Love, Ballad — Meet the Sensational R&B Singer

Ballad

by Ahriel Nari

September 23, 2022

Ballad is the answer to an R&B lover’s prayers. He captures listeners’ ears and hearts alike with his effortless falsetto. Born in Angola, Ballad was always surrounded by music. His Dad was a wildly successful DJ in Angola, so he was exposed to many different types of music starting at a young age. When Ballad was seven years old, he moved to Brockton, MA, a town right outside of Boston area.

As a follow-up to the hit song “Orange”, Ballad has released his latest single “Lemonade”. In this song, he smoothly coos about the sweetness of his lover over a vibrating bass and bouncy instrumental. I got the chance to chat with him ahead of the release of “Lemonade”. Check out the interview below:

Where did the name Ballad come from?

I’m pretty bad with coming up with names. I’m the person where if we’re playing a game and we have to make up a name, that will take a lot of my time. But I feel like whenever I do come up with something, it’s meant to be. So for my name, I had gone through so many iterations of very terrible names…

Wait! I want to hear some of them!

Ok so one of them – this was back in the J. Holiday days – so I had P. Harmony. I was really rocking with it even though I knew that wasn’t it. For me I wanted a name that had to do with music in some way. One night, I was looking in the mirror and I asked myself, “What do you like?” and I was like “Well I love ballads…Okay then: Love Ballad…no, that’s too long. Ballad…okay” and I just stuck with it.

Who are your musical influences?

Every time I’m asked this, there’s no way I can go without saying Michael Jackson. That was the first. I became a huge Prince fan, huge Sade fan, huge Marvin [Gaye] fan, huge Stevie [Wonder] fan, D’Angelo, Maxwell, Usher – like those names helped me find my voice. I could relate to so much of what they were sharing.

One thing I find cool about you and your music career is that you’ve seen a lot of success on social media. Congratulations on that first and foremost. I feel like every artist has their own feelings about it. How do you feel about the role social media plays in a music career nowadays?

I’ll be honest, at first I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to have to be on there. We wanna create, ya know? We wanna create and then we wanna give it to you. That’s where I was. One thing that switched for me is when I saw the community that you can really build around yourself by putting yourself out there. The misconception that I had was that I just had to sell who I am. For me now, it’s more of sharing who I am with people who want to listen to me. I’m an introvert and I have to say the community that you build is so supportive – they got your back. To be able to have that connection – it can move so much. I love it now but I had to learn who I was in it instead of trying to follow what the trends were and what everybody else did. I was just copying and pasting because that’s what I felt like I had to do to get out there but it switched. I’m kinda just doing me and I figured out how to do me in a way that works. If every artist can get that and stay true to that, I think they’ll feel the same way that social media is incredible.

My favorite song of yours is “Orange”. I’m currently obsessed with this song. I do have to ask why is it called “Orange”?

It’s one of my most vulnerable songs. I wanted to speak on a time in my life. I wanted to be as vulnerable as possible about what I was feeling in that moment. I wanted to peel back the layers. So, metaphorically, it’s me peeling back all the layers, me bringing myself to this person and letting them know how much they mean to me. The fact that I want to reconcile, the fact that I want to be held accountable, and I wanna work on something better – I’m peeling all the way down to that. On another note, I’m a Fall type of person. Orange just really gave me Fall vibes. Orange just resonated with me

How do you find the content matter for your songs?

I don’t. I’m starting to do that a little bit more because I’m starting to be more intentional when writing. For the most part, in the general sense, when I create it’s really on a subconscious level. Whatever needs to come out, comes out in the way it needs to. Whatever the music is calling me to do, whatever my spirit wants me to say in that moment, I let it come out. I’m very much a lover so I speak a lot on love so I’m being more intentional in the HOW I speak about love in ways that aren’t stereotypical.

Which of your songs mean the most to you?

“Wondering”. It’s kind of like in the same vein but not as dramatic [as “Orange”]. I call it one of the healthiest love songs I had. “Jasmine” as well. When I made “Jasmine”, it was such a feelgood moment for me. I was at a Thai restaurant earlier, got something to eat – everything just felt really good. We came back to the studio and my producer was playing some sounds. He happen to stop on one and the flow of it was so special to me. I’ll never forget that, especially what it became. It’ll always be one of my favorites.

Follow Ballad on Instagram (@mrloveballad). “Lemonade” is available on all streaming platforms. You can listen down below:

Kenneth Cash Releases Performance Visual for New Single “Patience”

Kenneth Cash
By Ahriel Nari

Brooklyn-based artist Kenneth Cash is definitely someone that needs to be on everyone’s radar. Managed by hip-hop legend AKTHESAVIOR, Kenneth is forging his own lane with his unique brand of R&B.  Although he only has four singles at this point, each song demonstrates his versatility. His newest single “Patience” is a melodic track in which Kenneth ruminates on whether to end a relationship that no longer serves him. The visual, shot by Waqas Ghani, is reminiscent of a home video, which accentuates Kenneth’s introspection in the lyrics.  Check out the video below:

R&B Powerhouses Cheakaity & Al Hostile Join Forces to Give Us The Grown Experience

The Grown Experience Cheakaity & Al Hostile
By Ahriel Nari
Photo Courtesy of Jada Imani M

A lot of new music came out during the pandemic. Two albums that stood out to me, though, were Grown Man by Cheakaity and Home Grown by Al Hostile. So, I was super hype when I found out they were putting on a show together called The Grown Experience!

The evening started with R&B crooner Al Hostile taking the stage. With the highly revered duo FootsXColes as his band, Al brought Home Grown to life by performing songs from the album including “C’mon” and “Can’t Sleep”. He brought out DMV legend Matt McGhee for an electrifying rendition of “Bleek”. Finally, he ended his set with a seamless mix of “Lady” by D’Angelo into “Sumn Real”, a fan favorite from his album.

Al Hostile
Photo Courtesy of Jada Imani M

Al left the audience perfectly warmed up for Cheakaity. Rocking pearls and a suit, Cheakaity stepped on stage and proclaimed, “This is my stage. This is my show and imma show y’all what it is tonight”! The most impressive part of his set was his showmanship. Cheakaity’s energy is magnetic and draws you in immediately. Furthermore, he had the crowd participation on lock with the call and response. The icing on the cake was Cheakaity’s use of a live band, who could effortlessly go from a soulful groove for songs like “Want You” to a gospel-like jam session for a song like “Preacher’s Daughter” to straight rocking out. 

Cheakaity
Photo Courtesy of Jada Imani M

People try to say R&B is dead. The Grown Experience proved that that sentiment is simply untrue. View photos from the spectacular evening in the gallery below:

Photos Courtesy of Jada Imani M

Reggie Becton Creates a Storytelling Masterpiece on debut album California

Reggie Becton
By Ahriel Nari
Reggie Becton
Reggie Becton

Reggie Becton is an artist that should be on everyone’s radar. Drawing inspiration from R&B legends including Marvin Gaye, Brandy, Avant, and Aaliyah, he is forging his own path by creating a perfect blend of classic R&B with new wave soul. I got the chance to chat with Reggie about his highly anticipated debut album California ahead of his upcoming tour:

Congratulations on your debut album! Your music career has been so amazing to watch over the past few years! You’ve been very consistent, dropping a new project every Fall! How would you say you’ve grown since releasing your first EP?

Staying consistent has allowed me to grow vocally. I’ve grown spiritually to even want to talk about certain things on songs which is super important. I think that in order for you to dig deep and really connect with people you have to give a piece of yourself. I feel like on this new album I gave so many pieces of myself. The biggest growth, though, was getting closer to the person that I’ve always envisioned myself being. I think with each of these projects, it’s allowed me to feel more comfortable and more confident to walk in that path. We all have this vision of this aura or version of our greatest self that we want to be but normally we’re just too afraid to actually do the things that’ll get you to the point to be that person. Each project has allowed me to get closer and closer to that person and just be a better person in general.

I was doing my research and saw that your last EP Thank You For Listenin’ is actually throw aways from your new album California. How long have you been working on California?

The oldest song on this project was written in 2018. That was when I was still working on Phases, which was my first EP. We just kept having a lot of false starts. Finally, three years later, we got it done. I think it’s the perfect one – it’s the perfect track listing. I love the 12 songs! I’m excited to sing the songs on the road. We got it just right. I’m so happy that it happened this way because it just shows you that everything happens for a reason.

So, California is about your move from PG County, Maryland to LA. How has living in California impacted you musically and personally?

No matter how comfortable I get here, there’s always a discomfort with having your entire family over 1,000 miles away. I think that allowed me to really be intentional with the progress and the steps I make out here. It made me hit the ground running and grind it out. I always remember that I came out here for a purpose.
Musically, the move impacted me so greatly because there’s so many people that are just passionate about music out here. They’re willing to work for passion. I was just talking to one of my managers, Edgar, like, “Yo, this project was made through a GoFundMe but it was a GoFundMe on passion.” Like, nobody charged me upfront for beats. We have a lot of really great producers on the project and people just did it out of the love and respect for my consistency. My past projects really went a long way for people to be like, “Yo, I just want to be a part of this. I see you and I feel like you’re on a path to greatness.” I think LA introduced me to so much more as far as my sound. It’s a lot more guitar driven with real instrumentation behind it. That’s the genius of Aidan Carroll, who executive produced the project. He comes from a jazz background and knows every instrument you can think of. He really helped hone the project in and add and fill in different places. He really pulled the project together.

I love your brand of R&B because your music is very raw. You talk about very real, relatable situations and get very vulnerable. For example, the song “Depresshun” on the new album you get very transparent about your depression and mental health. Do you ever feel hesitation to dive deep into these topics and how do you overcome that?

It’s crazy because with California, I had hesitation all the time. Any time I felt it, I ran against it. I decided I wasn’t gonna run away from it. So when I was writing “Depresshun” I was like I’m just gonna tell everyone what I need right now. I need therapy, I need some weed, I need a girl – I’m just gonna keep diving in. People have this thing where they think depression looks like something. You gotta not be getting your hair done. You gotta be dressing bad. You almost have to act sad for someone to want to check on you. I felt like it was time to make a song about depression that didn’t really feel depressed. Like I’m depressed but I’mma make it look good, make it look sexy. Chris Patrick and Shah Infinite did an awesome job of rounding out the song so perfectly. I love how on the song we all tackle our depression in different ways. I think it’s super powerful to have three Black men on a song singing/rapping about their depression and coming at it from different areas of life. It was a super special moment that I didn’t even expect to happen.

Reggie Becton

What was the most challenging aspect of making California for you?

The most challenging aspect of making the album was literally making the album. With EPs, they’re short. They’re like four songs. With the album, we recorded 30 songs. We recorded over what we needed for the album. Trying to monitor all of the phases of these songs and then finally putting all the pieces together is a lot. The stress of mixing, mastering, trying to write the songs, having enough recording time, being broke – all of those things made making the album the hardest part about making the album. Also, the pressure of it being called an album makes you feel like it has to be this super big thing.

What songs on California mean the most to you?

Alright, I’m just gonna name some stand out moments. I love the intro. That’s my brother talking at the end. It’s really special to me because that was a phone conversation that we had when I first moved to LA. I was complaining to him about getting people to do work for me. I think that it’s a perfect start for the album because that was at the beginning of my California journey. I love “Depresshun”. I love “Traffic”. I love how jazzy it is. To me, it’s a nice flavor to clean the palette. Then, I love the three-song run: “Amnesia, “E.T.G.M.E (Interlude)”, and “RM.143”. It’s the perfect sequencing – I love what those three do together. But I think my favorite song is “LOSERS”. It’s weird like I’m getting goosebumps because the songs I really love I didn’t think people would understand them, like “LOSERS” and “Scratches on the Mirror”.

Let’s circle back to the intro. That intro is so powerful!  It’s a great statement piece to set the tone for the entire album. In it, you said, “I bare my soul to feed your spirit.” What are you hoping your fans and listeners take away from California?

I hope that they hear the music and it gets them through something. I try to write from the most vulnerable place to give people music that allows them to cope with their trauma and their toxic behavior. I want each song to be something that maybe you’re going through that you can’t put into words but now you have this fire song to sing along to. That’s what music does for me, personally. Sometimes, I’m going through something and I can’t really tell a friend how I’m feeling. Not because I don’t have anyone to talk to but because I can’t put it into words, I can’t formalize it. Then, sometimes a great songwriter comes and they talk about something from the same experience I’m going through. That makes me feel like, “Hey, I’m not the only person in the world that feels like this.” That was my inspiration for all these songs on California. Literally, I cried writing all these songs except for “So High” because I was high as fuck. But these songs allowed me to get a lot of emotional baggage out of my system.

You also dropped a super dope video for the lead single “Issues”! Tell me about the making of that visual.

“Issues” was cool because a lot of my friends got to be a part of it, which never typically happens. That was the first time we used a steady cam. So we felt a lil’ bougie! Shout out to Chris & Moy. They’ve directed every video of mine since Listenin’. It’s cool to keep working with the same collaborators and grow together as artists. We actually got to build the set. So, it was super fun to get our hands wet in set design. Fun fact: the food we ate in the dinner scene of the video was the most horrible food. My manager was like, “I’ll pick up some food from the store,” but she didn’t really have time to go to the store. So, she picked up these frozen dinners from her grandmother’s place. They’re all like low-cholesterol, sugar free, low-calorie dishes. So, they warmed them up for us and we were like, “This is disgusting.”

You’re going on tour soon with Grace Weber for The Beautiful Space Tour! How did you originally link up with her?

It’s crazy because I feel like this tour has been this large manifestation plot that started in like 2017. My first official manager, Rodney (shout out to him), was Grace’s tour manager. She was on tour with PJ Morton and when they did the LA stop, we went to go see them. I got to see Grace Weber perform and I was like, “Who is this lady that’s killing it?!” She did this awesome “We Found Love” mix with “We Fall Down” by Donnie McClurkin cover. It was a phenomenal show. So, Rodney introduced us.  We kept in contact. Then at the beginning of the pandemic she asked me to be apart of this digital festival that she was doing. We did the digital festival and it was a great time. After that, I got this song sent to me from my executive producer Aidan Carroll. He didn’t really know what to do with the song. So, he asked me to put a verse on it which I did. Then, one day I woke up and was like, “I’m gonna send this to Grace to see if she would like it”. That song was “Ghost”. She loved it and did her verse on it. So that song led us to get closer as friends. Then finally this year she hit me like “Yo, you wanna come on tour with me?” I was like, “Hell yeah I wanna go on tour with you!” 

Reggie Becton

Where will the tour be making stops?

We’re doing 9 cities – Milwaukee, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, San Francisco, San Diego, LA, and New York. No DC show, so that saddens me but we’re planning something special for DC. We’re gonna come home.


What are you doing to prepare for the tour?

I’m doing the works — band rehearsal begins this week. I got a movement coach/choreographer. Now don’t expect no 8 counts just yet! But we’re getting some good movements for the show. I’m starting a diet today – you know you have to cut the sugar out, cut the salt out, strictly water to get ready. I’m still gonna eat but just eat a little healthier.

What can we expect next from Reggie Becton?

We have a video coming soon. There’s a video in the works for “E.T.G.M.E” and a video for “Obvious” in the works. We also are gonna do some live sessions.

California is available on all streaming platforms. You can purchase tickets to see Reggie live on The Beautiful Space Tour on Ticketmaster.

Connect with Reggie Becton on his official website, Instagram, and Twitter.