Assuming a “strong silent” persona in the rap game is, on its face, akin to career suicide. Donning a guise of durable resilience in the face of adversity is key to surviving hip-hop’s trenches (see: Meek Mill), but such characterization is increasingly difficult to pull off amidst the bravado ingrained in hip-hop culture. Toss in the caveat of rappers becoming more mild-mannered in their (relative) old age and the assumption becomes one in which only the likes of Jay-Z can exude a quiet confidence, masking his lavishly amassed opulence under the veil of family and introspection.

Enter Stalley and his second studio album New Wave. Representing Ohio and its 330 area code as boldly as ever, Stalley finds himself aptly navigating the contrasting braggadocio and consciousness of a quintessential rapper, across a 37 minute jaunt released July 28, 2017.

In a sense, Kyle Myricks, henceforth known as Stalley, could be considered a rap game Udonis Haslem. Haslem, a power forward on the Miami Heat has contributed to the squad’s success continuously for the last 14 years, having gone undrafted in 2003. A fan favorite as well as “glue guy” in the locker room, Haslem unabashedly has represented his home state of Florida his entire life, helping his Florida Gators to the NCAA championship game in 2000 (lost to Michigan) and, more intimately, tattooing the entire state of Florida on his back. He was ultimately picked up by his hometown Miami Heat in 2003 and often acts as a gatekeeper to both the city and his teammates, teaching young players how to navigate the NBA landscape while bolstering the group mentality in the locker room.

Stalley doesn’t have the exact mentorship role as Haslem, but his quiet ferocity is the hallmark of savvy veteranship. Like Haslem, he doesn’t spend much time in the media’s all-seeing-eye, nor does he falter in the execution of his goals. For as much as he can (and will) boast the monetary signs of success, Stalley is fixated on separating himself from his peers, notably by embracing his continual growth as delineated on the track “My Purpose.” Signed to Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group as recently as a year ago he’s since departed for greener pastures releasing New Wave exclusively through Real Talk Entertainment (also responsible for former MMG bodyguard-turned-rapper Gunplay’s debut album). On the album, the Ohio rapper glides across smooth and at times funk-rooted production while presenting the finesse of the rap game’s finest.

Cursory searches of Twitter and Google yield few results for MMG’s involvement with Stalley. The MMG website hasn’t been updated since 2014, – it features Stalley on the Self Made Vol. 2 cover alongside Rick Ross, Meek Mill, Wale and Omarion – and interviews since 2015 when he released The Laughing Introvert mixtape point to Stalley focusing on building his BCG (Blue Collar Gang) brand and, “help[ing] the people and artists that’s been around me throughout my career,” as per an interview with XXL.

Well aware of fans claiming him to have been the best of MMG’s roster at the time, Stalley has seemingly prided himself on thoughtful lyrics that, while boasting the braggadocio of a rap colossus, never stray far from his Massillon, Ohio roots.

Despite calling out his love for Sacramento, Los Angeles and Brooklyn on the outro cut “The Journey,” Stalley continues to represent Ohio, most notably on “Old School Game” on which he takes listeners back to some wise words from his mother. Ms. Myricks, who was present on the opening track of 2016’s Saving Yusuf drops the prototypical motherly advice regarding preparation “when ya number’s called,” advice that eventually bleeds into the rest of Stalley’s verse which is delivered akin to a freestyle. Compared to the rest of the tape, “Old School Game” quite intentionally features the vinyl crackle and faded vocals which create auditory nostalgia that eventually bleeds into the “O-H-I-O” hook. In keeping with his reverence for his home, “Madden 96” is a call back to the days of playing the titular game on Sega Genesis with friends while aspiring for the same things he’s finally attained. “Hard headed with car fetish / we would toss a nigga for raw lettuce / trying to see a thousand islands / passport crazy mileage / cigarette boats on the Cayman Islands,” starts off a series of bars that see Stalley flow at his best, a feat not unusual on New Wave which has Stalley skillfully drifting though his lyrical lane.

Despite his penchant to flow seamlessly across the production, Stalley takes interesting choices of extending hooks, as on “Soul Searching,” allowing the beat to reset after two full cycles through the chorus. Nevertheless, his production choices across the project lend themselves to his success, falling somewhere between his “intelligent trunk music” category and throwbacks to the steady funk soundtracks of 1970s Blaxploitation films. Seasoning instrumentals with woodwinds as on “Stock Tip” or strings on “Kevin Hart” add to the quiet elegance of Stalley’s work and embody the same, “strong silent” charisma he manifests.

Stalley ultimately hits listeners with a bit of misdirection with the misnomer New Wave. Anticipating a completely retooled Stalley on the album is likely more distressing than had he completely redefined his sound heading into this project. While he may no longer be under the tutelage of the MMG conglomerate, Stalley has cemented his persona in rap, maintaining reverence for the craft and continuing to feed his fans.

New Wave is available to purchase and for streaming everywhere.

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