It’s hard to say what it is, but for whatever reason artists from Ohio feel particularly inclined to rep their state, especially those from the northeast. Of course, in hip-hop, holding it down for your home town is a big part of the game. However, rappers from the double-o are especially loud about it, with Stalley adding himself to a long list of artists including Kid Cudi, Bone Thugs and Chip tha Ripper who shout out their home state at every opportunity. So it’s fitting that Stalley’s major label debut for MMG is simply titled Ohio.
While it may sound West coast influenced, Ohio is rooted in the sound of the buckeye state. Dr. Dre made the G-Funk sound famous in California in the ’90s, but many of the artists he was sampling to make those beats on the The Chronic and Doggystyle came from Ohio. The Isley Brothers, the Ohio Players, the O’Jays, and many other artists responsible for creating that sound actually came from Ohio and Stalley is bringing that sound back home. It’s a shame that G-Funk died with the ’90s, because it sounds fantastic when implemented into songs on Ohio.
You can credit this to Ohio native Rashad, who is responsible for most of the production on the album. Over the past few years, Stalley and Rashad have established themselves as one of the best rapper/producer combos. Rashad’s beats are never lacking in bass, and he’s diverse enough that his beats don’t sound too similar. Sometimes the only characteristic two Rashad beats share is the heavy drums with unrelenting bass. Stalley has always aimed to make music for the car, or “Intelligent Trunk Music” as he dubbed it himself, and Rashad is there to make sure it’s going to knock in your system.
Rashad handles production for eight of the 12 tracks, and those eight happen to be some of the best on the album. “One More Shot”, produced by Noel, is one of the few missteps on the album, going for a radio-friendly sound with August Alsina delivering a nasally hook and throwing in a Rick Ross feature for good measure. It’s otherwise hard to point out any real flaws on Ohio. At just 12 songs, the album is wrapped up tightly without any filler. The way the final track, “Navajo Rugs”, fades into the same sounds the album opened with on “Welcome to O.H.I.O” is done because this is an album that was made to be put on repeat. You can drive around with this on a loop all night long.
With Ohio, Stalley was able to capture the blue-collar mentality of the midwest while paying homage his home state. Rashad sort of steals the show with some of the best production on any hip-hop album in 2014, but Stalley deserves just as much credit for having the ear to piece this together and holding up his end lyrically. He’s still making “Intelligent Trunk Music”. Ohio is easily enjoyable thanks to booming beats, but Stalley makes it into something more with introspective lyrics. After establishing himself with well-received mixtapes, Ohio is exactly the album fans could’ve hoped for Stalley to deliver with for his major-label debut.