Kenzo Balla: Red-Hot New York Rapper On The Rise
Blazing New York rap phenomenon Kenzo Balla sets fire to the industry with punch-packing hits.
Whether he’s barking battle-ready rhymes with unhinged aggression or venting his romantic woes like a kettle at its boiling point, Kenzo Balla delivers nothing but raw intensity behind the mic.
Ascending from the roots of the Bronx, New York, Kenzo quickly caught eyes with songs like OOTAZ, Ready To Blitz, and Krash Out. Beginning with aggressive compact drill hits, Kenzo is now branching out to a different side of his craft. Recently dropping slamming album The Year of the Balla followed by subdued single In My Moods, Kenzo proves himself a versatile wildcard.
We had the opportunity to chat with Kenzo about his claim to fame, latest release, and upcoming projects.
Where is home?
I’m from the Bronx. My hometown, thats the Bronx. The Bronx, New York. That’s where I grew up at since I was born, that’s where I spent my whole life so far.
How’d you come up with your stage name, “Kenzo Balla”?
Actually, I got the name Kenzo Balla from the brand name, where I first bought the Kenzo brand shirt. I just liked the shirt so much, I just used the name, I dont know. Something made me use it. That was around the time everybody was using like Facebook names, all different types of names, name brands, everything. That was the one I picked because nobody else used it at the time either.
The Balla, that was just from the block. Some of us put Balla behind our name.
What was the defining moment you realized you wanted to make music? Was this always your career path?
That wasn’t always my career path. I used to want to play basketball. But when I realized I wanted to rap, that was when I got to middle school, I would say like 6th grade going into 7th. That’s when I got into music and knew I wanted to do music for fact. And at that time, I didn’t have no funds to get studio time so it would just be in the house, writing or freestyling or whatever. Just rapping like that. But once I hit like eighth grade and I started making money to get studio time. By that time I started shooting videos and that’s when I started taking it serious.
How has being from New York shaped your music career?
Being from New York shaped my music because it put the wave. New York music’s got aggression. I put those types of things into my music. Just listening to Old School New York music like Jadakiss, DNX, everybody had their own type of style that all helps with what I do with music, it’s just a different type, a different genre.
Who are your top three musical inspirations?
Honestly, I would say Lil Wayne, Michael Jackson, and 50 Cent. 50 Cent, where he came from and what he did with his career, how he was able to do a whole lot of things- vitamin water, power TV shows, everything. That’s what I wanna do. I wanna expand as I get deeper into my career. That should always be the go. To do more.
You dropped In My Moods fairly recently, a more mellow track compared to most of your other releases. What caused the change in tone for this track?
It’s a different type of vibes. It’s not drill. It’s the drill energy but more of a love song type. My mindset was just in a different place with that song. When I make music like that, it’s either what I went through before or what I’m going through now. That’s how the music comes together.
Earlier this year you released another album called, The Year of the Balla featuring 11 hard-hitting tracks. What was your creative process like when creating this album? Were you making the beats and then writing, or writing and then making the beats?
We was always going through the beats first, making sure the beats we use go through first. Link up with some producers, and then give them sample suggestions or give them beat suggestions or certain 808s to put the beats together and then after we put the beat together, I put the music. So when I was making Year of the Balla my mindset was that I just wanted to show everyone that I’m different. I could do different stuff from everybody else. Do different music, I could tap into a different bag and still do the drill. I just wanted to show that I was one of the heavy-hitting artists with this project.
Do you have a favorite song on the album?
Yeah, it’s definitely Emotional Damage. Because it’s like, everything about that- the beat, the lyrics, everything makes it.
On the album The Year of the Balla, your song Opp Huntin’ garnered almost 3 million streams on Spotify and 2.5 million views on Youtube. What is it like to see your single reaching such high highs? Did you expect it to gain so much traction?
Honestly, when I first made the song in the studio, I knew it was a good song. But once I teased the song on Instagram, I knew this song was gonna be big. I was telling my manager, my aunt, that this song was gonna be one of them big ones. The drill culture in New York, the regular drill culture, everybody gravitates to it for me and I just knew the sample ways so I knew everybody would gravitate once I did that preview.
I know you keep saying you don’t always fit into drill, if you had to describe your sound, what would you say?
I’m versatile. I can be versatile any time I want. That’s what I want everyone to know. I’m an artist, I’m not just a drill rapper. I’m an artist. That’s what I’m gonna be showing them this year.
If you could break into any other style, what do you feel you’d want to leap into more?
More of the emotional pain songs. More of the heartfelt songs. That’s what I’ve been tapping into recently. I got a couple too from In My Moods, Losing Control Pt. 1 and 2, My Type Of Time, Emotional Damage. All those songs are like that. That’s why I’ve been tapping into that bag, getting that wave started.
From your first few releases on SoundCloud to your latest release In My Moods, how much has your style changed?
I feel like it didn’t change but I just upgraded my delivery. My aggression changed more, before I wasn’t tapping into this new bag so that’s what changed to. I became more versatile. At that time I was only focused on drill music. So I wasn’t worried about tapping into a new bag or trying to do different music into I really knew how this music thing goes. Now I just tap into different bags, I’m not only focused on drill music and my delivery is more upgraded.
Music is all about expression, what do you like expressing in your work?
My feelings, what I’m going through. Everything I share, everything I put in my music is what I went through or what I’m going through. It’s not nothing I just thought to add in, everything is real. That’s my main thing too, I wanna do nothing fake with the music because then It’s like I’m not finna put that much effort into it if it’s not real. So everything gotta be real- what I’m going through or what I went through.
What’s something someone would be surprised to learn about you?
I don’t really play video games. I just be doing my music or I be watching videos on youtube. I don’t watch cable, nothing. I’m not really a TV game person like that. A lot of people probably thing I be on the game crazy or I’m a TV game person, I’m not. I used to be but now that I’ve started tapping into my music and started taking this seriously, I just really didn’t have time. I just grew out of love for the game system and TV.
The Fox Magazine is all about inspiration, what/who inspires you the most?
My mom because she always motivated me with my music. She always told me if that’s what I wanted to do, to do it. For family, my mom definitely.
When it comes to stars like I said for inspirations- 50 Cent, Michael Jackson on a music level. I always grew up listening to Michael Jackson and 50 Cent. What 50 Cent did. Michael Jackson- the impact he made on the world, while he was here and after is crazy.
What’s your best advice for aspiring musicians?
If music is what you really wanna do and that’s what you wanna push in life, you can’t worry about what everybody’s saying. Everybody’s not gonna be in your favor, everybody’s not gonna think what you think about your music or they’re not gonna think you’re gonna go to the same place you think you are. You can’t worry about everybody’s opinions, you just gotta work on perfecting your craft. If that’s what you wanna do, just focus up.
That was the one thing with me, I made sure if that’s what I wanted to do, that’s what I did. I didn’t care about what nobody said. I was in competition with nobody. While everybody was doing their thing, I was just working, perfecting my craft, and when it was time for me to do what I do, what I want, I did it.
You can’t let nobody stop you. Everybody gets setbacks, everybody goes through stuff. You can’t let that make you wanna stop. You gotta be dedicated.
Are you currently working on anything right now? Can you give us a sneak peek at what you might be releasing next?
Yeah, I’ve got a new project I’m about to drop and I got a few singles I’m about to drop. On the 23rd, I’m gonna be dropping a song I got called Attachments that’s a single. And then right now, the project is already done, we’re just coming up with a date.