Mixtape Review – Stalley: Lincoln Way Nights (Intelligent Trunk Music)
Movement: it’s what compels listeners not only to indulge in the most complex, sometimes draining, prog-rock compositions (“you end up in a different place from where you started, man”), but also in the hard-hitting, 3 minute, hip-hop anthems, destined to narrate fleeting visions of storefronts and vague urban lights along a car ride. This seems to be mostly the theme of Ohio-bred Stalley’s Lincoln Way Nights (alternatively called Intelligent Trunk Music–giveaway?), as he states, “Paint loud, Car loud, can you feel the bass?” on “She Hates the Bass”, and showcases a sharp-looking Chevy Camaro–amongst other rides–in the video for “Slapp”, which might relate to car enthusiasts as fine examples of “car porn”.
Even so, Lincoln Way Nights takes us on a journey, through subtle variations of sound (thanks to producer Rashad): a constant genre-switching between the intimate and the declarative, snippets of spoken-word samples, and eerie, but very fitting, low-pitch Brazilian singing on “The Sound of Silence”. The song, which also features slight hints of bossa nova guitar, presents the sharpest contrast to the mixtape’s overall grounding in horns (and which the song itself also retains), in what may be considered a “New Orleans” marching band kind of sound. Maybe a nod to The Roots, the tuba provides bass frequencies for every song.
Lyrically, Stalley provides a refreshing dose of realism. In the opening lines of “See the Milq in my Chevy” (also the first song of the mixtape), Stalley states: “a hustla told me you only hustle when you need to/and make sure you feed the streets/please don’t let them feed you.” Avoiding the overly intellectual and political, “Chimes of Freedumb” offers a poignant metaphorical milieu: “They throwing stones at my poems, trying to crucify me/hang me up and throw the noose around me/feelin’ like I’m being hosed down with dogs around me.” It’s street wisdom and storytelling, not tasteless ego-stroking (be assured, rap critics), which all impressively stays within the form of hard-hitting, bass-bumping, slaps. But it’s not high brow–more than anything, Stalley comes off as genuine, just with a close ear to the street.
The only faux pas is the guest appearance of John Mayer (perpetrator of songs like “Waiting on the World to Change”, and about everything else he’s written) on “Assassins” (really?). Makes us wonder: why did Dave Chappelle ever give him the rite of passage? And didn’t Mayer blow it all (as learned via some shoddy celeb article) by dropping the N-bomb, bragging about his excessive masturbation, and publicly sobbing? Thankfully, his performance is brief, and we forget it almost as quickly as we forget about his general existence.
Still, Stalley seems to have achieved the difficult task of honing his signature sound this early on in his career. So cheers to that, Stalley. You’ve managed to make some pretty fuckin’ legit music.
Stalley’s Lincoln Way Nights (Intelligent Trunk Music) is available for free download via: Mishka