A Year in Review with Rising Rapper Caleborate

When it comes to Caleborate, his audience is comprised of listeners from all walks of life, with different backgrounds, and different stories. There’s something to be said about that — the fact that people who seem so different can identify with one man’s music. Through his relatable rhymes, the rising Bay Area rapper has been able to blend his perspectives on his own evolving life with honest feelings about the world he lives in. Backed by soul-infused hip-hop and production that doesn’t overshadow his words, Caleborate’s music is easy to grab a hold of and hard to let go. Using clever puns and a bit of humor, he doesn’t force his message or pressure the listener to see eye to eye. He’s just himself and the music shows that.

Whether he’s exploring his own desires and finding himself on his debut project Hella Good, or speaking his progression into existence on his latest project, 1993, Caleborate is the people’s champ (and his come-up proves it). Not many artists can turn their upbringing into an anthem, or rap about their rise without coming off as braggadocious. Caleborate combines humility with tenacity and invites listeners into his world on a regular basis through his music. The TBKTR emcee recently finished a headlining tour and performed at the Oracle arena in Oakland, CA, closing out 2016 with a few things checked off his bucket list.

I originally interviewed Caleborate at his house earlier this year, surrounded by his team, while a then unreleased 1993 album casually played in the background. Greeted by strawberries, plenty of beer, and tacos, I felt right at home. Since then, we’ve done an updated interview with the up & coming hip-hop artist to capture this exact moment in his career and his changing life. You can get to know Caleborate a bit more in our feature interview below (although I strongly suggest that you all meet this guy in person).

1993 dropped and now we’re here. What’s the aftermath of 1993 like for you?

It’s been great man. It’s been a learning experience for sure. The first tour was sprung off of this project, some of my best videos, merchandise, headlining show etc. It feels like we finally found our formula so to speak, and with that newfound discovery, we also came to understand our audience a lot more.

Besides the singles on 1993, which song do you still consider underrated and recommend fans dig deeper into?

I’d have to say “Too Long” as of right now, well actually since I heard it in its entirety back in August. Once I completely finished that song, I felt like it was the most well-written record on the project. It also has my dad on it which will be meaningful to me forever.

Tell us a bit about your first headlining tour, the 1993 tour. What was that experience like for you?

It was incredible. I mean, first and foremost it was a blessing that I will never forget or take for granted. Seeing the world off of songs I wrote in my aunt’s house or on the 72R bus (Ac Transit) was like a literal dream come true. It was scary at first because I worried that we wouldn’t have much fan support outside of LA, Santa Cruz and SF. But once we got on road and hit up the other cities like Seattle, Portland and Santa Ana I was baffled because there was so much love and the shows were so profound. I learned a lot about myself as a man during that tour. I learned a lot as a friend and as an artist. Hell I learned a lot as a businessman too. I can’t wait to do it on a larger scale in 2017.

My favorite track on the project is probably “Thank God”, both lyrics and production (plus your mom is featured). What does this song mean to you?

It means a lot. It means to me what apple juice means to the average child. It’s like a staple. I can’t have an album without a song like that. I can’t have a life without a mother like mine — being able to tap into that mode and make something like that is special to me. My mom lowkey had one of the hardest quotes on the album too: “Promise less, deliver more.” Real words to live by, shout out to my moms.

You have such a close-knit team and I think friendship is really important in the industry. How did you build upon and strengthen some of these bonds in your group throughout 2016?

A LOT OF TRIAL AND ERROR. Sometimes more error than trial, haha. It’s a part of the game though, it’s a part of manhood. 2016 was like a year where we needed to trip and fall as much as possible, on as many different terrains as possible so that in the future when we find ourselves running a similar or more difficult race, we can lap niggas easily. I love my team though and it’s mutual. We found commonalities wishing each other through the life goals we each have set. That’s priceless.

Do you have an idea of which direction you want to go in musically for the New Year? Anything new you want to try?

Yeah. I want to show people and show myself how much of a fucking artist I am. Not just a rapper. If you look through my phone, you not gon’ find that much rap. You gon’ find Hiatus Kaiyote, you gon’ find Etta James, you gon’ find Musiq Soulchild, you gon’ find the Doors, you gon’ find Portishead. So I ask myself, “why have you limited yourself to so much rap?” Then I smoke and search for an answer and then I realize it’s because I was scared. I’m not scared anymore though. I have a voice and I want to use it. I have a vocabulary. I have a way with words, melodies, harmonies and I want to use them too. It’s time for me to grow.

In a changing music industry where DIY is more of an answer than reaction now, what does success look like to you?

Success is paying your bills off of music. If you can afford a comfortable lifestyle off standing on stage and telling people about your life and posting mediocre photos to Instagram occasionally, you win in my eyes (all the glitz and glamour is icing on the cake). Of course you have to make sure that what you’re singing and performing still has substance and it impacts people, but if you can make a living off doing just that, you’re doing pretty damn good.

The Bay Area has been experiencing a huge renaissance in music the past two years and you play an integral part in this. I’d like to think of this time as a new chapter in Bay Area music history, similar to Chicago a few years back, where young artists from this region are finally breaking barriers in both expected sounds and national recognition. As someone who’s helping to lead the way, where do you see things going from here?

I see them growing to even larger heights to be honest. We just have to make sure we don’t fuck it up with that crab mentality that seems to plague us all at the worst times.

What piece of advice can you offer to artists who are just now starting off?

Be ready to be tested. Be resilient. Be hungry.  And always always always always be ready to learn. If you don’t want to put in the hours to be great, regardless of how many hours it may take, or how difficult it may be, then you should just go sit in a corner and get busy dying. Cause there ain’t shit in this world that you want, that’s gon’ come easy. Honestly you just have to be ready to be Mark Watney at all times.

Any parting words for 2016?

I’m glad you’re leaving.


Photos by @36neex. Follow Caleborate on Instagram | Twitter | Soundcloud | Website
Evangeline Elder

Evangeline Elder is an Oakland-based writer who enjoys absolutely nothing. Just kidding (sort of).