Caleborate Wants to Be Heard: Interview

“Being misunderstood is the worst thing. It’s the most common feeling I have as an entertainer, or as a Black man.”
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Caleborate needs you to hear him out. Don’t just nod along and wait for your turn to talk; lend an ear to the 26-year-old Bay Area rapper. If you do find it within yourself to truly hear Caleb, what you’ll discover is an artist obsessed with humanity, society, and the betterment of people. Caleb’s music is heartwarming and eternal because it brings external pressures down to size. From anxiety and social pressures to bouts with women, Caleborate’s music takes the minutiae of being alive and turns it into fodder for a unique, poppy, and ceremonious brand of life-music.

His upcoming EP Hear Me Out follows in that nourished mold. At just seven smart tracks, Hear Me Out deals in delivering odes to the misunderstood masses. The EP focuses on Caleb working through the loneliness of not being heard, and the impossibility of fulfilling conversation. When he misses a conversation, he invokes his own.

“There’s tracks like ‘Only 4 Tha Real’ that discuss my plight,” Caleb says. “The second verse has some—I don’t wanna say suicidal undertones. I have a song on there called ‘California Breeze,’ which is a pure love letter. It’s hard to say through text because you never know where someone’s at and who got their phone. To me, that record was my conversation to that girl. ‘Hear Me Out’: listen to me, I be talking crazy sometimes. It always comes back to me and pure truth. You can’t escape the truth.”

The title for the EP, as pleading as it sounds, does not exactly come from a place of begging as it does a place of angst. 

“It wasn’t about [people] not listening to me, it was about understanding,” Caleb explains. “Being misunderstood is the worst thing. It irks my soul down to the core. It’s the most common feeling I have as an entertainer, or as a Black man.”

The feeling of being misunderstood was most agitating when Caleb was on the road. A life of traveling took him away from those closest to him and put him in a position where having a meaningful conversation was a crapshoot. He began to conceptualize society’s listening problem, to realize that it is borderline impossible to sit down at the bar and have a one-off conversation with someone. Caleb felt as if no one understood his perspective; as he puts it, having healthy conversations with the people around us, “will help people from going fucking crazy.”

“My life is just mired in being misunderstood, because people see one perception of you and they don’t really know [who you are]. I need you to hear what I’m saying, and you can retort, you can question, you can actually have this dialogue with me. I’m tired of surface level, frivolous dialogue. Do we understand each other?” —Caleborate

It’s not just the real world where Caleb feels unheard and misunderstood, but also within the industry. When asked if he thinks indie artists have a more difficult time being heard than major label acts, Caleb let off a resounding, “Of course, man, of course!”

“Numbers and data drive the industry,” he goes on, touching on the “massive reach” of the major label machine. He sees the playlist placements, the press opportunities, the YouTube ads, and the Instagram hype. He knows the labels can do something that he, effectively a small business owner, simply cannot.

“There’s a certain type of choice you have to make, if you make now-music, if you make lifetime-music,” Caleb adds. “If you make vanity-music. Depending on the music you make, it influences the audience you have access to, and how fast [you grow]. For an indie artist, how can you compete with a signed artist who has a hot song that everyone loves at the moment? The key for us is to stay consistent. It just takes more time; it takes more commitment.”

In those terms, Caleb is committed to being heard and staying the course. His music is grounded and enriching. Caleb feels a moral responsibility to stand for something. As a result, much of his work deals with unpacking society and toxicity and making people question themselves for the better. 

Questions, too, are an integral part of being heard and hearing someone out. For Caleb, ultimately, being listened to feels like an active conversation. 

“Are we talking here, or are you just hearing the stuff that I say?” Caleb demands rhetorically. “Are we having a dialogue? That can be said about a lot of music. Is there anything happening here, or are we just saying things? Is there even anything for the listener to hear and ask a question of themselves? There’s so much more depth to the music that we haven’t explored. For me, I like it when people listen to my records and ask me questions and say ‘Why?’ What is [music] without understanding ‘Why?’”

According to Caleborate, staying inquisitive requires an almost childlike sense of wonder about people. He laments the way we communicate now, suggesting that we’ve lost the ability to ask simple questions to get to know one another. 

“It’s like when you’re a kid, and people do show-and-tell and show their pet, and it’s a lemur or some shit. And you’re like, ‘N***a, I would never have that, but if it makes you happy,’” he concludes. “But then you ask things about that animal. It’s easier [to connect with people] than we make it. Simple questions, you know? Knowledge is power; never stop being inquisitive.”

Listen to "Away From," Caleborate's new single featuring Mir Fontane, on Audiomack.

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