It’s been about six months since Stalley officially joined Maybach Music Group. The news was greeted with a buzz reminiscent of when his teammate Wale joined the squad. Many critics thought the Massillon, Ohio spitter would have to fork over his blue collar rhymes in exchange for a membership with MMG. He didn’t.
Tomorrow, Stalley will release the follow-up to his critically acclaimed Lincoln Way Nights mixtape, Savage Journey to the American Dream. It’s his first full-length release since hooking up with The Bawse, and based on what he told Complex just before taking the stage at La Zona Rosa in Austin, Texas, where he was prepping to perform alongside Meek Mill and Wale for SXSW, fans can expect his raps to be as rough and rugged as the beard on his face.
Read on for Stalley’s thoughts on what to expect from Savage Journey, Maybach’s forthcoming Self Made Vol. 2, and how Ross occasionally jacks his tracks.
Written by Brad Wete (@BradWete)
You’re not a rookie anymore. How does it feel being a full-fledged member of MMG?
Yeah, it feels good. It’s not like I’m getting accepted now. It's more like now I’m kind of getting comfortable around the guys and being a signed artist and getting that help. Going from doing everything yourself to getting a little bit of help and backing. It’s a beautiful thing.
Is it hard to stay true to yourself being around all those strong personalities? A lot of people expected to hear a content shift in your rhymes when you started messing with Rick.
It’s like one of them epiphanic moments when you just feel that you have arrived and you belong. At the same time, you definitely want to stay yourself and just do things you’ve been doing at a rapid pace now. You know what I mean? It’s more out there to catch. There is so much you want to be a part of and you kind of don’t want to be left out.
I don’t know how fast you were banging songs out before, but Rick and the gang are known for making several songs a day. Are you OK with moving at that rapid pace creatively?
I take time with my project and my records to be conceptually a solid project instead of putting songs by themselves. Even Ross tells me sometimes you just got to knock out joints. And I’m like, 'Yeah, yeah.' In the back of my mind, I still know I have to be me.
Yeah, joining definitely took it up another level. I was always working putting out visuals and putting out music and just working, but now it’s even multiplied by a hundred. You just got to keep it going. Now it’s like, you don’t want no down time. Like you said, studio, show, interviews, studio, whatever. You just want to stay in the studio and keep producing and you want to keep it quality. And that’s the thing with me, ’cause I take time with my project and my records to be conceptually a solid project instead of putting songs by themselves. Even Ross tells me sometimes you just got to knock out joints. And I’m like, “Yeah, yeah.” In the back of my mind, I still know I have to be me.
That’s the follow-up question. You’re not a fly guy kind of rapper. Your personality is moreso about developing a storyline and plot. How does that dynamic work at MMG?
That’s the thing. I guess that might be the only difficult thing with me is just learning to be able to… I wouldn’t say do different types of records but just try to know what records are for what. Some of these records are for here. Some of these records are for there. Some I keep. I’m definitely just trying to throw out music that’s good and still my quality, but it’s still fixed around a brand. I guess that is the most difficult thing! [Laughs]
The sequel to the MMG compilation Self-Made Vol. 2is coming out this summer. How do you feel about what you’ve done on it so far?
Ross has given me some records that fit me. It’s not like, 'Get on this "9 Piece" remake.' He understands. That’s why he brought me to the table. He knows I bring something different and I bring a whole different element to the whole crew and to music in general.
You know what’s funny? We were just talking about that in the car. I’m happy. I got some good records and some special features. I can’t really mention them right now. You know, there are definitely some good records. Ross has given me some records that fit me. It’s not like, “Get on this ‘9 Piece’ remake [Laughs]. He understands. That’s why he brought me to the table. He knows I bring something different and I bring a whole different element to the whole crew and to music in general. He’s definitely giving me some good records and I am excited for it. Yeah, I am definitely excited for it.
You got a big day coming soon with that mixtape.
Yeah, Savage Journey To The American Dream. March 30. Oh man, I can sit here and tell you how good it is [Laughs]. Everybody says that. Everybody says that their next project is better than the first or the previous ones. But this project is definitely one I am very proud of. It’s special. It’s the most album-sounding project for me as far as the music goes. It’s something for everybody. A lot of people say that, too. I’m trying to stay away from cliché phrases. But it is something for everybody—young, old, man, woman. There’s music on there for everybody. I am very proud and I can’t wait to get it out.
What are people going to notice when they download it?
They are definitely going to see the progression. They are definitely going to see the growth lyrically, musically, production-wise. There are a lot of different records that people aren’t used to. The first joint we let go was the “Everything New,” which was produced by Chad Hugo. And I know that people were like, “What?” There are definitely some surprises on there. But it’s still Stalley, it’s still part of the music, it’s still that Intelligent Trunk Muzik vibe to it.
When people saw the Chad Hugo, they thought you were going towards that more polished sound since you’re down with MMG.
That’s the blessing. That’s your part. And that’s why you do it. It’s like anything. If you play a sport in the NBA or whatever, you go to that team because you want to get that ring. Anybody can play on a certain level. That’s why you do it and you got to use those perks. At first, I was like, “I got to stay this way and whatever.” But why not use that hand up in there and if it feels good and it’s right and that’s a blessing to be a part of, too? To have that opportunity to reach out to different artists and different producers that I might not have had is special. Even being on the radar of these people now. Someone might’ve heard the name, seen me. But now, they might pay closer attention.
That sounds good, but all fans are critics. Some of them thought you plus a Neptune beat meant you were selling out.
That’s the thing, too—not to let so much out the bag. I wanted to get that record because I want them to see the range or the growth and also when they hear it, they are going be very—you know, the true Stalley fans are going to be like, “OK, you’re not going too far.” But you’re going to get some who are like, “Nah, I don’t mess with that.” You know sometimes you lose a few to gain a few more.
I wrote so many records for this project that’s why I did the Songs, By Me series. I was dropping singles two, three times a week for maybe a month and a half.
So then your debut album follows. When’s that dropping?
Ross put down for fall. We’ll see how it goes [Laughs].
So when you’re making all this music for different purposes, how do you decide what song is for the MMG compilation or for your debut or for Savage Journey?
Yeah, that’s what I was saying earlier. “I got to put this here. This could be for a tape. This could be for the compilation. This is for…” You just don’t know. I did the song “Party Heart.” I forwarded it to Ross and he called me one day and was like, “I want that for the Rich Forever.” I was like, “Alright.” I knew it was going to get a look. I was keeping that for me. It worked out in the end. It always does.
That’s the thing. When I’m writing I’m more focused on those things. Basically, “What can be on Self Made 2? What can be on my album? What can I just give away? Or keep for myself?” Now I am just working on records with different producers, different artists. Whatever sticks sticks. I’m not going to say no if Ross and Meek are like, “Oh, let me get a verse.” I’m like, “OK.”