Raucous and uninhibited, Kenzo Balla evokes both the ecstasy and the peril of New York street rap. Combining casual menace with unaffected cool, the Bronx artist serves up chilly, bullet-riddled bars over hammering drill beats for stylish, yet raw anthems that are drawing the attention of more listeners across the world by the day. Teaming with frequent collaborators TG Crippy (his actual brother) and Jay Da Chaser, he blends those elements on tracks like "OOTAZ,” an energetic single dripping with adrenaline and confrontation.
Sprinting over insistent percussion, Kenzo lets loose ferocious bursts of unfiltered aggression: “I’m from the 5th, we got a lotta opps/But they don’t do shit, we got a lot of chops.” With its relentless energy, colorful boasts, and unfiltered threats, “OOTAZ” is Kenzo Balla in his comfort zone. While the track and others like it evoke unsettling force, they’re quickly becoming the soundtrack of functions across the East Coast, and Kenzo wouldn’t have it any other way. “I just wanna make music for people to get lit,” he shares.
Years before he picked up a mic, Kenzo was a Bronx kid who played shooting guard on his local AAU basketball team. While his mom flooded their home with the sounds of Beyoncé and other R&B luminaries, he also absorbed tunes from the likes of Gucci Mane, Soulja Boy, 50 Cent, and Lil Wayne while watching MTV and Music Choice. “They was flexing—it was the way they presented themselves in videos,” he remembers. “It kept my attention.”
Growing up in the BX, everyone knew each other and attended the same parties, but as he became a teenager, drama escalated. “I saw a lot of shit at an early age, and it made me grow up faster,” he recalls. Seeing his friends succumb to the pitfalls of the area, Kenzo began to realize he’d have to change his lifestyle in order to survive. “I just knew I had to find something,” he says. “I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I knew whatever it was, I was going to do it all the way.”
After he’d spent much of his early teenage years freestyling with his friends, Kenzo began making good on the promise he made to himself, recording his first songs in 2018. After catching early attention with melodic, murmuring tracks like “Backends,” Kenzo reached new plateaus in 2020 and 2021, with each new release earning more streams than the last. In September 2021, he unloaded “5th to the Sev,” an anthem for his neighborhood track that eventually garnered 1 million YouTube views. By early 2022, he’d signed a record deal with 10K Projects, alongside his brother Crippy.
Looking ahead, Kenzo wants to showcase more subdued drill sounds on his new project. “I want to expand into different musical genres,” he says. With a growing fan base, a new deal, and an evolving sound, Kenzo recognizes the potential of the moment he’s having right now. “It’s a blessing,” he says. “Everything is falling into place.” On a grander level, he wants to rep the neighborhood that raised him. “I learned everything from there. I’m making music for me, my brother, my block, for the Bronx and the whole city,” he says. “The Bronx is just me.”