If Jay Z made the Yankees cap famous, you could say the same about Stalley and the Cleveland Indians—no disrespect to Willie Mays Hayes. So with his new mixtape, Honest Cowboy, dropping last Thursday, we decided to get up with the Ohio native to talk about his Indians fitted obsession.
Interview by Aron Phillips (@the_real_aron)
What was your first cap?
Man, my first cap that I can remember wearing had to be an Indians one. Going off some pictures in my mind, I had to be six or seven years old, and it was probably before an Indians game so I’d have something to wear. I remember my mom got it for me.
Nowadays, how many are in your collection, and how many of them are Indians caps?
I have over 100 caps, and I would say 90 percent of those, maybe 85 percent, are Indians caps. (laughs) And they’re all different—Chief Wahoo, Crooked C, Block C, different colorways. I usually try and wear all the on-field caps the players wear, the 59Fiftys. I have some 9FIFTYs too. All the Indians caps I have are fitted.
I stay true to my roots and feel bad wearing another team.
Was there a moment when you became a collector, or did it progress naturally over time?
I think it just progressed naturally over time. It was partly me always wanting a cap to wear and represent my city and my state, and to also represent the Indians who are my favorite baseball team. It’s not only the Indians though; I have caps from Ohio State and some of the minor league teams like the Akron Aeros and Columbus Clippers, and even have a Columbus Blue Jackets crown on my head right now.
Explain what you mean by crown.
I call my caps ‘crowns.’ Even in one of my raps I say, “I got a crown on my wrist and a crown on my top…” That is what it is. I’m not saying I’m the King of Ohio or anything like that. I feel like a king always wears a crown, and as a prince, a strong man who walks around and represents for my state, it makes sense. Back in the day, whether they were Greeks or Egyptians, they had crowns and represented where they are from.
Do you feel a responsibility to put on for your home state?
I do feel that way sometimes, but it’s cool because I’m from Massillon in Northeast Ohio, and I’m a huge Indians fan, Browns fan, Cavs fan, and love Ohio State further down in Columbus. Even though the Bengals and Reds are Ohio teams, it’s really all about the Northeast. I stay true to my roots and feel bad wearing another team.
Are you superstitious about particular caps?
Nah, not really. My only superstition is that I need an Ohio cap on my head if I’m doing a big event, or performing on national TV, or doing a photo shoot for a big spread and I know a lot of eyes are going to be on it. For music videos and such, I always make sure I have an Indians cap or something from Ohio to wear.
Is it true that you once wore the same Indians fitted for an entire tour?
That’s what I do. I have a show hat that I wear on every tour that I take everywhere with me. I put pins on the side of if from airports, antique shops, different states or countries that I visit. I got the idea from Ohio State and the buckeye stickers they put on the side of their helmets. It helps me remember the places I’ve been. From Poland to Aspen, from Prague to Arizona, I always make sure I get a pin to put on my cap, and I wear that same one every day for the whole 30-day or 60-day tour. I still have three of the old ones, all dingy and beat up. I put them up on a shelf and I’ll keep those through the years and look back and where I’ve been.
Do you see the fitted as a reflection of your personal style or simply an accessory?
It’s definitely a reflection of my personal style. My personal style is deeply rooted in where I’m from, from the walk I walk to the talk I talk. It’s what I stand for, what I represent. It’s an accessory in that I’ll wear it with anything, but it’s much more than that.
I always make sure I get a pin to put on my cap.
What is it about the fit and shape that draws you to New Era?
The 59Fifty is just a perfect cap; I don’t think there is a hat better. The crown is perfect. The brim sits on your head perfectly. I really can’t tell you how they did it, but it’s definitely perfect. I’ve even tried to wear other hats by other brands and it’s not that same.
How do you feel about those that leave factory stickers on their hats?
I think it’s a preference. Some people wear it and they know that when the sticker gets wrinkly it’s time for a new cap. Some people want you to know it’s fresh out the box; it’s like when people used to keep the tags on their sneakers back in the day. Me, I’d rather take the stickers off and wear it. I’m a true Ohio player, so I wear it how the players do.
Are you starting to see more Indians caps outside of Ohio now?
Man, I think that I’ve seen a lot recently since I’ve been wearing them. Outside of Ohio, you never really saw people wearing Indians caps, and it’s not a team with a super popular logo. Chief Wahoo is semi-popular, but he doesn’t match with everything like an L.A. Kings or Chicago White Sox cap does. But outside of Ohio it started picking up after people started seeing me wearing the Crooked C cap from the Cooperstown collection. And then New Era started making it in a lot of different colorways.
Last question: Have you been able to make it to an Indians game this summer?
I just was there maybe two weeks ago at Progressive, and [Indians center fielder] Michael Bourn comes out to my song “Swangin” to bat. A lot of my fans had tweeted me and let me know, but I never got to see it. I’m glad I finally made it to a game.
On the next page, travel to Ohio and discover Stalley's favorite haunts...