I’ve been good, man. I’ve been trying to weather the storm of rap cleansing itself. (laughs) I’ve just been working on new music.
You just released a new mixtape, The Rap Game Needs Me, with Dow Jones. How did that come about?
I’ve known Dow Jones for about six years, from when he first started doing mixtapes. He was one of the first DJs to reach out to me to do a mixtape. This is when he was in Seattle. I hooked up with him back then and he got me a buzz out in Seattle and I appreciated him for it. I came to LA last year and he was a real dude. He let me stay at his house and he treated me like a real dude. When I was there, we were talking about doing a mixtape together. We’ve probably been working on it for a year, off and on, and then we finally decided to drop it out last month.
How’s The Rap Game Needs Me been doing so far?
So far, it’s been good. With the whole RIAA thing, I’ve been having it up for free download. I just wanted to give the music to the people so that they could check it out for free. My whole thing is that there is so much music out there. I don’t want to oversaturate the market, but every three months, I want to make sure that I have some quality out there. What it is is a West Coast mix-CD. I wanted to have a lot of big artists on there with my exclusive stuff that you can’t get anywhere else. I have a track that I did with DJ Khalil called “From the Bay 2 LA.” I have some of the new material I’ve been doing with Midi Mafia on there. I also have a song with Glasses Malone on there and a song with Papoose that’s doing well in New York. It’s basically six or seven of my joints and 13 other hot joints from the Bay or LA. Whenever I do a mixtape, I always try to showcase the hot new talent. You got Keak da Sneak, Glasses Malone, Mitchey Slick…It’s really something to showcase the West Coast.
When I first heard you a few years ago, you were spitting hard freestyles over East Coast beats. That’s not necessarily the case anymore. How is your style evolving today?
It’s real because I feel a duty. I want to bridge the gap between the East Coast and the West Coast. Whenever someone on the East Coast hears my music, they say I sound like an East Coast dude or they say they didn’t know cats from the West Coast and the Bay spit like that. I want to bring a different type of beat to the West Coast. I try to use East Coast types of drums and sounds to kind of blend it together like how Ice Cube used to when he got with Bomb Squad. I’m not saying I’m at Ice Cube’s level, but that’s the level I want to get to, where the production is grimy and hard. There’s the big hyphy movement in the Bay and the West Coast is used to hearing a certain type of sound, so I have to bounce around and get my element in there because out here, people want to hear something different from East Coast stuff. My biggest thing is to keep it hip-hop and I want people to hear my music and be able to tell that I grew up on hip-hop. You’ll hear me talk about being an MC and ripping a mic. I’m not just talking about selling dope and slapping bitches on every song.
Where do you fit in in the Bay Area and on the West Coast in general?
Really, I think I’m the new breed. In the Bay, we listen to pretty much everything. You have a whole group of kids who grew up listening to whoever was hot on the East Coast and whoever was hot on the West Coast. When those kids go through their music, all of that is blended together. I think I represent that for them. I’m the new dude that they look up to. I don’t have to just be rapping over Bay beats and I don’t have to rap like a typical Bay artist. I can sound like Balance.
How did your upcoming collaboration album Underdogs with Big Rich come about?
I talk to a lot of different people on the East Coast and a lot of times, they don’t know Bay Area artists. I was talking to a lot of different DJs and they were telling me how they liked Big Rich. I already knew him because we did shows together and we had albums that dropped around the same time. We saw each other and said, “Why don’t we do a mix-CD album?” I was like, ‘Shit, let’s do it.’ This is some of my best work. We’re dropping that on June 5.
That’s how me and Big Rich hooked up. The album is called Underdogs. We feel that we’re the underdogs because of how we rap and the music we make. We’re like the underdogs of this game and I feel like everybody will relate to the music. When you hear the music, it’s not no commercial shit. It’s straight-up ‘give me a hot beat and let me give you my best raps, let’s put this shit together and make it banging.’ Some of the best tracks on the West Coast, period, are on that motherfucker.
Your next solo album is also going to be largely produced by the Midi Mafia. How did that come about?
They were working with another rapper out of Compton and when I did the song, Midi Mafia was like, ‘Man, you’re hot as fuck. You can’t go anywhere.’ So I stayed in LA and did four more songs like “Fly” and the song that I did with Papoose. I did a couple other joints and from there, the chemistry was crazy. I gave them my old album and they liked it. They were like, ‘We got a name and we got the hot beats. We want to work on an album with you and see if we can get it cracking.’ I’m working on an album with them but at the same time, I’m going to have beats from Jake One and Reef, who did “Bad Meets Ugly” for Royce and Eminem and 50 Cent’s “What Up Gangsta?” I’m going to have beats by Reef, Jake One, Midi Mafia doing the majority and the Tracklordz, who did “Boomin’ System” for me when I remade the LL song. The album is called The Day Cali Died. It’s straight-up raw, hip-hop concepts.
Are you doing anything different here that you didn’t do on your last album, Young and the Restless?
Yep. Each album, you want to progress. I feel like I’m progressing musically. I’m on better beats and I feel like I’m progressing more as a lyricist and as a rapper in my ability to convey stories. There’s going to be more stories on this album and I’m not going to compromise anything. I feel like my first album, even though I really, really love that album, I feel like there’s certain songs I did on there because I had to do it because of the pressure of distribution to make sure that you have a single and that you have to make sure you have a record that can work. On this one, I don’t give a shit. I’m going to do what I want to do with no compromising. I’m going to rap about whatever the fuck I want to. I don’t care who I insult. I’m going to talk about the industry. I’m going to talk about life. I’m going to talk about political issues. I’m going to treat this album like it’s my last. Your first album is a collection of everything you’ve done up to that point. That’s really a collection of your best songs over the past three or four years. On this new album, I want to set my precedent to where if I never rap again and you never hear from Balance again, you will respect the album and it will be a concrete piece of work that was raw and something classic for the West Coast.
Ideally, when will The Day Cali Died come out?
I’m trying to have it come out next year. This year, I’m doing the Big Rich album and I’m doing a compilation that I’m going to put out with all the Bay Area artists. Then next year, after I see how this cleansing of hip-hop is going, then next year I’m looking to release the album.
What is Midi Mafia bringing out of you?
For me, one thing is that before meeting Midi Mafia, I used to always have to go look around for different producers and try to find a hot track. Whenever you get with a production team, it’s sort of like what Saigon has with Just Blaze. When you feel like you don’t have to go out and look for beats anymore, it’s a certain feeling as an MC that you can’t really explain. You know they’re going to come with something and it makes you feel more comfortable.
Sometimes as a rapper, when you don’t have a production team, you have to go out and get what you can. You might have a raw concept for a song, but when you don’t have a concept that matches it, you have to settle for something that doesn’t best fit it. With Midi Mafia, they have everything I need so I don’t have to settle for anything. When you’re working with a producer, I’ll do something and send it to Midi Mafia, they’ll change it around to make it better, beat-wise, and then we have a whole new song. Sometimes when you work with a producer, they’ll send you a beat, you rap on it and because you don’t have a relationship or you’re not used to working with them, they won’t change anything. That’s just how it is.
Midi Mafia has worked with 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, Fantasia and a bunch of others. They know how to make good music and they know how to bring the best out of me. I can send them music and they give me a good opinion. It helps that they’re based out of New York. I always send my music out to New York DJs or to HipHopGame and I’ll read the comments and take the shit to heart. If you never give your music out to people that can give you real opinions that aren’t from your home, then you’ll never get better as an artist. For me, I’m trying to become the No. 1 dude from the West Coast and you can’t do that from staying at home. People at home aren’t going to tell me the real.
Would you consider your debut album Young and the Restless a success?
I feel like it was a success for me because it showed me that I could do it. The cover concept, the music, the artwork, the structuring of the songs, the tracklisting, all of that shit was me. It showed me that I could take my idea and put it together and complete it totally. Some artists can only make songs. Some artists can’t take the shit as a whole and make a package. I feel like my album was a success because I made something different and it was still a success in the Bay. I still sold a lot more albums too than other artists in the Bay.
On the other hand, I feel like it could have done better if I was on a bigger label with a bigger budget. I feel like it would have been a more successful album. But if this was a fifth, we’d all be drunk, right?
What type of label do you want for The Day Cali Died?
Right now, I’m not even worried about getting signed. I’m not even on an indie label right now. I had a one album deal with Fontana and that deal is now over. Right now I’m more concerned with making the best music that I can. I feel like if I can make the best music that I can, I’ll always find a home for it. Right now, I’m not looking for anything really. I’m just trying to be the best artist I can be. My suggestion for any up-and-coming artist is to not worry about getting a deal and not trying or worrying about being a star. Just make the best music you can. Work on your craft and hip-hop will be better. In my history, out of all the demos I ever sent out, nothing ever happened for me. Stuff always happened when producers heard my songs and flew me out to them or when someone heard my freestyles. Nothing ever happened from sending my demos to labels like Def Jam. If you make good music, they will find you because there’s a drought of good music.
What are your plans for the summer?
Continue making hot music and dropping this Big Rich album. I’m working on continuing to bridge the gap. I did something with Papoose. I want to do something with Saigon and I want to do something with Grafh. Grafh and I already talked. I want to bridge the gap with cats from LA too. I want to do something with Murs. I just want to make good music and I think that will speak for itself.
What do you want to say to everybody?
There’s still some good music out there. I know you’re tired of hearing garbage and everybody seems to be rapping, but help is on the way. Rap is still alive.
Download Balance’s mixtape with Dow Jones – The The Rap Game Needs Me here: http://www.sendspace.com/file/j9s1ax
1. Balance – The Rap Game Needs Me
2. Mitchy Slick - Got Snow
3. Omar Cruz feat. Ya Boy - We Rydaz
4. Balance feat. Chace Infinite - Bay 2 L.A. ((Prod. by by DJ Khalil)
5. Keak da Sneak - That Go
6. Bishop Lamont - No Stopping Carson
7. Young Buck feat. Kokane – Haters ((Prod. by by Vitamin D)
8. Balance - Fly (Prod. by the Midi Mafia)
9. Clyde Carson - 2 Step (Prod. by Dr. Dre)
10. Balance feat. Rank 1 and Glasses Malone – Get Low (Prod. by the Midi Mafia)
11. Young Buck - Niggas Change
12. Huslah - Yo
13. Messy Marv feat. Keak da Sneak and PSD - Cuz Cuz
14. Balance - Slaps (Prod. by Traxamillion)
15. Mistah Fab - Hella Dumb
16. Turf Talk - Got Me Goin’ (Prod. by Traxamillion)
17. Mistah Fab – Ghost Ride It (Prod. by Sean T)
18. Keak da Sneak – Hyphy Hyphy
19. G Stack feat. Kaz Kyzah and Eddie Projects - 18 Go Dumb
20. Balance – Boomin’ System
21. Balance feat. Papoose- Yeah (Prod. by the Midi Mafia)
22. Messy Marv – See Me
23. Balance feat. Problem - Weight
24. Parker Brothaz - Blah Blah (Prod. by Tha Bizness)
25. Problem - Who Want A Problem (Prod. by Problem)
26. Talib Kweli feat. Strong Arm Steady - Function (Prod. by Madlib)
27. Balance - Summertime (Prod. by Jake One)
28. Dow Jones and Balance – The Rap Game Needs Me Outro