Words by Carlton Wade
Only a three-and-a-half-mile bridge separates the pristine playground of South Beach from the grimy ghetto streets of Greater Miami-Dade County. One side is known for its posh hotels, seductive nightlife and melting pot of Caribbean cultures. The other side is famous for cocaine cowboys, retired mafia types and raunchy rap music. Native Miami mainstay rapper Ball Greezy represents that rugged, not-so-glamorous side of Miami.
Through his heartfelt street hymnals, Ball Greezy has held the Gunshine State hostage since he was a teen, and he continues to flex his musical muscle with his latest mixtape Feel My Pain, self-titled single featuring platinum rapper Jim Jones and recently released music video. Added to that, he is currently in the studio crafting his seventh mixtape Who Gone Stick Me.
“I can harmonize. I can spit bars. I just come different on whatever I’m doing,” he reveals. “I try to reinvent myself on every track.”
Born Kinta Cox to an immigrant father from Turks and Caicos Islands and Bahamian mother, Ball Greezy was raised around music. His father was a guitarist in a local band that played soca, calypso and remakes of popular songs at gigs around the city. Sometimes, his dad would even let the youngster play drums for the band for at least $100 a show.
“My household was very musical,” he remembers. “We always had a setup in a house when band would practice. My house was known for everybody being there, music up loud. I came up in the loud house on the block.”
Adding even more noise to the block, Ball’s older brother was an aspiring rapper named C Lo. The family had rented out a detached add-on to their house to another aspiring rapper who had transformed his little living space into a makeshift studio. Each day, crowds of kids crammed into this small apartment to rap and record music.
While most teens indulged in video games and hanging out with friends, Ball got a kick out of listening to his brother record in the studio.
“I used to go in the studio with them and watch them rap,” says Ball. “So one day, I just tried it on my own.”
Before Ball had known it, his brother burned the song to a CD and distributed it to local strip clubs. At only 14 years old, he had become an overnight celebrity.
“I didn’t record the record for that to happen,” he contends. “People would come to me and tell me that they wanted me to come to their club and perform the song. I’d be like ‘that ain’t me.’ I didn’t expect it to do that. I just wanted to record and it got out.”
The following year, formed a duo group with Young Mash called Shorty Ridaz. Even as the group gained its popularity in school and in their neighborhood, due to his shyness, Ball Greezy would still deny that it was him who was on the tracks.
“I still got a little bit of shyness in me now,” he admits. “But when I’m on stage, a different person comes out. I’m laid back but it takes a song to put me on blast.”
Back then, however, Ball wasn’t totally focused on the music. He was in the streets “doing some of everything,” as he explains it. And at 17, he got caught on the wrong side of the law and wound up serving time in a juvenile detention center.
There, he spent most of his time reflecting and writing lyrics. Every inmate was given a journal and instructed to write about their day everyday. Because music was the only way he knew to express himself, he would write about his day in form of a rap. Each time, they would confiscate his journal. Eventually, they allowed him to write lyrics, as long as they weren’t explicit.
Shortly after turning 18, Ball Greezy was released and immediately decided that he would pursue his passion as a hip hop artist. In 2005, he collaborated with famed producer Gorilla Tek with the goal of creating his first official project. Collaborating with Miami natives Trina and former 2 Live Crew front man Uncle Luke, he soon gained the recognition he worked for and shortly after signed a record deal with Icon Music Group.
In 2006, he released his label EP entitled Straight Drop. Then in 2007, he dropped his breakthrough single “Shone.” Two weeks later, the song was in rotation on every radio station and at every club in South Florida. “Shone” received its co-sign from rapper Rick Ross when he joined Ball Greezy on the remix.
During this time, Ball Greezy’s schedule consisted of no less than two performances per night. He toured the state of Florida and also gained an international following after opening shows for artist Flo Rida in Dubai and Moscow.
In the summer of 2008, Ball Greezy came back another successful single, “I’m the- Sh**” featuring former Cash Money Records artists Ace Hood and Brisco. The single became the summer anthem promoting self-confidence. By winter, he released another banger “Where They Do That At?” featuring Fat Joe and Flo Rida.
With singles coming back to back, Ball Greezy released another mixtape aptly titled Long Time Comin’ in 2010. Since then, Ball Greezy has collaborated with several well-known artists including Pitbull and DJ Khaled. He then came with mixtapes New Day in 2012 and I Ain’t Never Left in 2014.
Last year, he released his sixth mixtape Feel My Pain, where he openly shares his experiences in the industry, personal struggles and successes. Early this year, he released the visuals for the mixtape’s self-titled single, and he is now in the studio putting together his upcoming masterpiece mixtape Who Gone Stick Me.
“I make soulful music. I come from the heart. I don’t follow trends. I’m doing me,” explains Ball Greezy. “I’m always me, and I ain’t changed yet. Why change if the people are accepting me for who I was?”