The buzz surrounding Massillon, Ohio’s own Stalley is enormous right now. In the wake of a wholly positive response to Lincoln Way Nights, his most recent (and still free!) mixtape, Stalley made another round of headlines earlier this week when he purportedly signed to Rick Ross’ Mayback Music Group. The rumor was all but confirmed two days ago when Ricky appeared on the remix of the title track off Stalley’s Lincoln Way Nights.
If it is what it seems, Stalley adds breadth to MMG’s roster, bringing substantial lyrical depth and a notable dedication to speaking the truth through his music (ironic, isn’t it?). No matter how you look at it, Stalley is comfortably situated in a powerful position. With a show coming up in Providence on May 7th at Industry (formerly Jerky’s), Clutch and I caught up with Stalley to talk firsthand about Creative Control splitting from DD172, keen advice for aspiring beard growers, and the possibility of collaborating with Bruce Springsteen. Hit the skip for the full interview plus a download for the remix to “Lincoln Way Nights.”
BaaBP: For our readers who are not familiar with you, who is Stalley?
Stalley: Oh man. Stalley is an every day American writer who has been trying to find his way and tell his story along the way through his music.
BaaBP: And along the way you’ve had people who’ve helped you tell your story, including Chike and Coodie from Creative Control. Would you talk about your work with them and their creative vision as it compares to yours?
Stalley: That’s one thing that meshed and worked so well, working with Coodie and Chike. Our mutual friend who introduced us was like, “Yo, your art is very similar to their art,” with me being musical and them being visual. Before them, I never ever got a chance to put visuals to the music. It was a match made in heaven. As soon as I saw their work, I fell in love with it and as soon as they heard my work they fell in love it. The first video they did was The Autobiography. I played that song for them, and like ten minutes later we were shooting the video for it. It was that easy and that quick, honestly. People said, “What? This is crazy. Let’s shoot this video right now.” We shot it, it took us about 30 minutes. They chopped it up and we put it up the next day and got a real good response to it.
BaaBP: I know Creative Control recently dipped from DD172, and I know there are a lot of big personalities involved. Do you have any thoughts about that?
Stalley: I don’t know everything to really speak on it, but I know sometimes people grow out of situations. Sometimes people separating themselves from each other, or separating themselves from certain aspects of the business, can be beneficial. It’s like a regular relationship. It’s good in the beginning but eventually you have to move on and it’s better on the other side. That’s what I see from that. I don’t hear any negativity from either side. So I think that it was something that they both had to do. At the end of the day, I guess you don’t see eye to eye anymore, or you have creative differences. It happens to the best of us. Hopefully one day it could work back out, because what it was and how it started was beautiful.
BaaBP: Speaking of creative differences and making changes, I know you come from a much different place than New York City. How has being in New York City changed the game plan for you?
Stalley: It helps. It helps me to be around this type of energy and be around these kinds of creative people and minds. It helps me to get on my hustle, and it pushes me to work harder. There’s a lot of good competition. There are a lot of good things and bad things that motivate me. I wouldn’t choose any other place to be. Sometimes I do have to step away and create music or some kind of harmony within myself away from the City. But at the end of the day it’s a great place to be with great energy, especially being that I come from a rural, more laid back area. It’s still a lot of grind and hustle where I’m from, but it’s a different hustle and it’s a different grind. But I love both places. I recorded Lincoln Way Nights in Ohio. So I had to step away for a second to get it done, and it got done and it was good.
BaaBP: How angry were you to see Ohio State go down in the Final Four?
Stalley: Man, I was so angry. [Laughter] I get upset with Cleveland teams, and Ohio period. We get so close. And now I’m starting to think that maybe we do have some kind of curse on us. I know how hard people work in Ohio, and I know how proud people are in Ohio. People get UP for their teams and support, and it just lets us down. We had a good run with Lebron and then he dipped out, and then this year the Cavs are horrible. And then we have some hope with Ohio State and they get bumped. The Browns are struggling. The Indians are looking okay, but we’re only ten games in. I’m a big fan of all Ohio sports. I can’t say I’m a big Reds or Bengals fan, but as far as Northeast Ohio, where I’m from, I’m a big fan. Cavs, Browns, Indians, and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
BaaBP: Did you ball growing up?
Stalley: Yeah, I did play basketball. That’s something that I’m really competitive and passionate about. I can’t even play sometimes because I hate to lose. I get back in that go mode. But it’s fun, and I love it. I watch pretty much every sport that’s on TV. I follow the Ohio teams, and I really like the Oklahoma City Thunder. I like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
BaaBP: They’re both beasts.
Stalley: Yeah. I’m a sports fanatic.
BaaBP: If anybody but the Lakers makes it out of the West, it’s going to be the Thunder.
Stalley: Definitely, man. They are top notch. They are looking good, they have great momentum. And I’m just excited for them. I love that they’re a young team, I love the way they play together. I hope they stay together because they have great chemistry and they’re good dudes over there. They kind of remind me of my music.
BaaBP: I was about to say that! You have that song with my homie Falside called “The Come Up.” Right now is your and their time.
Stalley: Exactly, it’s right now. It’s a new face. Not to compare myself to them, but there are a lot of new faces. There are new artists that are coming up, and they are still respectful of the culture and of the game, they know the forefathers who got them to the position they’re in today. But then again, they’re like, “Fuck that, I’m coming after you.” And that’s how I am. I’m competitive in everything I do, but I still respect everyone else and everything they do. But at the end of the day, I’m coming for what’s mine. And that’s the type of attitude they have too. Another thing I really love is, I’m really proud of my little city, and I try to carry them on my back and represent them everywhere I go. Durant does that too. He got an offer to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated last year. They said, “We want you.” And he said, “Nope. I’m not being on the cover unless my teammates are with me.” Then they put him and his teammates on the cover.
BaaBP: Bring everybody with you.
Stalley: Exactly. Stuff like that, you gotta respect.
BaaBP: You’re from Massillon, Ohio.
Stalley: Yeah, Massillon.
BaaBP: You mentioned young faces. You definitely have a distinctive looking face.
BaaBP: How did you first start growing your beard, and what are some tips for aspiring beard growers?
Stalley: My beard started with my rap career. I’ve been doing music for about three years, and it’s been something that I wanted to grow with me through the process. It’s also something that kinda measures where I’m at in my life at the time. Sometimes I can look in the mirror and my beard can be strong and healthy and I know that I’m in a good place and stress free. Sometimes when I’m stressing out or going through things you can see the beard looking a little ragged. It’s been a source of strength for me. It’s a constant reminder to keep doing what I’m doing. You know, the longer it grows the stronger I grow, not to sound mythical or anything like that.
Stalley: It’s also my religion. I am a Muslim. So it’s something to remind me that I’m doing the right things or walking on the right path. For anyone that wants to grow a beard, just take care of it. Groom it well, and stay healthy inside.
BaaBP: You don’t ever want to be that raggedy dude with shit in his beard.
BaaBP: Loon became a Muslim and got out of the game completely. How do you reconcile your religion with the game, especially seeing as the game seems to undermine the major values of Islam?
Stalley: Like I said, following that right path. We all have different paths, different lives, and different goals. What I try to do is reflect that. I try to reflect who I am as a person, and my morals and values also. I try not to curse; I try not to speak negatively, because this is the life that I want to lead. And I try to speak on the things that I value, like family and friendship. I’m a proud dude, but I don’t want to proud to the point that it’s devilish.
BaaBP: Who would you say are some other cats that are in your lane? And who are some cats outside your lane that you might want to work with?
Stalley: Honestly, within hip-hop there aren’t that many people I want to work with. And that’s thing, I feel like we’re not in the same lane, or that we don’t have the same motives for making music. I do have people reach out, and I do work with artists who I feel like represent the music and themselves in the correct way. I would want to work with any up and coming artist. Outside of that, I’d love to work with Nas. And then outside of hip-hop, there are people like Bruce Springsteen, Kings of Leon, Toro y Moi, Little Dragon, Friendly Fire. There are a lot of bands I dig and wouldn’t mind mashing up with.
BaaBP: That would be crazy. I actually saw Little Dragon at the Williamsburg Music Hall, they opened up for Theophilus. They were tight.
Stalley: Yeah, they are sick man, I haven’t been able to catch them live. I missed them a couple times. I’ll eventually catch them. I listen to them a lot. I love the energy of their music.
BaaBP: What are your favorite streetwear brands and sneakers right now?
Stalley: I like more of the heritage brands, like North Project, Folk, but then I like HUF and 10 Deep. They make some clean stuff. As far as sneakers, I’ve been wearing Chucks a lot, Skate Cons are some of my favorite because they’re just so comfortable and go with anything. Jordan 3’s, I’m a lover of Jordan 3’s.
BaaBP: The true blues?
Stalley: Yeahman, that’s probably my favorite Jordan. Period.
BaaBP: What’s your favorite spot to eat in New York City and one at home?
Stalley: There’s a diner by Penn Station on 34th Street called Tick Tock Diner. I eat there a lot. It’s a late night joint to chill out. And then in Massillon I like Salsbury Pizza, man. They always talk about Chicago or New York having the best pizza, but if you come to Massillon, we have some amazing, amazing pizza. It’s a regular mom and pop type of place. It’s great.
BaaBP: My whole crew loves Lincoln Way Nights. What’s the reception been like in general?
Stalley: It’s been amazing. Hundreds of thousands of downloads to this day, and people continue to download. I see new people getting familiar with it daily. Every write-up about it has been a great one, from Pitchfork to SPIN Magazine. Everyone has shown it a lot of love. It’s very gratifying and humbling, because I spent so much time on it and I wanted to bring Massillon to everybody through the music. I felt I did a good job of doing that, and for people to receive it like that was amazing.
BaaBP: What’s in the near future for you?
Stalley: Touring, coming up to Providence soon and rocking out. Going back home to Ohio, got some shows back there in Cleveland and Columbus. I’m basically traveling, doing a lot of shows, putting in the groundwork to get Lincoln Way Nights to as many people as possible. And then I’m still working in the studio. I have something for the summertime. I’m gonna put out a little piece of work again for people to continue to ride around and bump to. I’m excited, man. I’m gonna just keep on working.
BaaBP: Thank you.
Stalley: Thank you.
Keep tabs on Stalley at his Website, on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and BandCamp, plus his blog on SLAM.com, his blog on HighSnobiety.com, and Stalley’s show with Creative Control called The Milq. Shouts to JJuanEnt!