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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Moment of Truth: Caleborate

Posted By on Tue, Jan 20, 2015 at 4:36 PM

click to enlarge Caleborate will perform as part of Thizzler on the Roof's Freshmen 10 showcase, now TBA. - MAX CLAUS
  • Max Claus
  • Caleborate will perform as part of Thizzler on the Roof's Freshmen 10 showcase, now TBA.
When we first encountered Berkeley’s Caleborate, (pronounced “collaborate” ... you know, like people working together towards a common goal) it was on The Thizzler’s 2014 Bay Area Freshmen 10 List, which highlights the Bay’s best upcoming talent in hip-hop and has produced winners in the past like IAMSU!, Sage The Gemini, and Kreayshawn.

But there was something different about Caleborate and his TBKTR alias/label. Bumping “I’m Still Alive,” I heard a smooth jazzy beat and a confident and relaxed MC. Instead of the hot bass and “see my swag!” call-outs that’ve become typical of Bay Area hip-hop, this dude was settled, fluent, and his lyrics were still straight outta the Bay.

The 21-year-old MC recently dropped the impressive Winter Break EP, which was produced almost entirely on his last winter break from Expression College in Emeryville, and it shows a hell of a lot of promise. Learning more about him and his process, he’s a by-product of the digital age and a prime example of how rising up in hip-hop takes equal parts dedication, skill, luck, and strategy. So for this week’s installment of Moment of Truth, we bring you an introduction and an interview with rising Bay Area rapper, Caleborate (TBKTR), ahead of his performance along with the rest of the Bay Area Freshmen 10 at the New Parish this Thursday, Jan. 22.

Update: This show has been postponed to a date TBA, and will apparently no longer be at the New Parish. Check in with Thizzler for updates. 

What's good, man? Where are you right now?
Driving through SF en route to Pacifica to rehearse for this Freshmen 10 Showcase on the 22nd…we’re bringing a live band to that.

So before we dive in to Winter Break, tell me about yourself.
Im originally from Sac, born and raised til I was 17, graduated from high school and packed up like literally that week, moved out of my parents' house. My brother graduated from Dominican University [in San Rafael], so he had an apartment out here in the Bay and he was like “Dude …come stay with me before you start college and kick it out here for the summer.” So long story short, lived with my brother and he gave me my first start to recording. He’s a singer himself, Cash Campaign. He was singing and rapping and he’s like…”You wanna come to the studio and try some shit out?” I was 17, I loved music. So slowly but surely i started trying my hand. He’d have me write a chorus or feature on a song with him and do a little verse.

Then in 2011, I started at Academy of Art and that’s when I really was like, ”I’m gonna take this rapping thing pretty serious.” Going to an art school you’ve got access to studios and mics and all that kind of shit. So I took advantage and wrote my first album all exclusively with internet beats from YouTube or whatever … guerrilla style. But it was a good start for me. And that's how the whole TBKTR/Caleborate entity really started. 

And then I was putting 'em out on SoundCloud and YouTube, but I felt like no one was listening cause I had no fans yet. I was a young rapper. So I’m thinking, there's gotta be a way to put myself out there. So I get on YouTube and started leaving comments on posts and then I decided to put together a more formal comment. Kinda business-formatted and cool. Intros you to me, the person, and tells you what I do. I started leaving it under popular videos and any rap video that was kinda like my style, I’d leave that up there. And then, like all of a sudden, I was getting replies overnight and people started subscribing to my YouTube channel and watching my videos and I built a little initial fan base through that. And that's propelled this whole thing for that last year plus ... just being on the computer [laughs].

So, are you still at Academy of Art now?
Actually I transferred a year ago to Expression College in Emeryvile to focus solely on music.

What’s that program like?
It's cool…it's really, really musical. Where I was doing multimedia at Academy of Art, now at Expressions, I’m focusing more on producing and engineering. But its still school, I mean..I just had finals yesterday [laughs].

I guess you kinda tell that story in the teaser video for Winter Break?
Yeah, that depicts what I got going on, but the whole Winter Break concept, really, is of a kid being back from school. And I chose to kinda do this project since this was gonna be my last winter break. So I really wanted to take advantage of these last two weeks. No work, no school ... show these people what I actually do, [one] last time before it’s time for real life.

So let's talk about the EP. Who are some of the people producing with you?
Funny that you ask, 'cause I just arrived at one of the producers' houses right now [laughs]. The guy who produces most of the stuff, his name is Willem Ardui. He’s from the Netherlands and then another guy is Wonderlust, who produced the track “All Mine.” and he’s from New Jersey. The guy who produced the outro, called “Next Semester,” is Ian McKee and I’m walking into his studio right now.

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About The Author

Adrian Spinelli

Adrian Spinelli

Hip hop and sandwiches.


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