Balance: Hard Days, Long Nights

As artists like 50 Cent, Cam’ron and Papoose created legitimate careers from the mixtape culture in varying degrees. So has Balance. The Bay artist rose from the ashes of the 90’s decline in his underrepresented region. Under the tutelage of the legendary EA-Ski, Balance’s verses received prime placement on mixtapes, even in the competitive rigors of the East. The mixtapes lead to a deal with SMC Records, who released the rapper’s debut, Young and Restless, earlier this year. The album chronicles the finest work from the rising artist, who hopes the work will create leverage for his career.

Days after the March SXSW Convention in Texas, Balance speaks confidently about the future. Just as his mixtapes circulated in the East, this young prospect anticipates garnering nationwide attention with Young and Restless. Amazed by the festive culture of the South, Balance plots more treks down bottom and a dramatic rise to the top. I hear you just got back from Texas. How was it?

Balance: Basically, I went up to Austin. They have a convention out there very year called South By Southwest. I went to perform [“Roll Wit Me”] with Chamillionaire. I did not compromise my show. I did the same show that I do here [in the Bay]. They was lovin’ it. It opened my eyes to see that “Hey, this Bay music can work in the South.” There has been, at times, an air of distrust by some Bay cats on the South. Do you think they understand the Hyphy scene? With Crunk, do you think they care?

Balance: The one thing people kept sayin’ to me was, ‘Where y’all been?’ They were like, ‘Ten years ago, we was on y’all s**t. Like 1994, 1995, 1996…’ I think our beats are similar. I think the game we put in it, the swagger we put in it, is similar. As far as the Hyphy thing, it’s brand new to them. If you mention it, they be like, ‘Yeah, I heard about that.” But it’s in it’s beginning stages. I think the main thing is they like good music. Stripper culture is big throughout the South. Did you see it?

Balance: Out there, the strip culture is heavy. Like, it’s not a big shock to be strippin’. It’s nothing for music to get broke [played first] in a strip club. Most times, music can get broken in a strip club before it’s broken on radio. I [just] make music. But I don’t make my music for the strip club. But when I was down there performing, this girl walked up to me. She said, “I gotta have a copy of your album. I wanna strip to it.” I was like “Whoa,” it’s a whole ‘nother thing. It gave me confidence to be embraced in the Bay, embraced in LA, and I got a decent mixtape following in NY. But after performing down here, I felt good. It was all love. Artists were wanting to collab. I’m going to do a “beta” mix CD. A DJ named Rapid Ric is one of the hottest DJ in Texas. We gonna bridge the gap. I also know that the South, particularly Texas, doesn’t play around with BBQ. I’m serious into that. Lace me…

Balance: [Austin has] the best BBQ I’ve ever had. : Wait! I know you’re from Oakland. Are you trying to tell me that Everett and Jones [famous Oakland BBQ spot] can’t see what you seen in Texas?

Balance: The sauce, brotha. The sauce. Something about the Texas grill. There is something in the grill. I don’t know if it’s the charcoal, or the flame, or something they put in the sauce. You can’t even find out what kind of sauce it is, ‘cause I tried. Hey man…that BBQ was ridiculous. I got off the plane like, “Man, I hear y’all got the best BBQ in the world.” Their response was “Already.” That’s all they say [to affirm]. Man, bread was thick as my arm. You don’t need no napkin. Everything you eat is getting soaked up by the bread. It was crazy. Because of your reputation for quality mixtapes, how does it feel to be on the eve of releasing your first album? I’m sure the nerves are tense…

Balance: I have nervousness about it. It’s like your child. You don’t want anybody to be like, ‘You got an ugly child,’ or ‘Your child ain’t cool.’ But at the same time, I’m confident. I feel like it’s my best effort. I feel like you study for test, and then you’re like, ‘Let’s do it.’ I also feel like I could not have dropped it at a better time. The timing is impeccable. I been freestyling on CDs for like six years. The spotlight is back on the Bay. E-40 is blowing. I never had radio play before. Now I got one of the biggest records in Northern California radio. I’ve been a mix CD dude. The timing, I can’t believe it. What do you want people to walk away with from your album?

Balance: I want them to know that I am here. [I want them to know] that I have good music, and I plan to take it to the next level on conceptual albums. My next album is all conceptual story songs. This album is the 14 tightest tracks I made, from 40 or 50 songs. Young and Restless represents my breakthrough. It sounds young, restless, and hungry. So you’ll hear that. That in itself is a concept. It’s some tight ass, West Coast nationwide Hip-Hop outta the Bay. I want it to set my career up. I think it will. When you go into the record store to pick up your CD on the shelf, how do you think you will react?

Balance: [long pause] First, I’ll probably be like, ‘Wow, it took me this long.’ I’ll congratulate myself just for finishing it. A lot of people say they are going to do something, but never see it through to completion. That’s what separates people that do from people that talk. But I’ll look at my CD. I’ll be right next to E-40, right next to T-Kash, Murs, all these people. It’s like a dream.

Adisa Banjoko is the controversial speaker and author of “Lyrical Swords Vol. 2: Westside Rebellion” on YinSumi Press. You can download it now at!