Besides his smooth rap cuts, Ohio rapper Stalley is known for three things: his affinity for classic cars, a stealthy sneaker game and rocking the Cleveland Indians’ Crooked C hat like a uniform.
Fresh from releasing a new mixtape dubbed The Laughing Introvert, the Blue Collar Gang leader is already onto his next project: an upcoming hat collaboration with international lifestyle and sports brand, New Era.
On a sunny Monday afternoon in New York City (Aug. 24), an Indians jersey-clad Stalley strolled into New Era’s New York City office and let VIBE sit in on a private design session where the rapper put his skilled sartorial eye to use. Here, the bearded MC shares the details on his New Era collaboration, throwing a pitch at an Indians game as a kid and his latest tape.—Ashley Monaé
VIBE: How did the idea of this collaboration with New Era come about?
Stalley: I’m a big fan of New Era. Always have been since I was a child. We’ve built a relationship over the years so the idea of the collaboration was a mutual thing.
Can you recall the first New Era hat you copped as a kid?
Wow, that’s a good question. It probably wasn’t an Indians hat, which is funny. [Laughs.] It might have been a Cavaliers hat. Nope, I’m lying actually. It was an Indians hat. I remember it was either third or fourth grade, and I got to throw out the first pitch at the game. It’s really a crazy story. My elementary teacher’s husband worked with the minor league team, the Akron Arrows. I did well in school and her, her husband and two daughters took me to the game. They surprised me with throwing out the first pitch. Sandy Alomar was the catcher at the time. And that’s when I got my first hat, an Indians hat.
Wow, that’s funny because you’re always rocking the Crooked C hat.
I like to take responsibility for making the Crooked C hat popular actually. [Laughs.] I remember looking for a different Indians hat because I always wore the Ohio Crown or something repping the state, and I wanted something other than those traditional styles. I think I found it in, like, Cooperstown. I remember telling my manager to order every single one they had on the site. I wore them a lot, and fans used to always ask me where I got them but I couldn’t tell them because I got them off the site. I didn’t know of any actual stores that sold them. But after a while, I started seeing them in a few different places, and people would come to my shows and ask me to sign them, so it’s a really cool thing.
Aside from this collaboration, you have your own clothing line with your brand Blue Collar Gang, too. Are you just as hands-on in the designing process?
Definitely. Outside of music, people know me for cars, fashion and sneakers. I’m definitely hands-on with everything because I’m real big on the particulars. I want everything to look right. I want everything to be a direct reflection of something I would actually wear, and not just making something for the consumer. I myself want to be able to wear the things I’m putting my brand on and feel confident and comfortable selling it myself. It’s hard to sell something if you wouldn’t sell it yourself, you know.
So how would you describe your personal style since it’s a direct reflection of your brand?
Just like my cars, man. Clean and classic. [Laughs.] I come from the Midwest and everyone was hardworking and real blue collar, so that’s where Blue Collar Gang comes from. Massillon is as blue collar as it gets. There are 32,000 people and a lot of them wore uniforms, whether they were cops, firemen, mechanics, or working at steel factories. That type of industry is heavy so growing up, I always saw people dressed up, whether it was a suit or Dickies or Carhart. That’s really where my style comes from so it’s always been simplistic, clean and to the point. I wanted the collaboration with New Era to have the same feel—something clean that you could wear everyday. It’s not loud and you could throw it on with anything.
Tradition and pride. Where I’m from, New Era definitely represents tradition, so in a sense, sports memorabilia is equivalent to a collector’s items or even a trophy. For a lot of people, this is as close that we can get to being a part of the team, you know [Laughs.] This is how we show our pride so I definitely wanted to bring that feeling to Ohio and stamp it with my brand, as well as give back to the city and state, and give them something that can be proud to wear. I want them to be able to go to the games, to school and even to work with this hat on and feel proud that someone from this state is representing their home team at the same time.
We can’t forget to mention the latest mixtape you put out titled The Laughing Introvert. You just dropped your debut album, Ohio, in late October of last year and you’re already back. What prompted this release?
I’m always working and I’m always in the studio creating, so really I wanted to give the fans something. I know a lot of them supported me with the album and came out to the tour stops I’ve had here in the States and overseas, so I felt like it was time to give them something. My music is naturally for the summer and warmer months too, so I had to give them something they could ride to and enjoy. The project is short with only seven tracks, but it definitely captures a certain vibe I wanted to give off. I feel like there’s no fun or feeling in the music anymore so I wanted to give the people a project that they could enjoy and really create a sound that people would forever remember where they were when they first heard it.
Unlike Ohio, The Laughing Introvert doesn’t have big name features. Was that a conscious effort on your part?
Yeah, I just wanted it to not be so feature-heavy and just put together good music on my own. It was a conscious decision, but at the same time it wasn’t because I was just working and vibing. It’s funny actually because the few guys that are featured just happened to stop by the studio and we’d work. It just happened to be the right situation at the right time, and everything came together perfect.
Stream Stalley’s The Laughing Introvert here.