Stalley's debut album "Ohio" has been a long time coming. The Maybach Music MC delivers 12 hip-hop cuts of hometown pride, enthusiastic Chevy-riding and getting stoned.
Rick Ross and the Maybach Music Group have taken their time with Stalley. Signed in 2011, the same year as Meek Mill and Wale (who were almost immediately launched in to mainstream eyes), the MC is just getting a proper debut album released.
Born Kyle Myricks, Stalley's career revolves largely around his homestate. Ohio isn't known for hip-hop culture, or any strong form of culture for that matter, but Myrick's Chevy-worshipping rhymes over largely unique beats has garnered a slow-burning career along with a respectable amount of success. He hasn't gotten the push Wale and Meek Mill received -- even this Youtube userÂ forgot to include his name in the credits of "Running Rebels."Â
After a fire feature onÂ Self Made Vol I, it was clear that the Ohio cat can fit in with the Miami-based Ross & Co. Numerous features and mixtapes later, we're finally getting the aptly-namedÂ Ohio, Stalley's debut album.
When you listen to the album for the first time, consider doing it in your car. Stalley was quoted saying, "The sound of my current music is intelligent trunk music. Itâs a sound thatâs built for the cars, but you can also enjoy it in your headphones, your computer or however you want to listen to it. Me, growing up, I rode around listening to music. It was kind of like the soundtrack my days or wherever I was going."
The first cut, "Welcome to O.H.I.O" is definitely a (trunk) banger. Over a slowed-down tempo, Stalley pays homage to the likes of The O'Jays, Bootsy Collins, Isley Brothers and Ohio Players at the end, when heÂ names off a handful of funk legends who were born in Ohio. It gives Ohio legitimacy, and sets the stage for an Ohio funk influence on his debut LP.
"Jackin' Chevys" relies heavily on the Eazy-E lyric, "cruisin' down the street in my '64," while "Boomin'" allows longtime collaborator Rashad's beat to breathe a little better. So far, the concept of cars has remained as the most prominent glue to stick this album together. The 808, trunk-rattling bass is meant to shake your car's body a little bit. If it's not to make certain that there are no screws loose, it's so you can feel that music in your soul.
Stalley, as an MC, is a very capable member of the hip-hop community. Tired themes of misogyny, gangster behavior, ice and Jordans aren't completely vanished from his music, but toned down from most of his MMG cohorts. His thing is vintage Chevys, something almost none of his listeners can probably relate to. Interwoven with the aforementioned themes and some ace stoner references, it's relatable enough. It's more relatable thanÂ Watch The Throne, for example, and other forms of luxury rap that dominate today.
This album truly gets better as it goes along. While the first 4 tracks are "intelligent trunk music" anthems, the album progresses beyond bass tones that require no back seats.
"What It Be Like" gives Rashad a breakÂ from production credits as David Doman puts his own twist on the trunk music concept. Accented byÂ jazzy horns, it's the finest beat on the album so far, and a perfect canvas for Stalley and guest Nipsey Hussle to flex on.
"One More Shot" is easily the most pop-friendly cut on the album. Chris Brown'sAugust Alsina's hook allows for radio play, but the Rick Ross feature really solidifies this song's purpose. It's the boss' only verse onÂ Ohio, as his signature deep-voiced flow lets you know his new chick looks Asian.
"Always Into Something" reminds you that some of Dr. Dre's funkiest G-funk moments are a tribute to Ohio natives like the Ohio Players. The beat has a vintage sound, while an N.W.A.-inspired hook laces it perfectly. The album really kicks it up a notch with these final six songs, and "Always Into Something" is an epic side B opening track.
"System On Loud" has the sweetest hook on the album, auto-tuned to perfection with a smoked-out beat. It's a total stoner anthem that doesn't even bother with a proper second verse, opting for a the perfected hook to do the trick instead. This one keeps it simple and thrives in doing so. The bars do the trick anyhow.
"Riding 'round town with my windows tinted out
Boom boom, bang bang, system on loud
Everyday the same thing, drifting on clouds
Got that got that pack of blue dream, twisting up loud
Rolling up by the pound, burning by the mile
Windows cracked, smoke flowing out
Double cup, ack, sprite pouring out"Â
If the entire album wasn't enough of an odeÂ to Stalley's home state, "3:30pm" is certainly a massive shout out to the Akron area of Ohio. In Ludacris fashion, Myricks takes you on a ride around his land, making sure to speak in length about the plethora of chicks you can get out there.
Producer Rashad takes the microphone on "Chevelle," something he did on some of Stalley's classic mixtape cuts like "Slapp."Â His soulful croon is a proper voice for a hook, and this love song is dedicated to the beautiful, vintage Chevys that seem to rule Myricks' life. The song's lyrics speak of the car as if it's a girl, with plenty of fun in the similarities of a "black and beautiful" Chevy.
"Got me gassin' you up / takin' you out on the town / poppin' the trunk / showin' you off / so sexy when your top's down."Â
"Free" is a soulful anthem that talks of struggle. From cookin' drugs to shootin' your foes, it isn't a glorious life that's portrayed in this one, but a real life nonetheless. The sampled hook yearns for freedom: a life beyond the hustle, beyond the drugs and beyond the homicides. This one paints the picture of rappers like Stalley, who come from an underprivileged background, doing whatever they have to do to make ends meet -- Not because they're bad people, but because of the cardsÂ they've been dealt.
At this point, we've been given a good album, a really fine debut from Ohio-native Stalley. The De La Soul feature looms in the LP-closing track, in perhaps the least MMG move we've ever seen from an MMG artist. Bringing De La Soul in to close out the album is a power move, but could easily come off corny or forced. Thankfully, they absolutely nailedÂ it.
With a beat and a hook that would have fit on aÂ left-of-center,Â Aquemini-era Outkast album, the soulful Rashad beat is perfect for a group like De La Soul to be featured on, and Stalley holds his own with the New York legends. It's a super bold move to bring these dudes in, but he's really solidifying the company he keeps by doing this. The buzz rappers of today, the Kendricks, Drakes, A$APs, etc., could have easily been featured to appease the mainstream's hunger, but instead we get a seasoned MC, who slow-played his success, holding his own with De La freakin' Soul.
The album ends on a high note, and as stated previously, got better right up until the last track. The second half is much more interestingÂ than the first six tracks, and the De La Soul track is easily the finest on the entire album. The intelligent trunk music sound is both unique and bangin'. Now who's got a Chevy with a system for us to ride around in?