The Midwest is home to some of the hardest working people in our country. Most of the cities that make it up are gritty, known for having high crime rates, while still being able to maintain an image that doesn’t reflect their hardships. You might see someone in a candy painted 87′ cutlass supreme, riding rims, with speakers you hear from a block away, that works a regular 9 to 5. How you ask? That’s the hustle of the people of the Midwest. Enter Stalley from Massillon, Ohio, or “Massa” as he calls it.
Stalley arrived on the scene back in 2010, on Curren$y’s Pilot Talk cut, “Address.” From there, everyone wondered who the guy with the big beard was. He then showed up with his debut tape Lincoln Way Nights, which was packed with trunk rattling muzik, but with a clear concise message not getting lost in the beat. From jump, we could tell that the Ohio native had a lot to say. His unique sound landed him a deal with MMG, where he dropped fire tape after tape for a few years before releasing his debut Ohio.
After Ohio dropped, Stalley quickly followed that up with Saving Yusuf, before disappearing for a year and some change. He’s returned with a new release New Wave, and free of the MMG label, he’s independent. His Intelligent Trunk Muzik persona remains, and the new music is a testament to that. RESPECT was able to sit down and talk with him about where he’s been, the new music, whether he’s MMG or not, and what makes the Midwest so unique. Enjoy it below.
RESPECT.: For those who don’t know what does Intelligent Trunk Muzik mean?
Stalley: Intelligent Trunk Music, ITM, man it’s a phrase I coined back in the Lincoln Way Nights days. It’s music that’s basically intelligent, it’s stimulating, it’s smart you know what I mean? It’s music with substance. When I say substance I mean down to the production, the cohesiveness of the sound, the way the project is put together, but the trunk music comes from being from the Midwest and wanting the music to rattle. I want people as their cruising, or even with they headphones on, on a plane, I want them to get lost in the music but hear a message and what I’m saying.
RESPECT.: You just dropped New Wave so what inspired the new music?
Stalley: That music is actually like 2 years old. So that music is really transitioning for me. It was a time when I was moving to a different part of the country where I never been. I built a studio in my home for the first time, and it was music that was just touching me. If you listen to the music it’s a lot of me in the music, I’m telling a story of me basically, and me living in the current and not the past. New Wave is me giving you where I was and what I was doing at that exact moment.
RESPECT.: So where did you move and why did you move?
Stalley: I moved from New York to Georgia. I moved because, you know just something different. A different pace, I felt like it was a place where I could work and really get work done. If you know and follow music, the scene is in Atlanta and LA. It’s all the producers, it’s really a hub where the producers, the artists the songwriters all that come through here. There are infinite amounts of studios, there’s so many studios so you can always book a studio. I wasn’t getting that stimulation in New York so I just had to transition. Plus I wanted to move my family into a house. I never had a house growing up. I always lived in apartments and projects so it was an opportunity for me to get my first home, and put my daughter in a good school.
RESPECT.: You went featureless for New Wave, what made you go solo on this project?
Stalley: With my music if you follow it, you know I never really have a lot of features in my music. A lot of that is for certain reasons. I like to make music with people that have like minds, friends of mine, and who I can relate to musically. Artists are difficult sometimes too, when it comes to getting features, this industry is kind of weird sometimes. So it wasn’t like I was thinking “oh I don’t want to do a feature” and I don’t think of other artists when I write music, I think about myself.
RESPECT.: So what’s up with MMG? You still with them or what?
Stalley: It’s family. I’ll put it like that. But my focus is myself and BCG. I’m an independent artist at this point.
RESPECT.: What made you strike the deal that you have currently?
Stalley: With Real Talk (entertainment), basically I had the music and I had a opportunity to get the music out to my fans. I was going through a transitional period where I was sitting on a ton of music. I’m always writing, I’m always making music, and I just wanted to make sure I’m getting the music out to the people. There was a big gap between my last project and this one, and Real Talk basically gave me a good opportunity to get the music out. It’s not a album, I seen a lot of people calling it my sophomore album, but it’s a mixtape and really just a project of unreleased music. I gave it to them to put out, I wanted it to be on all streaming services and distributed the right way, and that’s why I worked with them. And they did a great job.
RESPECT.: What are some hardships you think you face being an artist from the Midwest?
Stalley: The Midwest is heavily slept on. We have so much talent, we create so many sounds, from funk music back in the day to now having Hip-Hop. I think that we’re looked over and unappreciated because people look at the Midwest as a flyover place, and it’s not a destination where people stay, except Chicago. But there’s dope visual artists from there, musicians, everything, designers, actors I can go on forever. And just out of Ohio and Michigan itself. There’s ton of great people that come from those areas, so I try to put that on the map. This isn’t a shot at anyone but I think I’m the dopest Midwest artist that we’ve had and that we do have when it comes to the sound, when it comes to the stuff I rap about, all the way down to the look. I think a lot of Midwest artists get lost in a shuffle of other stuff. A lot of them don’t create a sound, and sound like they’re from LA or Atlanta or New York or the Bay Area, but I represent a regular Midwest person.
RESPECT.: Outside of Ohio what would be your favorite musical place in the Midwest.
Stalley: I would say Chicago and Detroit.
RESPECT.: Who do you listen to from Detroit?
Stalley: Boldy James, Royce Da 5’9, Eminem and Payroll Giovanni. I’m a hip-hop head man, I listen to a lot of stuff I don’t think it’s anything that you can stomp me with musically.
RESPECT.: Who influenced you from Ohio?
Stalley: Bone Thugs was a big influence growing up from Ohio, cause those are some of the first guys, and then M.C. Brains he had a song “oochie coochie la la la.” It’s funny I had went to a concert with my moms, my sister, my cousin and my aunt, and we had went to to see Queen Latifah, Naughty By Nature, The Fugees, and Busta Rhymes. I was a kid and I had to use the bathroom, and I went to the bathroom as a little boy and I went to pee and come next to me in the stall was M.C. Brains and I know that sounds kinda crazy, but I was like oh sh*t, it’s M.C. Brains and he was there enjoying the concert like the rest of us. Anybody who came from Ohio musically was an influence to me because that was so farfetched to me, and it was the impossible, so me seeing anybody like The O’Jays, Bone Thugs or M.C. Brains or anybody like that. We had Roger Troutman the Isley Brothers, Hi-Tek, he was a major part in Hip-Hop, Eternal Reflection was one of them best albums to me period, and he was responsible for the production on that.
RESPECT.: Explain Blue Collar Gang, for those who don’t know what it is.
Stalley: Blue Collar Gang is a mentality. It’s everything we spoke on. It’s the Midwest it’s that hard work, that grind, that grit that outworks people. It’s self made businesses, it’s the mom and pops businesses that we grew up around. I also come from a fashion background, so it’s definitely in the way I dress and put together my own brand. That BCG logo or shield as I call it, is important, having it everywhere it reminds me of who I am, where I come from, and I can wear any brand but still carry that mentality.
RESPECT.: Is it anybody in Ohio that you want to work with right now?
Stalley: I would love to collaborate with Kid Cudi. He’s from Ohio and I’ve never collabed with him I think we could make a dope record.
RESPECT.: Where does your fascination with cars stem from?
Stalley: Aw man, my fascination with cars stems from the freedom to go wherever you want. I’m from a small town, I’ve always dreamed of going big places and seeing the world. Also, it comes from everybody in my family. My father wasn’t around a lot, but when I was around him he was always working on cars. I would walk outside and see somebody under the hood of their car, or in their trunk fixing up their stereo system. I just got fascinated from that.
RESPECT.: Speaking of cars what’s your relationship with Curren$y these days?
Stalley: Curren$y is my brother. I just spoke to him like last week. We talked about getting together and doing some music. Hopefully that happens soon I know we’re both busy, and I know a lot of fans want a joint project from us but Curren$y is definitely one of my best friends in this industry and outside of this industry and when I first started coming up he was close by. He’s one of those special friends that helped and seen my growth. I respect everything he does.
RESPECT.: Is there anything that you would like to tell anyone that’s reading this before we wrap It up?
Stalley: Pay attention. My new music is going to be crazy. This was just page one, I’m very happy with the way people took to New Wave, and how excited they are. That wasn’t really even half of what we got upcoming. I got a lot of music I’m very excited about and I’m about to just unload. I got the freedom and ability to put out music at the pace I want, and now it’s about just getting back to my fans and the people that support me. I want to thank my fans for being patient with me and understanding the process. BCG forever.