From Massilon, Ohio to Brooklyn, NY, Stalley is turning more than a few heads with his highly autobiographical flows and his ability to grab the attention of just about anyone who hears him. The high school basketball star had high hopes of shooting hoops with the likes of Lebron, another Ohio native, when a series of injuries took from Michigan State University to Long Island. That’s when he put down the ball and picked up a pen again.
It wasn’t long after that Stalley was in playing his first EP at a record store in New York when Mos Def walked in and took notice. A similar luck landed him face time with Dame Dash while Stalley was working in the DD172 studio and using their space. Now, the Midwesterner is teaming up with New Orleans’ natives Curren$y and Jay Electronica for Mos Def’s Center Edge Territory project, a collective of independent emcees who pair up, “when the game needs it.”
In a phone interview with Ohio’s own, I asked about his upcoming project, ITM, what Ohio sounds like, how he got his name, and what it’s like being a new father:
It’s called ITM. That stands for Intelligent Trunk Music. It comes from a big car culture. You know, I grew up being fascinated by cars and car systems. When I was growing up, there were always a lot of guys on my block who were into cars and working on cars. It’s something I fell in love with at a young age, and it’s something that’s missing from hip hop right now.
It’s also an Ohio thing. It’s part of bringing out the Ohio sound. You know, growing up in Ohio, you could hear them beating down the block. They’d be three blocks away and you’d hear their car before you’d it. So, I’m trying to bring that back with this music. It’s not really autobiographical like autobiography was but it paints a picture of Ohio. It’s the sound of Ohio.
So, what does Ohio sound like?
It’s a big sound. It’s a lot of base, a lot of bottom, a lot of 808s. It’s trunk music to the fullest. I don’t want to say it’s rider music, but it is rider music. You know, especially on a Friday night or on the weekends, people ride up and down Lincoln Way, that’s the main street out here, and go down to the parking lot by Kmart and just be out there, playing music, talking, drinking, smoking, you know. So, it’s a soundtrack for your journey. Wherever you’re going whether that’s going to store to pick up a bag of chips, or to the mall, or to pick up a friend, or whatever, you can have that music and have that feel.
Some people want to put me in a category with the other artists that I’m affiliated with. They want to put me in a box, but I have no box. I have a sound of my own, and for the last 8 months or so I’ve been trying to develop it. From Growing Ape (ed: first mixtape), to now, I’ve always carved out my own lane. I’m taking a sound that’s big, big like Wiz Khalifa or Drake and putting intelligence into it.
The first video, Slap, off that project basically describes the whole thing. It’s about making the trunk slap, you know? When someone is riding their car and beatin’ down the block, you know we’d always say it’s slappin’. So that video will be out at the end of this month or the beginning of the next.
Everyone talks about your signature beard, but where did you get your name?
The name was given to me from friends and family. I played basketball, and it was just a nickname that people gave me. People always used to say I played like a stallion. And a stallion is, you know, a black horse, really powerful, that moves with a lot of, how do I say it, spunk. Yea, so that’s what people always said I did. I moved like a stallion. But stallion sounded a little too much like a porn star name so I dropped the ‘on’ and just left is Stalley.
You just had a daughter, what’s that like being a father in the rap game?
It’s beautiful, she’s everything to me. She’s all my motivation. If I didn’t have any motivation before, she’s it now. She’s five months old right now, and I never want to be away from her. You know, I don’t want to miss her first crawl or her first walk or her first words. To have her around me is beautiful. She’s the prettiest girl.
How did you get the attention of Dame Dash and his crew?
It’s been love since the first day I met them. When I first met Dame, he took an immediate interest into what I was doing and what I represented. And, then he just basically took a genuine interest. So, I can’t never be mad at someone who lets me do what I want to do, to have creative control and have a platform for my music.
His newest project, the 24 Hour Karate School, will be debuting tomorrow in Best Buy, Amazon and iTunes, featuring Mos Def, Curren$y, Jay Electronica, Jim Jones, Nicole Wray, and the Cool Kids, to name a few. And, look out for ITM which will be out at the end of October, as well as the yet untitled Ski Beatz mixtape coming out later this year, or early next year. Of course, don’t miss out on his show this Wednesday, Sept 22 at the Middle East presented by Leedz Edutainment.