Always into something other than rocking the mic
I liked Honest Cowboy a lot. Well, I liked some of it a lot. I was probably much too positive in my review, but there are a few joints from that mixtape that I love. Swangin’ and Cup Inside a Cup showed Stalley in his lean sippin’, classic car pushin’ element, and A-Wax showed his emcee skills were well developed if not always engaged. Expecting progression, I had high hopes for Ohio, his major debut album. But since I’m talking about it during the Airing of Grievances, you can likely guess what happened to those hopes.
Ohio continues my least favorite aspects of Honest Cowboy while abandoning the good it did and picking up new ideas that don’t work for me. So I think Stalley disagrees about what makes his music interesting. The lean anthems are gone. The lyricism is turned down to the point that I can’t remember one quoteable. The car songs occur far too infrequently, and only Boomin‘ has the requisite strong bass that such a song needs. Meanwhile, System on Loud must be named just to mock me, because no amount of volume can make that song good. Basically, none of what I wanted to happen is in Ohio.
Instead, the beats aren’t terrible but the only one that really interests me is in 3:30 PM. Too bad Stalley didn’t show up on the mic:
And my white girls in Medina
Who’s finer than they momma’s China
And them Mexican girls who sharper than a line up
I got em’ city to city I’m talking All-Star Line-up
Got a roster spot come sign up
I’m talking max deals, Balenciaga
I’m talking black heels with red bottoms
Pretty girls with the big bottoms
Needless to say, rhyming lineup and bottoms with themselves in a boring verse about women is far from the skilled writing that I’d hoped to hear.
One More Shot is another vexing letdown because it features August Alsina’s nasal whine on its hook. Combining that poor choice with its plodding R&B beat, it feels like a obvious ploy for mainstream female support. The beats on Ohio mostly stay away from the so calm it’s boring R&B sound that plagued Honest Cowboy, but they fail to connect just the same. Problems sounds like really average gangsta rap, both in its beat and cliché “life in the hood is hard so I sold drugs” topic, while Free, What It Be Like, and Navajo Rugs try to be thinking affairs but are too slow for anything but sleep. Speaking of Navajo Rugs, it features De La Soul (!) but all three rappers perform vague verses that didn’t resonate with me at all.
Ohio comes closest to good on the two songs which ape the West Coast production styles that Stalley is happy to report are heavily based on samples from Ohio R&B/funk artists. Jackin Chevys is a capable reimagining of Eazy E’s Boyz in the Hood, but it doesn’t do much beyond resting upon that novelty. This would have been a good time for Stalley to rap like he gives a damn, but he’s content to say nothing and let the beat dictate his rhythm. Always Into Something is very similar except that it sounds like 2001-era Dr. Dre and Ty Dolla $ign’s raspy hook is excellent but not enough. So without Snoop Dogg or Eazy’s charisma, and without really creative sonic aspects of their own, why should anyone listen to these songs instead of reaching back to their better inspirations??
I’m worried that Stalley doesn’t know what’s good about his music, and that his past great moments were simply a few pleasant mistakes. But at least his efforts have brought more attention to Ohio and its other artists. Maybe one day the state will have a music scene that gets national attention, similar to Chicago and Detroit, and he’ll be partially responsible for that happening. I still wish the album named after my birth place was much better, but I recognize that faint silver lining.