As the potential of his stardom continues to grow since signing with Maybach Music Group last year, Stalley has remained focused and undaunted by the glare of publicity and great expectations. His 2011 project Lincoln Way Nights: Intelligent Trunk Music was 808 heavy as it emulated the essence of the bass that blares through sound systems in the trunks of old school cars driven in Stalley’s hometown—a vision he flourished in and received much acclaim for. Since then, the Ohioan has been on the steady grind and even appeared on a few of Rick Ross’s tracks on Rich Forever. With Savage Journey to the American Dream, his first mixtape with MMG and first tape in over a year, Stalley polishes up LWNITM’s idiosyncrasies to produce a pristine sound.

The Blue Collar Gang boss zeroes in on new subject matters like rolling with MMG and expands on ones that were briefly discussed in past rhymes, such as faultfinders. The content appears to reflect his life during the last nine or so months, as Stalley offers exceptional and authentic narration. “Ashes on the pages of my journal made from snakeskin,” he raps on “Island Hopping.” “Staring in the ocean where the greats swim/I’m thinking about jumping in.” He continue, “I was underground then, still underground now/Difference is I’m under palm trees, not trying to be found.”

Savage, which is what he was dubbed by Ross, expanded on his previous work, collaborating with various producers rather than just one, Rashad, who is not a part of the tape in any way. The Block Beattaz set the tone by producing the first eight songs, providing varied canvases of instrumentals for Stalley to artfully paint his nifty lyrics on, including the radio-friendly record “Home to You” that is sure to garner him new fans. The Alabama production team also produced “Lover’s Lane,” the sole record that seemed more hollow than organic, unlike the soulful record “Petrin Hill Peonies.” Chad Hugo’s “Everything New” and Soundtrakk’s “Live at Blossom” provided beats listeners were not accustomed to hearing Stalley on, but the 330 representer held his own.

Lyricism was certainly not an impairment on the project as Stalley kept his end up when he rapped by himself or with his MMG brethren on tracks with Ross, Wale (“Home to You”), Meek Mill (“BCGMMG Remix”) or with fellow Warner Bros. signee Curren$y (“Hammers and Vogues”), all of whom did not slouch when it came to bars, either.

Savage Journey to the American Dream is not a replication of Lincoln Way Nights: Intelligent Trunk Music, for the growth of Stalley’s artistry on wax is very much apparent thanks to his trying out new avenues without utterly abandoning previous ones. He gives every indication of being at ease rapping about an array of topics over a similarly wide selection of sounds, a promising sign for his career as one of the new faces of MMG. —Christopher Minaya (@CM_3)