It's been almost five years since Ohio-born MC Stalley emerged as one of the artists to check for. Yet even after releasing three albums and features on the successful Self Made series, many so-called rap fans continue to sleep on the Maybach Music lyricist.
That all might change after his latest mixtape, Honest Cowboy, which, truthfully, is in the running for his best work to date.
With some help from legendary left coast producer DJ Quik, the mixtape's introductory track "Spaceships & Woodgrain" made an immediate statement that listeners were in for a treat.
"If I could turn the wheel with one finger, I'll steer it/Automatic spaceships and I don't mean no leer jets/I pilot the Impala and stroll through the projects/Gold on my neck that's a code of respect," Stalley boasted, showing off his lyrical fortitude.
He then took a page out of fellow midwesterner Kanye West's book on "Samson," rhyming over a Rashad track with that fiery cadence that Yeezy brings and once again channeling him on the hidden track "A-Wax," delving into the perks of the rap game. "Champagne pourin', big joint rollin', bombay sippin', bad b---h gettin'."
Features helped to bring out the best in him. On "The Highest," he flaunted his ability to effortlessly change his style up as both his flow and the track switched gears roughly two-thirds of the way through. The song soared with vocals from Crystal Torres.
ScHoolBoy Q brought his own best on "NineteenEighty7," which served as an homage to that old school sound that helped bring Cali to hip hop's forefront. It's now helping to push Stalley to his next level. "Red Corvette speeding down Sunset/Ski mask black tech, pulling through the set/Gang signs and palm trees, bomb weed and a Becks/Mentality complex, conscious but get vexed over gangsta instrumentals/Instrumental to the rap game, yeah the game's simple," he rhymed over a Terrace Martin classic.
H-Town legend Scarface blessed "Swangin'," which leaked on the Internet early in the summer.
Back in his lone-cowboy saddle, Stalley continued to impress. Black Diamond produced the space-age "Cup Inside a Cup," which was another lyrical high only lifted by "Feel the Bass," which offered a soulful sound reminiscent of Wiz Khalifa's 2012 classic mixtape Taylor Allderdice. And "Gettin' By" served as a toast to the MCs that helped influence Stalley to become the lyricist that he is today.
Honestly, Cowboy is good enough to be an album. Everything from the mixing to the features to the selection of Block Beataz bangers made for a collection that never got dull.
(Photo: Maybach Music Group)