If you’re not familiar with Ohio rapper Stalley, that’s probably because his label, the Rick Ross-helmed Maybach Music Group, doesn’t push his music nearly as much as they do the more known members of the roster like Meek Mill and Wale. However, that doesn’t mean his tunes are low quality; in fact, on the contrary, the bearded emcee may be making the best music on MMG to date. I first heard of Stalley in 2010, when he released a mixtape rhyming entirely over Madlib production. I’ve supported his work ever since, watching him grow as an artist as I do the same myself; so it was a no brainer for me to accept the offer to perform with him on the Philly stop of his ‘From Me To You’ tour this past Saturday.
The turnout was a pretty strong one, as the venue, Voltage Lounge, was looking pretty full by the middle of the night. I was slated to perform right before Stalley, which is known as “prime time”, or the “direct support” slot; but the downside was there were five (!!!) other openers going on before me. Therein lied the challenge of being able to maintain the crowd’s interest after they sat through five other locals, some of which were pretty amateurish. But I’ve dealt with tougher circumstances in my career, and wasn’t worried about doing what I came to do.
I hit the stage around 11pm to a room full of generally disinterested, impatient folks waiting for Stalley; the entire front row was texting on their phones when I came out. Needless to say, I knew this was going to be an uphill battle, and I welcomed that. In Philadelphia, most rap show audiences don’t give a solitary fuck about any of the opening acts, as we’re all wack until proven dope and have to work extra hard to gain their favor. I’m proud to say I’ve gained that favor on every stage I’ve ever touched; so, it was time to do it again.
I went straight into a mix of older and newer songs, and by the middle of my set, I noticed more heads bobbing and more phones being put into pockets. The key to keeping the crowd engaged as an opener (besides just putting on a dope performance) is to keep the energy high to prime them for the headliner, realizing this is not your show. A good amount of people came out to see me that probably wouldn’t have come if I wasn’t on the bill, but the majority of the room didn’t know me from a can of paint. I didn’t waste a minute of stage time, going from aggressive bangers to a straight-up love song in order to draw in as many of the audience members as possible. I ended the set with the first single from my upcoming debut album, “Respect My Mind” featuring Milton on the hook. It was the first time we performed it live, and it definitely went over well.
Immediately after my set, Stalley hit the stage wearing a throwback John Elway jersey, showing his support of the Broncos in the Super Bowl. Despite the subpar sound, the veteran’s mic control was top notch, as he remained in the pocket for his whole set. The Ohioan’s cult following was in full effect, reciting his lyrics word-for-word as he ran through fan favorites like “Jackin’ Chevys“, “Boomin’“, “Slapp“, “Hammers and Vogues“, and “Address“, as well as cuts from his new Saving Yusuf project, all of which exemplified the lyrical, Houston-influenced sound he brands “Intelligent Trunk Music”.
Stalley took some time between songs to address the abundance of police-related violence going on, prompting the crowd to raise a collective middle finger before going into his N.W.A.-referencing, Ty Dolla $ign-assisted banger “Always Into Something“. He also acknowledged the women in attendance, dropping feminine-focused songs “One More Shot” and “Party Heart“. It was a well put together set but after the excessive amount of openers, the crowd noticeably began to lose interest, even in the man they came to see.
The Maybach Music rapper got their focus right back into his cool, calm, collected hands though, as he ended his set with one of his biggest hits to date, “Swangin’” featuring the legendary Scarface (who unfortunately didn’t make an appearance). The concertgoers chanted the screwed and chopped hook right along with Stalley, as it seemed to be the song they’d been waiting for. He graciously thanked the crowd and then held an impromptu meet and greet on stage, signing autographs and taking pictures.
After the fans left, Stalley, myself, members of his team and the venue staff all chopped it up about everything from music to the Super Bowl, as Stalley accurately predicted the Broncos’ victory. His personality is just as you’d expect from listening to his music: intelligent without any pretentiousness, soft spoken but not shy, laid back but still engaging to converse with. It was a great experience to open for an artist with such high profile connections that still remains grounded. Cheers, Stalley; hope the rest of the tour is even better for you.