Twenty-one credits, three jobs (including a Microsoft internship), full academic scholarship at California University of Pennsylvania, president of a student activities organization and the beginnings of a clothing line haven’t prevented Daeshawn Ballard from putting out his fifth studio album under his stage name, LiL-D Da Prince.
“This is just the [fifth] one that we’ve [released].” Ballard, 21, said recently from Pittsburgh, Pa. “I’ve got at least six CDs that I have not put out yet. I write a lot.”
Ballard — studying business administration major with concentration in marketing and a computer science minor — is not only busy in the studio, he’s active on campus.
The Cal U junior is president of Underground Cafe, a part of the university’s student activities organization which organizes open mics nights and concerts, a campus entertainment intern at Microsoft and demonstrates products on campus before their releases, while also finding time to be a business and marketing intern at Cal U’s entrepreneurial office.
It’s a lot for one person to balance.
“It’s pretty much a lot of prayer, a lot of time management and no sleep,” Ballard said.
Meeting people appears to come naturally to Ballard, which is helpful in amping up his presence on campus.
“I remember the first day we [his friend, O’Shea Browner] were sitting in our dorm room… we were just bored, and I was like, let’s go meet people.” Ballard and Browner began knocking on doors in their dorm. “Next thing you know, we’ve got a group of 70 people following us and people gained friends from that.”
Ballard is also successful on the local Pittsburgh scene. He won “Pittsburgh’s Best Hip-Hop Artist under 21” in 2011, after losing to Mac Miller in 2010. LiL-D Da Prince has also performed with artists as diverse as Kenny Rogers, Peter Yarrow (of classic folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary) at a senior citizen show, hip-hop duo Black Violin and with “very talented kids” from Hope Academy, he said.
Ballard could not speak more highly of his father, Meach, who inspired him to begin making music nine years ago. His father owns his own barbershop, is a hip-hop musician currently under the stagename Big Meach and co-founder of the L.E.U. (“life expectancy unknown”) Entertainment group.
“One day in our dining room, he was like, you know what, imma write you a song today. I was so excited. I remember this song, we sat down, he wrote it for me, I recited it. We went to the studio for the first time when I was 12 and made a video for it,” Ballard said. “After that his energy and passion for it transferred over to me and I started to take it upon myself to write my own music at a young age of 14. And it’s been growing ever since.”
Five studio albums later — including the April release The King’s Son, which was produced by Wiz Khalifa’s producer Sledgren — Ballard sees music staying in his life for a long time.
“I want to work with people and technology, those are my two favorite things aside from music,” Ballard said. “I would love to continue to make music for the rest of my life, but I also want to use it as a platform for when I achieve the dream, which is to be big, but to also use it as a platform to create different things. I have aspirations of owning my own production company as far as films, because my and my father love movies…My music is me, and as long as I live, it lives.” Ballard said.
Ballard’s upcoming projects include starting a clothing company with friends called Something We All Got (S.W.A.G.) and trying to perform more shows over the summer and attend festivals to get his name out there and “represent [his] city well,” he said.
For someone constantly working and making music, it’s amazing he has time to listen to it. Ballard said his favorite artist “hands down” is Drake. “His creativity astounds me every time, and I can really relate to his music.”
The message behind his own music is also important to Ballard, who aims for a positive message — sans curse words.
“You wouldn’t typically hear a 12-year-old cussing, so that’s where it started from. And that’s just how it was instilled in me to perform and write and create. I’ve seen [my music] reach various audiences from grandmothers to little kids, and no one has to worry about turning it down at a certain part; They can enjoy it all the way through,” he says.
“And my music is my tool that I use to inspire and motivate. If you listen to most of my songs, they’re fun, some are really emotional, some have that rough edge around them and you’re feeling hyper and ready to go. The underlying message of all of them is motivation and there’s a way out of where you’re at now no matter at which stage you are in life to excel and be better tomorrow.”
This is part of USA TODAY College’s Spotlight Series, which features student bands, campus organizations, student entrepreneurs and start-ups, student-run media, student artists and any other students doing cool, admirable and proactive things. If you’d like to nominate a student or an organization, please submit here.