Gino DePinto, AOL
Believe it or not, Stalley's been surpassing career goals consistently for years. He's been rapping for less than five years and has managed to release three critically acclaimed projects and sign to one of hip-hop's most heralded imprints in recent years. The release of his latest, Savage Journey to the American Dream, has fans eager for his official debut album, slated for arrival in October. The BoomBox caught up with him to talk about European love, Nike believing in his vision, the tentative title of his new EP and Rick Ross' hands-off work ethic.
You've stated your reasons for titling your mixtape Savage Journey to the American Dream were based on trying to figure out the next goal after reaching "the dream." Do you feel fulfilled in having achieved your American Dream?
Have I? Is that what you're asking? Nah... And that's the saddest part of it. I feel like, as individuals or as humans, we're always looking for something after the accomplishment, you know. We could always say that we want a million dollars, or we want one championship, but once you taste that, once you get that? You always want more and that's what I was trying to put across with Savage Journey.
From Lincoln Way Nights to that point of putting [Savage Journey] out I had been signed, I had seen the world. I'd done a lot but I wasn't satisfied. There was so much more, because once you become a certain artist, you wanna win Grammys, you wanna go platinum and it doesn't stop because once I do that I'll probably wanna go diamond. So it just never stops I think and that's what Savage Journey is to me and I guess I'm just on that search to find the American Dream like, "Where does it stop? Where do I find complete satisfaction in what I do?"
Have you found that out yet? What will signify complete satisfaction for Stalley?
I don't know. I'm still figuring it all out. I've just been rapping for four years so I'm a baby for real and I think a lot of people don't understand that. They see me with the people I'm around, banging with the heavyweights, but I mean I'm four years into it. So I'm still figuring a lot out. But I definitely know what my message is. I definitely know what I want to accomplish in music but I'm growing every day.
You've been really popular in Europe for years. Why do you think a young man from small town Ohio can consistently sell out shows in Paris?
Man, I don't know. I guess my story, that Massillon, Ohio story is relatable to Paris, France. I think a lot of people, can not only recognize themselves in my story but they recognize themselves with me as an individual. I'm just an everyday dude living my dream. I'm having fun, I'm enjoying life and I just do the music that I love to do and I think people can feel that. They feel those vibes. When you're genuine, that radiates off onto people and I think that's what people understand.
It's just so odd that that would happen so far away from home first.
It is! Right. And it was like that. For a while being new it's like I was struggling... It was pockets within the U.S. where I could fill up the room but now I could pretty much go anywhere and fill up a room. Even for this to be my first time in Atlanta, it was a nice crowd, the energy was great, there were true fans that knew the music so it's a blessing. It's humbling but it is weird that it started in Paris and London and Belgium, for them to catch on first and then America.
One of the first endorsements you had as an up-and-comer was with the streetwear brand Good Wood. You recently signed on to an endorsement deal with Nike. That's huge.
Nike just recognized that I was a genuine person and that I fit their brand. I feel like I fit their brand. They're American-made. I'm American-made. It's clean and classic and that's what my music is -- clean and classic. I used to scrape up pennies for a pair of Nikes. I would beg my mom for Nikes and now I just get 'em every day, pushing 'em out the door. But, it's a beautiful thing. Honestly they were one of the first companies to jump on-board with me, they believed in me and really saw my vision and I can't say enough about them. If they never gave me another pair of sneakers or anything it's just a blessing to have a brand, a Fortune 500 business, be like, "You should be a spokesperson, an influencer for our brand."
Was there anything unbelievable that happened in the studio while recording Savage Journey?
Oh man... While recording? Nothing really.
So it was chill all the way throughout?
Yeah! I had fun doing that project. I guess the craziest thing would be that all the features that happened, happened on the same day. Everybody got on the record the same day.
That never happens nowadays.
Yeah. We were all there. Wale, Meek Mill, we were all in Atlanta and everybody just hopped on the record. They heard the music and were like, "Lemme get on this! I'll get on that one!"
How often do you record?
Oh, I record everyday. Especially now since I'm working on my album and I'm working on an EP and a mixtape to drop before the album, so when I'm not out here doing shows, I'm recording the album.
Are you planning on releasing any more visuals from Savage Journey?
I got a lot more [laughs].
Really? You already came out with a few.
Yeah. Anybody that knows me, knows that when I put out projects like, Lincoln Way Nights, I had maybe 16 songs on there and like 13 videos. The visuals are important because some people don't get it until they see it.
You went all the way to Huntsville, Alabama to get with the Block Beattaz from the Slow Motion Soundz camp and they ended up doing most of the project.
I didn't know they would have the sound. I'm always listening to producers and I'm always listening to music and it could be anybody! I could bump into a kid that's like 14 and just started making beats yesterday. I'ma listen and if it fits and it's speaking to me in a way where I feel like I could tell my story on it then that's could be the sound of the next project.
Do you actually reach out to those aspiring producers? Like, did you reach out to Block Beattaz?
Nah, they came to me. And it's crazy because I sat in the studio with 'em. It was like eight of 'em and I went to each room with them and listened to beats. I picked out about 30 and I didn't start recording right away. I had the beats for like two months. Then I went to my iTunes and I was looking for a sound because I wanted to start working on a tape and then the [instrumental for] Savage Journey "Intro" came on, wrote to it immediately. Then the next one that came on was "Petrin Hill Peonies," wrote to it immediately. Then "Island Hopping," then "Cold." Then it was just like, "You know what? I'ma just do the whole thing with them!" And now they're actually working on my album.
That's a great look. So you have the EP coming in a bit and the debut album right behind it in October.
Yeah. The EP will be just something for my true fans. I'm just gonna get back into classic Stalley mode. I'm gonna make the music that I just love to make and my fans love to hear. And then I'll do the mixtape and that'll pretty much start pushing towards the sound of the album. Just so people don't get hit outta nowhere with a new sound or whatever. So I'm just gonna keep pushing and keep putting out records, that's it.
What are you planning on titling the EP and the official album?
Um, I do, but I don't know that I can release that just yet. The EP may be called The Cruise In. But the album, I can't give you that name. I'm sorry [laughs].
All your projects sound different but there's a common thread running through all of them. A sort of realness. Are you comfortable in saying that you've found your signature or are you still looking?
I don't think I am [still looking], but I just think that I like progression. Like, I put out Mad Stalley: The Autobiography and that was all Blue Note jazz recordings that I rapped over. Lincoln Way Nights was more like trunk music. Then Savage Journey was even more like, I guess a bigger trunk music sound. I just don't like for any project to sound like the last one, I always like to innovate and bring something new, but I definitely know what my sound is.
I'm just a man who loves cars, love to chill, smoke. I love children, I love to uplift and enlighten. That's pretty much me and that's pretty much my sound. You can hear that on Savage Journey from "Cold" or "Island Hopping." You can hear that on the "Intro." Then on Lincoln Way Nights you can hear that on "Chimes of Freedumb," "Tell Montez I Love Her" or "Slap." That's pretty much the Stalley sound.
So as far as music goes, how much input does Rick Ross have in regards to your work?
I mean, none really. He just lets me do my thing. He trusts in me. He believes in me. That's why he brought me over there. That's a blessing and that's why I'm over there. Before him, I'd had offers from every major label, from Atlantic to Def Jam, everywhere, but for him it was like, "I love what you're doing, I want you to continue to do it. I don't wanna change nothing. You got it." He's a true fan. And that was when I was like, "I'm over here" [laughs].
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