Stalley’s music doesn’t struggle with its identity. Born from the blue-collar sweat of Massillon, Ohio, its working man’s appeal creates an accessibility that welcomes us to his world. His projects are characterized by a raw blend of low-end trunk-rattling bass, and thought-provoking musings that showcase the highs and lows of an intimate game controlled by music industry pimps who pull strings. Punctuated by a massive beard, designer wears, and a trademark BCG (Blue Collar Gang) cap, Stalley’s wit and introspection bookend his genuine spirit and savvy microphone technique.
He recently took a few minutes to speak on his latest moves just 48 hours ahead of the release of Tell The Truth Shame The Devil Vol 2. We conducted the interview over a phone session where nothing felt off limits. His patience and warmth were undeniable, and what stood out was an intense passion for writing and recording music.
He’s a refreshing abnormality in the hip-hop game; a grounded rapper without a skewed sense of reality or inflated self-worth. He seemed hungry and perfectly comfortable riding one deep into 2018.
The new EP is volume 2, right? Did you intend to create two volumes or release it in pieces?
Yeah, when I first started the recording process, I just put my head down and got into the studio every day. I accumulated so many records, [so] it was the only way I felt I could I get all the music out. I really wanted it to be heard; it’s important because it’s some of the best music that I’ve done. I am open on the records about a lot of issues the fans have questions about. I’m giving people the answers through the music and also letting people know where I am in life at this moment. It’s actually planned as a trilogy. I wanted to break the music into parts, so it’s smaller and easier to focus on, rather than give you twenty records to digest. So yes, this is volume two, and there will be a volume three coming, and that will be it for the Tell The Truth Shame The Devil series.
You’ve been prolific the last eighteen months with New Wave, Another Level, Tell The Truth Shame The Devil (Vol 1 and 2). Is there a specific release schedule or are you getting music out as soon as it’s recorded and ready to go?
I just give it enough time where people have a chance to really sit with the music. I try to come with content and visuals for it, and once I feel like people are ready or excited about something new, I drop it. Most of the music is already done, but I definitely wait to hear from the fans. When they’re ready and asking for new music, asking online or asking at shows, it’s ready to go.
Another Level was a strong project with a mixtape feel. Was that music you had in the stash?
Yeah, with New Wave and Another Level I loved the attention and appreciation for those projects because I had been sitting on both for maybe a year and a half. I felt like it was time to clear out the Rolodex (laughs). It was time to release everything I had sitting. A lot of my friends tell me I’m a music hoarder. They say I record so much and hoard it. So I went through the hard drive I had sitting around and put a few bodies of work together, and as you said, they had an old-school mixtape feel teamed with that rawness and hunger. And man, I was excited about the response. People appreciated them.
Going all the way back to Lincoln Way Nights, I’ve felt like you’ve made music that’s honest and accessible but still had your unique spirit in it. That’s a testament to your blue-collar tendencies; that Ohio mindset.
Yes, that everyday man and everyday woman, that’s what I want.
Does that work ethic define you and your approach to making music?
Oh yeah, of course. Being from Ohio, and not only from Ohio but a small city in Ohio, and it not being a hotbed for hip-hop, I feel like you just have to outwork people. Whether it’s sports or entertainment, music, or even on some every day going to the steel factory. It feels like you have to give a little bit extra to get that recognition. But yeah, there’s a lot of talent, and that’s not taking away from the talent, but you have to be in people’s faces and work a little harder to let people know what you’ve got going on. It’s easy when you come from New York, Atlanta, Chicago or LA; people listen because you’re from a big city. But I pride myself on my blue collar work ethic and speaking to blue collar people. The everyday man and woman, they’re out there grinding towards their dream, like I have.
One of the lines from “1 Deep” says don’t ask me about nobody else but BCG (Blue Collar Gang), but you know I have to. Your music always felt more independent, left of the dial from the big money feel of MMG. In retrospect, would you say MMG was the right fit for you?
I think MMG was right for that moment or that era of my career. I feel like it was something that presented itself as a great opportunity. But yes, I definitely have that independent feel or independent grind. You know, I like to be able to record music and put it out in a way that is true to me.
That’s why people gravitate to your music. It’s about where you’re from and what you see but also who you are. It translates to an individual listening experience. Is that happening in music today? Is there a difference today between hip hop and rap?
People used to say that there was a gap between hip-hop and rap before. But now that gap is widening. Hip-hop and entertainment…there is a gap. I’m someone who has listened to hip-hop my whole life. I’ve had older people introduce me to some of the traditional artists like Tribe, Scarface, and Nas. I feel like back in the day, even when people had the conversation about hip-hop and rap, there was still some sort of lyrical message in the music. Some people may have argued that E-40 was rap, but Brand Nubian was hip hop. But if you listen to E-40, he was rapping. He had a message. He still had something to say. These days I’m not sure if everyone rapping has something to say.
There’s nothing wrong with a vibe, music right now is about energy. That vibe is the craft. But music is cyclical; it comes around. Where is the culture headed as we move into 2018?
The culture is shifting back to where music has something to say. Where we’re at politically and socially right now, people are feeling the importance of saying what needs to be said, so I feel like we’re getting back there in 2018.
I want to run through a few highlights from your catalog. Try and sum up the vibe of the song, or where your head was when it was recorded. Let’s start with “Pound”.
“Pound” is just powerful. It’s energetic. It’s Black and strong. It’s uplifting and motivating. That song is African warriors marching through the city.
“Petrin Hill Peonies.”
Man…that song is just freedom. Space and seclusion; just being away from the rest of the world.
“Samson” embodies Stalley. “Money every day that the beard grows” (laughs). It’s just all energy. It’s my identity. It’s an anthem that’s an introduction for anyone who doesn’t know who I am.
It’s about wanting to be perfect, every line just stitched in, knitted to be the perfect feel or vision. It’s about enjoying life and wanting to be better. It’s about paying attention to detail, to emotion, and to spirituality.
That’s Ohio. That’s Massillon. That’s my childhood growing up. That’s what we did; we rolled around with 808’s booming, just Chevy riding. That’s the feel.
Man, that’s just about being very young and being introduced to the game. Just sitting around with the older homies while they’re smoking and drinking, playing the game while everyone is laughing and arguing. Then jumping into an Impala at night and riding around.
That’s it right there. My favorite denim, pure attention to detail, it’s heavy and life-lasting. It’s built strong like my style and career. It’s authentic and timeless.
“1 Deep (Solo).”
That’s where I’m at right now. I’m one deep on a solo mission, riding and grinding. I’m a new man, a new me. There’s a new energy, and that song explains it all.
That’s the space where I’m at. I’m getting back to what I’m built on. God is always with me and controls everything. Knowing that with him anything is possible. With that book and those teachings, that’s what has built me as a man, an artist, as a father, as a brother, as a son…everything. I have songs on the new EP with more energy, but I wanted to lead with “Holy Quran” and let people feel that.
So what’s 2018 going to bring? Volume 2 is releasing at midnight on the 23rd. Volume 3 next, and then shows/tour?
I have a few stand-alone shows lined up for April. Volume 3 of Tell The Truth Shame The Devil will follow Volume 2, but I have no official release date for that yet. Then hopefully a tour in the spring/summer, be ready for that. And thank you for spreading the word.
Be sure to follow @Stalley on social media and pick up Vol 1 and 2 of Tell The Truth Shame The Devil on all major streaming platforms today. Also, check out our Stalley playlist on Spotify curated from the interview!