Stalley vs. the Dangers of Bold Statements
There’s a lot of opinions on Stalley. The Ohio native has been in a tough position musically. He signed to Maybach Music Group during the height of their short-lived reign, but it only did so much as opposed to Meek Mill and Wale. It’s the theme when thinking about the undercard of the label. Many of these opinions formed against Stalley range from him being a boring monotone artist to talented but overlooked.
Stalley isn’t my favorite artist in the world. I’m not sure where he ranks on a list to be honest. He’s higher than Cory Gunz but lower than Kid Cudi (yes, in 2016; yes, even after that god awful alternative album). Often times, I find myself skimming through his projects and leaving with little. Don’t get me wrong, though. His potential is there, but the packaging of it is wrong.
On his latest project, Saving Yusuf, Stalley did something that’s rare: inspire a healthy discussion. I imagine that most of Stalley’s fans find his music relaxing and calm in the same fashion of Curren$y. So, it was striking when he put himself in the same bracket as two of the biggest names in hip-hop.
“Bar for bar I’m Kendrick and Cole/ but never mentioned when they mention whose cold” (“Lay’m Down”)
What J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar do exceptionally is create conversation and art that speaks to a generation of people. In that regard, it’s hard to compare yourself to them, even if it’s simply “bar for bar.” Each bar holds a higher meaning than just being a cool quotable line. This is where Stalley falls short. He makes some good music, but it’s not transcending the culture. His subject matters often revolve around a marble bag of assorted topics, including cars, money and loyalty.
In order for Stalley to become the artist he thinks he is, it would require him to ditch his identity. We’ve seen artists do that in the past and it rarely ends well. Unfortunately, I don’t see Stalley appreciation ever meeting the level of Cole or Lamar, but he has a lane that’s worked for him. I also don’t want Saving Yusuf to be overshadowed by two lines, but it opened up discussion and thoughts.
The truth is, Saving Yusuf might be his best body of work to date. He crafts a beautiful relationship tale on “Shooter.” Being a fan of cars, Stalley delivers a catchy tune featuring Chuck Inglish known as “808z.” The production choice is also the most fitting it’s ever been with contributions from regular collaborators Block Beattaz, Rashad, FKI, and standout Black Diamond. Past the Cole/Kendrick line, and certainly inspired because of it, this is the first project that felt engaging and memorable.
At the same time, there’s plenty of faults with the mixtape. Cringe-worthy recollections of sex is not something Stalley is good at, but he goes for it on “Like Me.” Some of the other subject matter is generic to the typical rapper. Even if he is able to portray it better, that doesn’t help his case in over-exhausting topics such as “Hunnid Stax.”
As I mentioned, Stalley has a sound that he sticks to and continues to improve it. If nothing else, Saving Yusuf shows that he’s still learning and aims to make the highest grade of the music he can make. Sometimes, it’s all we can ask from an artist.
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