Stevie Stone is fascinated by duality. His latest album, 2 Birds 1 Stone, finds the Strange Music-affiliated rapper reflecting on the different parts of his personality: the family man and the touring artist, the tough-guy and the sensitive soul. That tension between the two is even seen in the Fast And Furious-esque video for the album's title track, which finds Stone spitting tough, grounded lines while surrounded by flashy cars. "It's like me," he explains to XXL over the phone from a studio in St. Louis. "I have the business and the road, then I have my personal life. So there's party and pain on this album. That's what I'm talking about."

That type of reflective thinking grew out of his time spent traveling away from his family. Having played, by his estimate, 150 shows last year, he had lots of time to refine his approach to music and sharpen his craft as a lyricist. Building on the momentum of his Strange Music debut, Rollin Stone, Stone saw his latest album as an opportunity to take more chances and to push himself in new directions. For one thing, he sings more on this new album, expanding on his ability to craft mean but hummable hooks.

"It's always something that I'd do on my other type of records," he explains. "I'd hear a melody or a harmony. With the type of records I was feeling for this album it just called for more of that. I never second guessed it. I just gotta go with my instincts and what it feels like."

The biggest challenges he faced while putting the album together were finding the right beats and lining up the guests. Sonically, the album draws from both Atlanta, with contributions from rising producers like Nick Fury, and from his home of St. Louis, with production from frequent collaborator Wyshmaster. Though the album features impressive guests verses, especially from Rittz and Tech N9ne on the fiery and spiritual "The Baptism," there were still some artists Stone reached out to who he ultimately wasn't able to work with because of scheduling conflicts. "I sent one out to E-40 called 'She Go,'" he says. "And it was just a time thing. We couldn't get it done in time."

Stone realizes that signing to Strange Music had a profound impact on his career, introducing him to new fans and providing stronger ways of staying connected to them. "When we go on the road there's a method," he says. "There's a grassroots campaign of meeting and greeting and touching people. Then there's the music too 'cause when we're not out on the road, we're in here creating. So we're always sharpening our craft and trying to do new things and letting it show."

That dedication shows on the new album and one can only imagine that he'll continue to develop on his next full-length, which he's already planning for. With the last two records being titled Rollin Stone and 2 Birds 1 Stone, the burning question is this: Will Stone follow up the album with another "Stone" pun title? "I'm gonna get away from it," he says. "This was my last Stone title for right now. I've been planning my next title already and getting beats already too. I can't tell you the name of it yet but I can tell you it won't have my name in it. "

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