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Deeper Than Music: Caleborate Talks ‘Real Person’ Album, Mental Health, Family, and More (Interview)

Photo: Caleborate (shot by 36neex)

Interview by @Itsmyambitionz

A blunt conversation with Caleborate.

Chasing your dreams is important, but in the midst of frantic times, our realities cannot go forsaken.

In a get-up-and-grind state of mind – friendships, relationships, and health would be abandoned. Later I would find out that I treated my ambition like a treadmill and stayed in one place, but that’s for another store, one based upon a rat race. I don’t regret much, but I contemplate on decisions and where the worth secured its funds. 

More times than not, the act of reaching out to people more than I actually did. Thoughts missing action. Procrastination meeting regret–meeting me on March 21, 2017. Losing my good friend Ahustin Crawford. Somewhere down the line I became caught up in my own world and trying to find my way. On March 19, two days before I would find out he passed, I texted him “yo bro.” I wanted to get an answer but never did. I always thought about checking in but no commitment.  

What I assumed to be subsistence, turned out to be malnourished evolutions. As the one-year anniversary of Ahustin’s passing came around, I would be informed about a performance happening in Washington D.C. on March 25th. The concert held at Song Byrd Record Cafe in Adams Morgan would be held by Caleborate, a Berkeley, CA artist who can rap his ass off, turn the creativity on, and keep lyrics up—all while holding it down for those who relate to hardship, solemn intentions, and tangible dreams. 

Real Person, the name of his latest project and the title that would break through the vanity and get into who Caleborate is, on a humane level, before and after the art. After Caleborate put on one hell of a show, we chopped it up outside and had a conversation. We talked losing his best friend Darien McLaurin, balancing music with family, mental health, and much more. It was his first time in Washington D.C. He connected with fans, and I—connected with the music.

Excerpts from the interview below.

How’d you choose the name Real Person for the project?

It’s the homie and I still follow him on Instagram. We were in the bodega getting some food in New York. I told him to follow me on IG and said I know I don’t have a picture, but don’t worry, I’m a real person. He was like “ha, I like that, I’m a real person.” Then I put it in my bio that night. It just stuck. Me and [my manager Nick] were sitting there talking about the music like this shit sounds hella good. He was like we should just call it that. I give all the credit to God. I stayed focus on the music and everything started clicking. I believe in the law of attraction.

How’d you end up choosing the artwork? 

It’s like exactly what you said: I wanted it to connect. It’s very vulnerable, and the album is very vulnerable. It just stuck with me. I was just sitting at my computer, just putting pictures into a square and seeing what works and that was the best. I felt it, saw it, and it looked good.

Have you always been vulnerable in your music?

Yeah, but not as vulnerable as this. A lot of writers say that they think this is my most vulnerable writing and I would have to agree because I feel like my writing improved a lot. So now I’m able to be more vulnerable with a better vocabulary, a better command of the language, better command of my flow and shit. I think overall, now, my writing has the most depth on this project. Not even the best, just most depth.

That’s very important for an artist reaching this point in my career because the base of the story has been told. It’s like “we know you can rap, but what you gonna say?” I feel like the depth got there on this album. I write everyday. That was the biggest change on this album.

It’s an interesting time for music. The digestion of music, social media, microwave listens—How does that make you feel sometimes? You know, with the depth of your writing and continuing on with your craft?

Sometimes it inspires me more to keep writing. But I was listening to the Gucci Mane audio book today, fire by the way. History, black history! But anyway, sometimes I write vulnerable shit and I see where the music industry is at and I be like fuck it, because n***as not fucking with shit anyway. I ain’t finna be writing all this vulnerable ass shit about my life and shit. Getting all sad and deep for what? Niggas don’t even care. Then other times I’m like this shit is hella dope and I should just write it, record it, and put it out. Doesn’t matter if it blows up.

So with the title track “Real Person,” you get real personal. Do you have that balance now? Where you might call your mom or check on your friends more?—cause I know you’re still grinding. 

Getting a lot better at it. I was in Atlanta, two nights ago, on the phone with my mama at 4 AM in the morning. I was telling her that I gotta start calling my family more. I told her can you send me some numbers from the family? So she sent me all of my family’s contact info, cause I gotta start calling more. This music shit—makes it difficult but the word “can’t” cannot be in your vocabulary, like in “He Got Game.”

You talk about losing your best friend in your music. How long were you guys friends for?

RIP Darian McLaurin. My whole childhood. Probably up until age 16. We went to different high schools. So we started to kind of lose touch. But the reason why the story is so eerie is because when I was 21-22—I’m 24 now and I’ll be 25 in May—and I was working my last retail job which might’ve been a few months before he got killed. I lived in the Bay Area and he lived in Sac [Sacramento] which is about an hour-and-a-half drive. Cali is so big that people don’t usually leave where they’re from, it’s so spaced out. It was rare and I hadn’t seen him in years, five-six years and I had seen him a few months before he passed. And I remember I was mad excited because it triggered a lot of shit in my head, like I haven’t talked to my boy or seen him in dumb long. It was one of those moments where I realized this was one of my best friends growing up and I haven’t stayed in touch with him. I was so focused on music and not focused on staying in touch with people. Last year and this album has been a process of me learning and realizing balance. I can’t just be all about rap and not call my family or friends, or don’t talk to my brother. As black men, we get so focused on making something of ourselves and not becoming a statistic. 

Through those times of depression, what got you through that?

God, weed, music, good movies, and a couple of girls I was fucking with. Vices and my music. Music at the end of the day carries me through anything. I could be going through whatever, but if I can write about it, I’ll be alright.

Switching up the zone, would you say Lil Wayne is one of your favorite rappers?

All time. I love artists for certain things. I love Wayne for his tenacity, energy, drive, creativeness. He has an energy and a spirit about him that is unapologetic and I think the world can use that. He’s innovative. From “Lolipop” to his flow and metaphors, the way he decided to attack the game and go crazy with dumbass mixtapes and features. He was beast mode before Future went beast mode. He was the original internet-age beast mode. He’s one of the last rappers, lyrically, to go beast mode. It’s hard to go beast mode as a lyricist.

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