(AllHipHop Features) Midwest rhymer Stalley recently released his second official project with Maybach Music Group. The Massillon, Ohio native says the Honest Cowboy mixtape is the “one that’s going to open people’s eyes up. The music is going to speak for itself.”
While Stalley is going to let the tracks do most of the talking on his behalf AllHipHop wanted to connect with the “Swangin” performer to get his take on a few topics not covered in the music. Stalley discusses some of his business ventures, the status of his debut album, his view on this generation’s “legendary” emcees, and whether MMG is in the same league as Death Row & Roc-A-Fella.
AllHipHop.com: How has being signed to Maybach Music Group influenced you?
Stalley: It really just influenced me to stay the same, and keep doing what I’m doing and to stay gung-ho in what I believe in. It helped me realize I do something special with the individuality that I have. It really is that special, because it isn’t the same as everybody else on MMG and everybody else as far as just music. I think a lot of the music sounds the same. They use a lot of the same producers. They make music for the club, for the radio. I think the reason that Ross selected me to be on MMG is because I had my own unique sound that was still able to be a superstar in a sense. So I keep on grinding, doing what I’m doing.
I spoke to Rockie Fresh a few months back, and he was saying how Ross as a label head doesn’t micro-manage much. Do you feel he gives you free rein and the opportunity to explore your own concepts?
He definitely doesn’t micro-manage. He allows you to have free rein to do what you want to do and let you learn from just being an artist. Someone like me and Rockie Fresh, we’re young artists, so it’s a lot of learning to go through and experiment with. You got to find yourself as an artist. I don’t think anyone can really point you toward a direction or a sound. It’s got to be organic and natural, and that’s why I decided to go with Maybach Music, because Ross was allowing me to do just that.
[ALSO READ: MMG’s Rockie Fresh Feels No Pressure; Talks Ross, Upcoming Video & ‘Quality Over Quantity’]
You never really gave a release date for your album, but you’ve been talking about it for a while. I’m sure you hear people saying things like Stalley’s album is never coming out. Does that impact you at all?
That doesn’t affect me at all. People are always going to talk. When I put out the album people are going to say I shouldn’t have put out the album. It’s just waiting on the timing for myself. You only get one first album. I want to make sure it’s right. Everybody over at the label’s excited. Everybody wants the album to come out, but I said I personally felt like I wanted to give the opportunity for the fans to get to know me a little bit more and listen to me a little bit more before I gave them the project.
It’s not because “Swangin” isn’t doing good, or they pushing me back. You know you hear all that stuff like, ‘You know he ain’t dropping cause the single ain’t popping’ or ‘Stalley ain’t never coming out.’ I hear that all the time. People are always going to have something to say. Like I said, you only get one opportunity to come out with your first album, and I want to make sure that it’s right and classic in my eyes. If it’s not classic in everybody else’s eyes, I want to make sure it’s classic in mine before I put it out.
You’re on a label with some pretty well established artists. You’ve got Ross, Wale, Meek Mill. They’ve all put out albums that were fairly successful. Do you feel any pressure to match their success?
I feel no pressure coming from the camp or anywhere. We all are individuals. We all have our own style, our own fan base. That’s what makes MMG so great, because we all do our own thing, and we all come together to make good music. So yeah, it’s no pressure at all.
How do you feel when people compare MMG to legendary labels like Death Row and Roc-A-Fella? Do you feel like MMG is at that same level as those crews were during their prime?
We definitely making our own stamp in music and in Hip Hop. Roca-fella and Death Row, it’s hard to come behind the Bad Boys and people like that with the hit music they put out, but we doing the same thing. We’ve been holding it down for the past five summers. If you want to say it like that. It’s been dope. It’s even an honor to be mentioned among those groups.
There’s the Self Made Vol 3 coming out soon. We know there’s Lupe and Jadakiss on the album. Have you guys worked with anybody else that might show up on that project?
I’m sure there’s going to be a ton of special guests. That’s something that Ross does. He puts that together. He usually allows us to come with records of our own and puts the records together. I’ve been in the studio working on a few records, and he’s kept all of them. I’m excited about a solo record that I got on there that didn’t really fit my album or my mixtape, so I gave it to him. He kept it, and it’s amazing.
What’s the status of your Blue Collar Gang clothing brand?
It’s coming together. This fall we’re dropping a new season. It’s going to be a lot of chambrays. We’re working on sweat pants and different designs. I hate to say a clothing line is a clothing line with only t-shirts and hoodies. It’s actually evolving into what we want it to evolve into, and that’s a full line brand. We got, like I said, chambrays, crew necks, hoodies, sweat pants, socks and hats. It ‘s really blossoming into something special.
What about other corporate partnerships? I know you did something with ESPN a few years ago.
We got some cool stuff. I still have that relationship with ESPN, with Nike. I got a couple of other brands that I’m working with. I got a few things I can’t speak about, but I’m slap-dab in the middle of the culture with streetwear and fashion in general, so I got a lot of cool things coming about.
We know you’re heavy into sports and cars. What other hobbies and interests do you have outside of music?
I read a lot. I’m into literature.
What book would you recommend?
I’m reading a book right now called Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski. I’m just getting into it. It’s about his life growing up, his parents coming over from Germany as immigrants, him growing up in California, the people he came across, how it was adapting to a different neighborhood. It’s a good book so far. I would definitely recommend that. I would also recommend any book by Hunter S. Thompson.
There has been a lot of talk in Hip Hop the last few months about the “new legends” with artists like Kendrick Lamar, Drake, J. Cole. Do you feel like the current generation of young emcees are getting the proper respect as compared to more universally accepted legends?
Within anything it’s hard for people to step down. Michael Jordan don’t want to give LeBron and Kobe proper respect for being LeBron and Kobe, so there’s always going to be that disconnect. People are always going to want to hold onto that title or that position. That’s just the way of man just having that macho mechanism about them. I think that in due time all us will be placed in our proper placements as far as the history goes.
People always want to be mentioned as legends, but don’t do anything legendary. You got Pac and Nas and Jay Z. People that you call them legends for the way they not only revolutionized music but the whole culture and the way of living and the way of thinking. It’s hard to give somebody that proper legend stamp. Those words get thrown around so much these days; legend, classic, timeless. It is really though? That’s just my opinion.
What separates Stalley as an artist from other emcees?
Just my personality. The passion that I have. The drive that I have. The voice that I have to speak from my heart and from a place that nobody’s ever been. I grew up in Massillon, Ohio. It’s not many places in the world like that, so that’s where I speak from. I speak from my experiences that are much different from everyone else’s. That’s what makes us all individuals.
I would say one big thing is everybody’s chasing a record for the radio, for the club. I make music for the cars. I make music that jams that you can vibe to, and that’s really what separates me and that lyricism aspect. I don’t think people are really lyricists no more. I think that’s the big difference between me and those guys.
Stream/Download Stalley’s new mixtape Honest Cowboy below.