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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.
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#IndieSpotlight: N’awlins Rapper A. Levy Is Proclaiming Positivity Through His Music

“It’s a great time…even better it’s the best time of my career thus far.”

New Orleans rapper A. Levy wears many hats: hip-hop artist, audio engineer, t-shirt brand owner, father, and husband. His music is a mixture of lyrical storytelling, and golden era aesthetics, and contemporary production. “I’m influenced by a lot of things and try to touch on subjects I feel are neglected,” he tells AAHH in an interview.

The celebrated emcee started off his career making parodies and remixes of radio songs. “I’m from New Orleans,” he says, “so Mac, Fiend, Mystikal, No Limit and the Cash Money camp influenced me,” he says, also naming Nas, Outkast, and Kendrick Lamar who give him inspiration from to pen songs.

His journey has been long, with many drops along the way. “To date, I’ve released too many projects to remember,” he says with a laugh. “I started off under the name Young Duece. After a conversation with a local radio personality, I changed it to the most natural thing I could think of … my name.” Some of his past projects include Commercial Break, Best You Never Heard Of, Crashed Harddrive, Super Ugly, Crescent City Classic, and a few others.

“Right now, I’m working on collecting original production with no samples,” he reveals. “My heart tells me to do samples, but financially that’s not the wisest move when it’s time for radio, tv, movie and video game placements.”

He’s received a ton of recognition thus far. “The Source has covered me, XXL, 2DopeBoyz, BBC, performed in Thailand, London, Aruba and successfully did three national tours all in the last three years.” That has all been independent, too. “I’ve [also] been nominated for and won a few NOLA music awards,” he says proudly.

“I record mix and master my music,” he adds. “I book my shows and do my PR, all while holding down a full-time job. My studio — The Hut Studios –has been a local staple for the last decade for some of the best indie artists in the area. In addition to all that I also throw monthly showcases and festivals in the states.”

He is quick to note his primary goal as amassing as much influence as possible. “I want to put my city in the best and most accurate light possible. We’re a city full of lyricists, pop artist, and street artist, but to date, only one part of our story has been told prominently. I want to be a part of spreading positivity.”

“I’m signed to myself. I don’t foresee myself signing any major label deals. I’ve personally had horror stories and heard twice as many from my peers,” he says. Next up is more touring. Bigger and better stages. Festivals, TV, and radio are all in play right now.”

“It’s a great time…even better it’s the best time of my career thus far.”

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“Ye” Fails To Reintroduce Mr. West

At times, Kanye West’s polarizing media posturing is his strongest attribute. We can’t wait for the next idiotic gem to…

At times, Kanye West’s polarizing media posturing is his strongest attribute. We can’t wait for the next idiotic gem to rattle between his ears and tumble from his lips. That noise is great content; filling blog pages and gossip sites, sparking debate across social media and music platforms. But after a casual listen to Ye, his newest disaster, does his brand of pigeonholed creativity matter anymore?

This perpetual media circus is where Kanye operates best. He’s a freewheeling spirit; a madman at the boards, a producer with infinite vision and a MC with a caustic tongue. He’s a master at manipulating a turn of phrase while simultaneously dumping the world upside down-remember when he flippantly suggested that slavery was a choice? This sort of buffoonery is exactly what West has spoon-fed the public for the past few years; and still the world anticipates his every chess move with a panicked FOMO that only Kanye can induce.

West has mastered the art of celebrity, where nothing is sacred or left to our imagination. He lays low only long enough to manifest his next move. The past few months have been no exception. He’s been holed up in Wyoming and Utah crafting a series of projects aimed for release this month. Among them is a collaborative record with Kid Cudi, Ye,  Pusha-T’s Daytona, and an as-yet-untitled record from Nas. Kanye is apparently producing seven songs for each project, digging for samples through some 2,000 vinyl records he purchased and shipped out west.

This most recent version of Kanye is the one we cannot stop talking about. These days we’re constantly confronted by Kanye the enigma- the uncanny fool who can’t dislodge his foot from his mouth- until he releases new music. His art has a timely way of silencing the shit talking; of zeroing the critics back to his inevitable genius — which brings us up to speed in 2018.

Kanye’s production on Daytona will be ranked as some of the year’s best. On the flip side, his newest offering — the slim and trim Ye — is an unbalanced and easily forgotten mess. At a running time of twenty-three minutes it’s chaotic and disconnected, attempting to borrow the best working bits of The Life Of Pablo and Yeezus while ignoring any of the soulful introspection and self-depreciation that made us fall in love with the Old Kanye ages ago.

Take the album opener, “I Thought About Killing You”, for exactly what it is and you won’t be let down. West, the egomaniac, nervously vents about his punishing mental illness and nagging insecurities while never allowing the listener a second to process or feel what he’s living through. The song serves as a false entrance to a world that’s as contrived as the album cover, and hardly as deep as the internet will lead you to believe. Is Kanye really the poster boy that mental health is looking for? He certainly wants you to believe so.

For the album’s actual release, West invited hundreds of “influencers” to Wyoming for a listening party- the industry’s equivalent to a real time gallery walk. Kanye took his show on the road, and in the meantime alienated himself further from the culture he’s spent years crafting and molding into something people once truly believed in. Rather than hitting any impactfulmark by relocating his camp to The Equality State, he created an even larger gap between us and them.

Ye can’t help but put a serious divide between Kanye and his fans. There are moments that work, like the beautifully crafted “Ghost Town”, featuring a rejuvenated Kid Cudi and an incredible hook courtesy of 070 Shake (a star in the making), and the bouncy and biting “All Mine”, which contains plenty of chuckle-worthy bars like “I love your titties because they prove I can focus on two things at once”. But those moments of silly bliss are buried beneath cringe-induced, head scratching blunders which normally aren’t the defining moments of any Yeezy album.

By the time you get to the albums final three minutes, where Kanye recognizes his role as a father to little girls on “Violent Crimes”, you desperately want to believe in Ye, but the damage is done. Kanye West doesn’t want to get out of his own way, andhe might be too far gone trying to create, recreate, and monetize his Calabasas world to make something we can honestly believe in as common folks in 2018.

Kanye’s fall from grace is a marvel; complete with a public breakdown in 2016, a few hobo-chic fashion interludes, and a baffling reemergence into our consciousness with a pledging of love for Donald Trump. It’s without a doubt one of the strangest stories in all of popular culture. The problem is, Ye fails to captivate us as a re-introduction to Kanye West and this new chapter in his saga. It’s lackluster at best, which is a bar that’s far too low for one of hip-hop’s true trend setters.

Ye comes and goes without a single memorable moment. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Instead of debating the quality of the final product like we have so many times with Kanye releases in the past, we’re left with a mediocre soundtrack and the hollow images of famous people in Wyoming dancing around a bonfire.

 

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REVIEW: A$AP Rocky’s “TESTING”

Lifelong rapper, artist, and fashion mogul A$AP Rocky has at long last delivered his third album: TESTING. The project was…

Lifelong rapper, artist, and fashion mogul A$AP Rocky has at long last delivered his third album: TESTING. The project was quickly overshadowed by Pusha T’s synchronized drop that sparked beef with Drake, but still maintained relevancy with mixed reactions from fans and reviewers.

The project opens with an uncharacteristic bang on “Distorted Records,” and then settles in with a feature heavy remix of “A$AP Forever.” The next three tracks feel like a return to his previous album with trademark Rocky flows that lead into an interesting acoustic track featuring Kodak Black through a prison phone. The rest of the album seems to find its own voice and ends on a strong note with Flacko and Frank Ocean rapping over a distorted Lauryn Hill sample. Most had a positive reaction to Testing but some people claimed it was overhyped and even disappointing.

At first listen Testing is honestly hard to get through; it’s a dense project. This may have caused some people to write it off as lacking much progression from his prior work. But Testing is only dense because it’s Rocky’s most mature project to date. At 29 it seems as if the rap legend has finally honed in on his “too cool for you” style without even having any super notable lyrics. Flacko nails his verses on more experimental songs with consistency and swagger in place of lyricism. On tracks like “Brotha Man” and “Purity,” Rocky can be heard spitting/singing with the help of notoriously experimental artists Frank Ocean and Dean Blunt, but reels listeners back in with slaps like “Praise the Lord” and “OG Beeper.” The intro song to the album, “Distorted,” doesn’t seem to fit the project or introduce its vibe too well, but as a stand alone song it’s pretty decent.

And despite the awkward first track, once you’re a few songs deep the album does become cohesive. Rocky makes sure to pay his tribute to Bone Thugs and Three Six Mafia by blending in some chopped and screwed instrumentals, and somehow complements them with acoustic guitar and singing. It was this combo that really made Testing distinct from his previous work.

Overall, compared to Rocky’s electric, Ciroc infused debut album LONG LIVE A$AP, this project is more like a fine wine. I predict Testing will age better than his first two records because it’s scattered with gems that will easily skip your radar in the first few listens.

My favorite songs from the project are: “Praise The Lord (Da Shine),” “Brotha Man,” and “Purity.”

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HSVN – Changes (LP)

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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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