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Stalley’s Solo Ride

He’s a refreshing abnormality in the hip-hop game; a grounded rapper without a skewed sense of reality or inflated self-worth.

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.”

“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.

“Navajo Rugs.”

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.

“808z.”

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.

“Madden 96.”

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.

“Japanese Denim.”

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.

“Holy Quran.”

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!

My name is J.D, the music fanatic, writer, blogger, and educator. I've been in love with hip hop since Bishop got too close to the ledge. If it moves me, I'll cover it. I've written an unpublished novel, created Shiny Glass Houses, and had my work featured on the Bloglin for Mishka NYC. I'm lurking in the shadows on twitter @ThexGlassxHouse. Read. Comment. Get money.
#IndieSpotlight, Main

#IndieSpotlight: MusicbyKO “Life In Element” Is The Soundtrack For Pre-Fall Blues

A new LP floated across my desk by an Oakland, California, singer/rapper named MusicbyKO. A warm blend of jazzy 90s…

A new LP floated across my desk by an Oakland, California, singer/rapper named MusicbyKO. A warm blend of jazzy 90s Hip Hop and a cadence reminiscent of acts like Isaiah Rashad. Having shared stages with names like J.I.D. and Earthgang, he appears focused and composed — as evidenced by Life In Element, his new LP.


 
With a very consistent sound, KO slowly unravels a series of tracks that let you into his world just enough — without blatant TMI, or inducing a “yeah right” effect. What listeners get are the tales of a low-level drug dealer (this is both referenced and downplayed at different points), who is taking a chance on a dream, as he slowly but surely uncovers that everything the glimmers isn’t gold, and just because someone calls you brother, it doesn’t mean they have your back — or at the very least even your best interests at heart.

It’s an almost paranoid sense that snakes are roaming the grass that is revisited numerous times throughout the project, like on the song “La La Land,” “Empathy,” and “Let Me Talk With Ya/While I’m Here,” where he notes “I Know niggas right now that want to see me fall.”

He also paints a picture of himself as someone who overextends himself — such as on “Too Much Falls Short,” where he preaches that failing to leave your comfort zone is a fail before even leaving the running block.

That’s just the first few layers of this project; touching on socio-economic issues facing the black community nationwide, and even relationships (see the super dope “Spirit Rise”), he creates a lot of depth. Though the vibe is consistent — almost bordering on redundant — it manages to remain engaging. Also, that instrumental on “A Devil’s Advocate Corner” is a bucket of flame emojis doused in gasoline.

 
Like a bride on her wedding day, Life In Element is something old and something new; all that Hip Hop is dead shit goes out teh window when you hear younger cats with cohesive projects like this. With enough amazing quotables to create a success Instagram daily quote account (“I couldn’t heal in eth place I got sicker”) and an admirable ear for production, MusicbyKO NEEDS to be on your radar. It’s just good for the soul.

Early.

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interview, Interviews

#Interview: RoQy TyRaiD in ‘PLYNwcha’

RoQy TyRaiD drops a brand-new single “PLYNwcha” produced by NYC’s Motif Alumni with a psychedelic backbeat over hypnotic chants that…

RoQy TyRaiD drops a brand-new single “PLYNwcha” produced by NYC’s Motif Alumni with a psychedelic backbeat over hypnotic chants that groove. With an edgy prose, RoQy TyRaiD takes Hip Hop to the next level and Above Average Hip Hop wanted to know more. What can be said about his subject matter personifies the culture that raised him. Coming up in the game can be a struggle, but for RoQy, it’s all about keeping it real. “I don’t have to play by the rules. I’m going to do what I want, and I’m going to find my success regardless,” says RoQyTyRaiD.   

 

I get placed on this green planet for a finite amount of time and I don’t feel like I’m surrendering any of that to people who are championing consistencies and stratification and all of that nonsense. – RoQy TyRaiD

However, there are different modes of success, and whether it equates to monetizing your product or artistically expressing and further developing your brand, the rapper RoQy TyRaiD stays true to his values in the culture that brought him his new single “PLYNwcha.”

Tell me about RoQy TyRaiD. Who are you and where are you from?   

I reside in Phoenix, Arizona. I’m originally from southern California, born and raised. I’m just here to advance my artistic pursuits and find myself deeper in the culture that inspired me and gave me a live soundtrack. I feel that artists, at the end of the day, are just glorified fans. I’m finding my way further in the culture that inspired me, and this is why I’m here.

Some would describe you as a socially conscious rapper. How would you describe your subject matter?

I mean, people have classified me like that. I’m just more aware to life. I mean, it happens to fall in it in terms of just discerning your surroundings. Unfortunately, and fortunately as opposed to politics and things related, social climate plays a role. So, I could say, you know, they’re right. I’m just a normal dude.  I mean sometimes the content touches on political topics.

What is your most recent single?

It’s called “PLYNwcha.” It’s me flexing my capabilities lyrically, providing some hype music. I’m breaking away from the direction that I was sent down artistically and just getting back to making music that makes you want to throw a merch table across the venue. I detail instances where I was just being delivered pipe dreams just waiting for this nonexistent idea of success or mythical ideas and just really being fed up with it. I guess I deliver it in a more aggressive energy forward manner. But what it is — I have no time.

I’m not like a 21-year-old dude who can play trial and error. I get placed on this green planet for a finite amount of time and I don’t feel like I’m surrendering any of that to people who are championing consistencies and stratification and all of that nonsense. We’re with the advent of social media, Internet, and advancing technology. I don’t have to play by your rules. I’m going to do what I want and I’m going to find my success regardless. I guess it’s realizing that feeling and you know, taking the gloves off.

It sounds like you have a different set of values on what constitutes success. Would you say that is accurate?

Absolutely, my role is looked at differently from the next man or woman. Even describing the adversities and the games and you know, standards you have to abide by. For example, I have two sold-out dates in the UK, another one lined up press and individuals waiting to get the piece of this new music and you know, I think that reflects taking your destiny by your own hands as opposed to abiding by what you’re told to do.

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Video Spotlight: Mean Joe Scheme & Optiks

In this video spotlight, Joe and Optiks discuss the new project, the state of east coast hip-hop, and what to expect from BEAMS. Be sure to check out both singles below, and follow @meanjoescheme and @thisisoptiks on your socials.

NYC artists Mean Joe Scheme and Optiks are putting the finishing touches on BEAMS, their new collaborative project. If “Cannonball” and “Hands Down” are any indication, we’re in for a viscous slice of hybrid hip-hop- a fusion of beats, rhymes, and anxious 2018 energy.

In this video spotlight, Joe and Optiks discuss the new project, the state of east coast hip-hop, and what to expect from BEAMS. Be sure to check out both singles below, and follow @meanjoescheme and @thisisoptiks on your socials.

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Main, Reviews

Eminem: Kamikaze- A Relapse of Epic Proportion

Poor Eminem. He’s damned if he do and damned if he don’t. His last album, 2017’s pop-heavy Revival, flopped by…

Poor Eminem. He’s damned if he do and damned if he don’t. His last album, 2017’s pop-heavy Revival, flopped by way of social media yet wasn’t a total disaster. It moved units and afforded him headlining spots on the summer festival circuit- but it didn’t give the fans what they needed. Or did it?

This conundrum surrounds Eminem’s career. When he’s on there’s only a handful of rappers alive who can compete with his pen and his fury. But when he bogs down projects with introspection- giving us a break from his hyper-aggro screaming at the mic- it feels like we’ve been cheated. Stans can’t deal with the sappy pop-crossovers, and today’s charts simply do not have space for good old-fashioned rap acrobatics. So what’s an aging top-five-dead-or-alive rapper to do?

Marshall Mathers unleashed Kamikaze as his response to the Twitter army (and critics) who condemned him- an unexpected and venomous (although carefully measured) surprise album packed with more syllables than a semester’s worth of English-as-a-second language classes. As we all secretly hoped for, rappers ain’t safe from Em’s verbal barrage of double and triple time bars on Kamikaze, and if you have time to unpack these 13 tracks you’ll find some genuine heat.

Unfortunately, if you really unpack these ferocious bars you’ll find a grumpy old man rapping for the simple sake of reminding us how technically skilled he truly is. The problem is we’ve known that for ages. Reverting back to early 2000’s Eminem complete with the use of “faggot”- his favorite homophobic slur on the otherwise bulletproof “Fall”- does little to contribute to his relevance in 2018.

There are a few maniac standouts on Kamikaze, songs that young rappers should study for the intricate art of word play and cadence (check “The Ringer”, and “Not Alike” featuring Royce Da 5’9). Yet, those lessons are harder to learn when it’s impossible for the listener to catch their breath. For most of the record, Em is in such rapid-fire mode that you absolutely have to run back verses and entire songs to truly digest his messages. Rap nerds and old heads will revel in the task, but is that what the game needs these days? I’d argue no

Kamikaze is a rare full-on barrage of supernatural MC’ing; but it comes and goes without much meaning when the target becomes Machine Gun Kelly-who tweeted about Eminem’s attractive daughter back in 2012. Is there really a hip-hop fan alive willing to side with MGK on this one? And if you’re looking for the most lukewarm, mediocre diss track (possibly ever recorded) check out MGK’s response, “Rap Devil”, a headscratcher that splits its time attempting to discredit Em while simultaneously praising his longevity and abilities. You either want the smoke or you don’t? Like it or not, the whole thing feels like a charade.

Eminem has always carried a chip on his shoulder. When the critics go low, he goes lower. While Kamikaze is far from a low point in what will be viewed someday as a catalog of studio hits and misses, it’s far from the return to form that it was intended to be. He might not be afraid to take a stand, but it’s become tiring trying to figure out exactly who Eminem is standing against.

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Evidence Weathers the Storm, Juggling Personal Life and Rap Career

20 years later, Evidence is still putting out quality Hip Hop.

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