly “You remind me of my Jeep” approach and compares the build of the American Classic to a beautiful young lady he’d show off to whole world:
“The city cruising on the road trips/ You’re my ride or die, my down ass chick/ My first crush, my first love, since a little ass kid/ I hung posters of you, hoping one day, I’d get a chance to show you how deep this love for you is…”
Stalley also shows something many say he’s been lacking as an artist throughout his career; a crossover radio track. In fact, he addresses that question with two tracks. One, Ty Dolla $ign assisted with ‘Always into Something,’ the MC spits about learning lessons as an adolescent and getting OG advice. Ty Dolla $ign, the man everyone is turning to for great radio hooks, definitely delivers with his ‘Always into Something’ hook. Then, we have the song that may not fit in the concept of what the album is saying but definitely will appeal to his female audience, the Detail produced ‘One More Shot’ which features Trey Songz’ substitute August Alsina and MMG boss Rick Ross. The ear friendly crooning of Alsina on the hook with Rozay and Stalley serenading the ladies, is definitely going to present the opportunity for Stalley to gain more attention from the female audience. If the album title isn’t enough of an ode to his hometown, then “3:30pm” takes you on a ride through the city that LeBron James calls home and on “Free” the bearded wordsmith uses a spoken word approach to the soulful piano riddled track.
Now back to the hard shit. There are three stand-out tracks I want to discuss. First up is ‘Problems,’ the haunting track gives a day in the life troubles of a dope boy trying to make ends meet. Make sure you have the proper system in your car for this one! Rashad’s 808’s will definitely blow your speakers out if your car isn’t prepared. “Boomin'” is Stalley using raps as a metaphor comparing pushing weight to writing rhymes. He tells the story of how he reached out to his brother Yellow to put him in the dope game, but he told Stalley to focus on 16’s instead of peddling dope on the streets. The infectious hook and pounding beat allows Stalley to use this clever concept to pull you into his blue collar world. The Nipsey Hustle-assisted track “What it be Like,” produced by David Domain is a trumpet heavy jazz influenced track that is such a gem on the album; bringing Neighborhood Nip along for the smooth track was a perfect pairing. The close out track on the project is “Navajo Rugs” featuring legendary hip hop group De La Soul. Stalley compares his complex raps to the passion Native Americans put into their rugs with rich heritage and glorious stories.
As the opening track states on the album, Stalley wants the world to know he’s original. He wears his love for his hometown on his sleeve. Unlike other MC’s who are from the Buckeye state like Bow Wow, Ludacris and Bone Thugs but adopted other cities, Stalley lets you know where he’s from with the same pride Hov reps Brooklyn with. He makes a statement being the first MC to fully embrace his blue collar state and incorporates its greatness into his raps. The Midwest MC definitely delivers on his debut project, answering his critics and leaving no questions about his lyrical ability. Hopefully you’ll enjoy this colorful joy ride through Stalley’s hometown of Ohio.