Recording information: Atlantic Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Lounge Studios, New York, NY; Zenith Recording Studios, Atlanta, GA.
Photographer: Jonathan Mannion.
A fascinating first step, Stalley's Ohio really is the "intelligent trunk music" the man from Massillon, Ohio had promised in the pre-release press. Beats boom in a familiar style, rattling and pounding as if UGK were now running the Buckeye State, while storytelling lyrics come from a more elevated place, especially on the street-game documentary "Problems." The goal of getting a baby mama out of the projects fuels a do-or-die lifestyle on a cut where the streets are always watching, while "System on Loud" is the sound of running away in middle-sized burbs like Massillon, a place where only the headphones and jeep beats understand a city-aimed dude like Stalley. Free-spirited numbers like "3:30PM" and "Free" come from a different place, with the former sounding like a young T.I. giving his A$AP Mob audition in 2014, while the latter finds producer Black Diamond on the trip-hop tip with a Portishead jones, as Stalley claims his "Chevy rides like a Rolls-Royce" in a manner in which one must believe. On top of all these wonderful boom selections there are the Rashad-produced singles "Jackin' Chevys" and "Always into Something" with Ty Dolla Sign, both of them mixing the best bits of Death Row and Diplo for something utterly infectious. An epic exit is made when De La Soul join for the seven-and-a-half minute "Navajo Rugs," where Stalley puts it in a nutshell with "808s and low ends beating on my chest like King Kong," and then freestyles poetry concerning the power of music. Powerful stuff itself, Stalley's excellent debut proves Funkadelic's hypothesis of "Free your mind and your ass will follow" while taking Dr. Dre's advice of "Keep their heads ringin'" to another level. ~ David Jeffries