And he don’t stop
Hip-hop artist Crazy Ballhead has more jobs than a temp agency
Crazy Ballhead: rapper, composer, producer, clothing designer, business man, activist, artist and hip-hop historian. His friends call him Crazy B, and if he believes he can do it better, he does it.
Ballhead got his start early and isn’t slowing. Standing outside the Guild Theater in Oak Park, he ran down his beginnings in the hip-hop game. “I said my first rap at 12, released my first marketable album at 16. [Before that] we were selling demos.” He broke into rap for a moment: “Five songs for four bucks was the rate of my first tape. Shimmied in the hood, but it didn’t make the earth shake.”
Ballhead laughed and was not self-conscious in the slightest about flowing on the curb as people hustled by. He continued with his answer: “We was out there. We was pushing the demos, mainly at school, battling in the hallways and in the bathrooms until me an’ my brother decided, ‘Let’s try to take it to the next level.’”
Ballhead has left the battle-rhyming days behind, except with friends. “I battle with the homies,” he said. “We’ll battle in a circle, and most of it is just joking and cracking on each other, but I wouldn’t say I’m a competitive battler. I enjoy watching it, but it’s just not me.”
Instead, Ballhead carries a pen with him at all times. If caught without one of many rhyme-filled notebooks, he’ll scribble out snippets of lyrics on the backs of receipts, magazine covers or whatever else is handy. Initially, he works out his melodies on the piano and then with a guitarist, bass player and drummer for his live show. Later, he’ll use various combinations of musicians, DJs and other producers for his studio projects—such as his latest CD, On the Horizon of Another Massive Takeover, which was released in May last year.
The album is a hodgepodge of musical styles, often focusing less on danceable beats than on ambient sound and the kind of sparse percussion that makes bass enthusiasts drive slowly. Organic-sounding guitar on songs like “Hello Mis” and organ on “When It’s Finished” mix well with futuristic, industrial sounds that hearken back to Afrika Bambaataa’s sampling of German techno pioneers Kraftwerk. The pure funk of “Snakes”—possibly the most marketable track on the album—will take care of your need to boogie.
The lyrics on Massive Takeover range from traditional battle-style brags and jabs to overtly political rhymes. The latter are evident on “Modern Problems,” a President Bush-bashing jam that also tackles the problems of inner-city blight, spend-crazy poor people and racist cops. Ballhead also includes his own Sacramento anthem, “The Valley Rumble.” “In Sacramento / Yeah these people know us / because we got graffiti writers and we got the flowas! / We got the DJ’s, B-Boys / we got the fashion. / We got everything it takes to make it really happen.” He’s proud of his town and equally proud to have grown up during the golden age of hip-hop, as evidenced by his use of old-school musical influences and lyrical references to Dougie Fresh and Run DMC.
Ballhead produced the album independently and is distributing it himself, just as he did with his previous three CDs. He also combines efforts with other indie-music types, including Underground Cartel, a Scottish hip-hop enthusiast’s noble effort to bring together underground artists from around the globe. This association allowed Ballhead to take his first European tour last summer. Here at home, he has his own clothing line, Crazy Flava, and he’s active in the local political arts collective Poets Not Presidents. (See www.poetsnotpresidents.com.)
With all the spare time these activities leave him, Ballhead produces his own shows—most notably the Function series, which brings together painters, poets, DJs and other artists. The Function VI … Still We Rise goes down this weekend. Bring your Sacramento pride and be ready to share it as Crazy Ballhead tells you his town is the best—and then proves it.