After meddling for a couple of years near the carcass of backpack rap by spitting over Madlib instrumentals, Stalley made a name for himself in 2011. He enlisted the fresh produce of soulful syrupy trunk rattlers from Rashad, and used them to rhyme about cars, girls, the working class, and Black pride. While some were critical of Stalley’s technical skill and personality on the mic, without a doubt Lincoln Way Nights was one of the best free or for purchase long players of all year. After the beard branded the internets, and Young Guru re-mastered the record, Rawse and MMG came calling and added the young spitta to their ranks. On Savage Journey to the American Dream, Stalley (or the Bawse) replaces Rashad for the critically lauded Block Beataz, and further streamlines his sound / message for a possible mainstream push in the future.
One thing that is clear from jump is that Stalley has definitely stepped up the quality of his flow by varying his tempos over different tracks and leaning into his personality a bit more. On “Hammers & Vogues” Stalley re-units with Curren$y for a lush celebration of material wealth and rising popularity; it calmly hits like CP3 in crunch time. The slapper though is the Chad Hugo produced lead single “Everything New”. The title concisely captures the lyrical sentiment as Chad’s Yosemite Sam piano chords bounce over classic Neptune’s marching band drums. Yet, it’s the Soundtrakk produced “Seen It All” that truly captures Stalley’s talent. The record’s big light’s melancholia allows Stalley to get earnest and honest about how his new opportunities and experiences have pitfalls he remains vigilant of.
All in all though, Savage Journey is a bit languid and monotonous. While the Block Beataz definitely have more layered and better engineered sound than Rashad, the chemistry and nuance of Lincoln Way Nights is gone. The tail end of the record actually has its best moments as other producers take the reign and the Beataz themselves change up from their futurist slump-funk to more MMG anthemic sounds such as “BCGMMG” featuring Ross and Meek Mill. Also the album itself fails to reflect the very title: the hardships of trying to make riches and name for one’s self in America. Snippets of American’s speaking on it at the end of tracks really isn’t enough. It’s more about how wide-eyes and appreciative Stalley is about his new position on arguably rap’s hottest label not named YMCMB. Without a doubt this is a solid tape, I just hope Stalley doesn’t lose himself trying to conform to the aesthetics of the Bawse and his team.