Rick Ross and De La Soul don't seem to belong in the same sentence, much less on the same LP. Yet there they are, the gangsta and the backpackers, practically bookending burgeoning Midwest MC Stalley's studio debut, Ohio.
But Stalley isn't torn between those polar opposites on this release. Rather, Ohio is thoroughly thuggish; early cut "What It Be Like" is a standard chest-thumper with some clever lines. The same can't be said for the Ross-assisted "One More Shot," a generic club banger that could've been fascinating, if Stalley showed any self-awareness while rhyming about liquor and weed.
Still, he spends some time considering his contradictions. On "Problems," Stalley rhymes about "plotting how to count a million dollars" to get his "mama out the projects." That admirable nuance is missing on the album's most beloved track, lead single "Jackin' Chevys," but it's all the better served for being a self assured thief's theme, with a beat that'll not only rattle trunks, but also prompt cowering drivers to lock their doors. Stalley also showcases some strong verbal dexterity on the track, inventively rhyming "jacking is law" with "what's yours is ours."
Such a slew of straightforward tracks make Ohio's few cerebral cuts, like the De La guest spot "Navajo Rugs," seem all the more out of place. Stalley showcases eclectic strengths on this release, but focus certainly isn't one of them. (Maybach Music Group/Atlantic)