Review : Stalley Savage - Journey to the American Dream
PitchforkRick Ross has a fascinating habit of signing rappers with infinitely less charisma and presence than himself. How else to explain his attraction to workhorses like Stalley? The talented but decidedly dazzle-averse Ohio rapper traffics in straight-ahead sincerity, rapping entirely in pained, vague clichés about making it through struggles, staying free of temptation, and striving for success. He has built up a dedicated fanbase with the same kind of dauntless diligence required to run for city alderman, and displays an equal level of magnetism. Ross collects these guys: Wale, Pill, now Stalley. He reupholstered Wale into a strip-club rapper and dropped Pill. What he's going to do with Stalley remains to be seen, but if this lushly appointed new mixtape is any indication, Stalley's having his moment in the boss' favor.
Stalley's alliance with Ross makes for an interestingly muddled listening experience. Stalley has cut himself out as struggling everyman, but here he's rapping on behalf of an imprint named for a high-end car line so prohibitively expensive that it actually went out of business because so few could afford it. He tries to justify this dissonance on a song called, of all things, "Island Hopping": "I was underground then, still underground now/ Difference is I'm under palm trees, not trying to be found," he insists. Besides the fact that the line is nonsensical, it falls prey to what I call rap's "Stillmatic Rule": the minute a rapper has to claim they're "still" something, they're obviously no longer that thing....full text
HotnewhiphopThe pressure is on for Stalley who has just released his highly anticipated mixtape “Savage Journey to the American Dream”; his first project since signing with Maybach Music Group. Fellow MMG artists feature heavily throughout, including Wale, Meek Mill and label founder Rick Ross. Signing to MMG was an interesting choice for Stalley, whose style seems to be in stark contrast with Ross’ focus on “bitches and business” (“Hustlin”).
Despite their stylistic differences, Ross’ impact is certainly felt throughout the mixtape, and he features on three tracks – arguably the weak points of the album. His contribution to the closing track “Party Heart” is little more than a name-dropping intrusion, as he fails to add any musical relevance to the song itself.
There is no question that Stalley comes across as a more authentic artist, many of his tracks suggesting that he is disinterested in the lifestyle of the 21st century hip hop artist, expressing his longing for “a normal life, shoot guns with a pretty wife” (Petrin Hill Peonies). His music offers a refreshing alternative to the machismo misogyny that has become the norm of mainstream hip-hop.
Although his style is eclectic, Stalley is at his most engaging when he reveals his softer side. And there are certain tracks (Live At Blossom, Home To You, Petrin Hill Peonies) that indicate he is on the right path to a promising career. If he continues in this vein, he may very well follow in the footsteps of artists like Drake, who also worked with Rick Ross early on in his career.
Listening to “Savage Journey to the American Dream”, one catches a glimpse of every facet of Stalley’s personality: the crooner, the gangster, the soulful lyricist. This will no doubt leave the listener wondering – Who is the real Stalley? Clearly he is still in his formative years as an artist, and this mixtape is the result of his experiments with hip-hop. His multiple musical personalities may be regarded as a demonstration of his insecurity, or his versatility. Either way, the tape provides a little something for everyone. ...full text
HiphopdxNearly a year since signing with Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group, Stalley delivers Savage Journey To The American Dream, a project that finds the Ohio emcee distinguishing his Midwest sound and likewise sticking to his BCG (Blue Collar Gang) roots despite his new position.
While Savage Journey is missing the sounds of Lincoln Way Nights (Intelligent Truck Music) architect and fellow Ohio-native Rashad, Stalley develops an artistic connection with The Block Beattaz that warrants similar praise. The much-anticipated Ross collaboration “Hell’s Angels (American Heathens)” doesn’t disappoint, as the two rappers load up lyrical clips that fit within the Maybach Music mission statement, and production from the Alabama duo follows suit. Then on the short but sweet “Route 21,” The Block Beattaz create a sedated backdrop that highlights Stalley’s stream of consciousness flow. Coming full circle, “Home To You” is the type of track that can be appreciated by fans and critics alike. The light melody, coupled with Anthony Flammia’s vocals, captures what Stalley could potentially do from a commercial standpoint.
For all his progress since 2008’s Goin Ape, Stalley is still making the transition from a rapper who has concepts on paper to a polished artist that can execute said concepts with skilled precision. The best example of this is “Seen It All,” where he flatly describes the molding of his character within the confines of Rap. A strong sense of reflection is being forged here; however, it’s hard to understand him through a delivery that’s filled with cluttered bars, not to mention a hook that is less than commendable. On the other side of the spectrum, “Live At Blossom” is an amazing piece of music that is as inspiring as it is daring. Over pulsating drums and triumphant synth courtesy of Soundtrakk (who ironically also produced “Seen It All”), Stalley discovers his lyrical zone. For the most part, Savage Journey settles in between these two extremes, whether the topic of interest is women (“Lover’s Lane") or ambitions as an emcee (“Petrin Hill Peonies”)....full text
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