Massillon native Kyle Myricks left his hometown to play basketball in Michigan — until an injury diverted his path from New York to Long Island University. Then that dream was derailed yet again after suffering another injury. So Myricks set his mind on the only other thing that made him passionate: Music. Myricks always enjoyed hip-hop and had the skills to break into unbelievable freestyle at the drop of a hat. He worked at Northeast Ohio record store Quonset Hut, where he exchanged underground hip-hop references with other employees. So after basketball ended, it was a no-brainer to pursue music — and Stalley was born. Stalley is quite possibly the gentlest, kindest man you are every likely to meet. His rap persona is raw, real and confident, but never cocky — the perfect mix for a man who’s been floating on a cloud ever since his career took off three short years ago. When we talked to him, Stalley was preparing to head back to the area from his now-home in Queens, New York for the Ohio Homecoming show in Cleveland, where he will share the stage with other Northeast Ohio natives Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and award-winning artist Drake. Though Stalley loves wearing Massillon on his sleeve, the move to New York was inevitable in order to jump-start his career. “I thought there was a better opportunity here than there was in Massillon,” he said. “Some friends talked me into going into the studio and I recorded an EP over other people’s beats, just freestyling, and it took off from there.” In what could only be labeled a godsend, Stalley was playing the record for some friends at the New York City store where they worked when the most unlikely visitor stopped by – hip-hop icon Mos Def. “He wanted to know who it was and one of my friends said, ‘That’s him, that’s Stalley.’” Mos Def asked if he could have a copy and like any rational person would do, Stalley gave it to him. “It was my only copy but I was more than happy to give it to him.” The chance meeting led to numerous shows in New York City and even a handful in London, opening for Mos Def as well as Method Man, KRS-One, Ghostface Killah and Camp-Lo. While recording his first official mix tape, “Goin’ Ape,” Stalley knew how to make a compelling record but couldn’t quite put all the pieces together. “At the time, I could write and rap for days but I never knew the structure,” he said. “It wasn’t until ‘MadStalley’ when I was able to put songs together and be musical with the project.” “MadStalley” also brought Stalley his first brush with success. “That was when the blogosphere was going on and that was the first one I gave out to all the blogs and people were loving what I was doing,” he said. After a mutual friend introduced him to hip-hop staple Dame Dash, Stalley discovered the online world of Creative Control. Created by directors Coodie and Chike and backed by Dash, Creative Control was an up-and-coming online television network that seems like a perfect fit for the rising rapper. “He was like, ‘I want to introduce you to these guys. I think you would work great together.’ Dame was just taking a basic liking to what I was doing,” Stalley said. “I came back the next day to record the video for ‘Autobiography’ and our friendship just clicked and built from there.” Though Stalley has always felt that the music was real, when “Lincoln Way Nights” — an ode to Massillon — dropped this past February, the feeling really sunk in. “It has always been real but then I dropped a tape and no one had anything bad to say about it. Even the sites that tend to do a lot of hatin’ were showing love. I would probably say that was the turning point,” he said. “When you got Pitchfork and Spin praising you, it’s like, ‘Come on.’ It is just surreal.” After near-constant trips back and forth from his home in Queens to Columbus to record “Lincoln Way Nights” with producer Rashad, Stalley got a call of a lifetime from American rap mogul Rick Ross. “He was like, ‘I love what you been doing.’ He asked what my label situation was like and I told him that there wasn’t one and he was like, ‘I’m building a team for my label and I would love you to be a part of it’,” Stalley recalled. Though it’s still not official whether he has signed to Ross’s Maybach Music Group, both Stalley’s and Ross’s attitudes seem to make it loud and clear. And this is just the beginning. His latest single, “Slapp,” has already made the rounds on both mtvU and BET, and the young rapper has worked on projects for Nike and ESPN, to name a few. Though Stalley has built a life in Queens, his love for Massillon will never change. “I love the people. I love what they made me. They have shaped me into the artist and the man that I am,” he said. “I can’t put a price on that.” In fact, those roots are part of what he wants to express through his music. “I try to give that same knowledge and culture and richness of pride to my music so that I can share that to the world so that they can feel the way I felt growing up,” Stalley said. “Growing up, I always thought the best records were the ones that represented their region. Records like Common’s ‘Resurrection’ or ‘Illmatic’ by Nas made you feel like you were a part of it all.” On September 3, Stalley will headline the Akron Hip Hop Showcase at Lock 3. “They reached out and asked us to be a part of it. Of course,I’m going to be down,” he said. “It’s an honor to be a part of something like that. It’s just touching. That’s one of the reasons I do this.” Until then, Stalley has a lot to do. Most of the cuts from “Lincoln Way Nights” will make their way to video form, including a new remix of the title track featuring Rick Ross. He’s also working on an EP as a follow-up, which he plans to drop by summer’s end.