Finding identity in ‘Real Person’: An interview with Berkeley-based rapper Caleborate


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On his latest album, Real Person, Caleb Parker, also known as the Berkeley-based rapper and songwriter Caleborate, wields his soulful yet disciplined voice through authentic lyrics and jazzy productions. The 10 tracks are instilled with an honest vulnerability, something that resonates with his fanbase. On the outro of the album’s eponymous single, Parker muses on finding his identity — “It’s hard to figure out … how to exist.”

Despite this sense of doubt, Caleborate is still optimistic — he’s about to kick off his second tour in Berkeley for Real Person. His hit single, “Soul”, which is also featured on the new album, has gained nearly 2 million streams on Spotify and made its way to Spotify’s “Most Necessary” playlist.

“Excitement is short-lived; there is so much more work to do” he said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “Keep your head down, and focus on what’s next to achieve.”

This determination is paying off. The Bay Area rapper’s music continues to improve as he becomes older and wiser and undergoes new life experiences which help shape his artistry. The 24-year-old describes music as his therapy — it can’t be rushed.

“I’ve been through a lot of shit. With my voice, I can illustrate that for other people who may not have a voice that is being listened to” he said.

In this sense, Caleborate’s music is meaningful because he understands the importance of utilizing his voice to uplift others. In the single “Wanna Be,” he raps about how he, like many others, is someone who is “In this world / tryna find myself / And tryna make it.”

He discusses how his music has shifted from sharing an autobiography of his life to instead focusing on how his autobiography can relate and touch others.

“Sometimes it’s 20-somethings,” he explains. “Sometimes it’s males, sometimes it’s Black males, sometimes it’s emotional people, sometimes it’s people who have weird relationships with their parents — I mean I’m all those people.”

Similar to his authentic lyrics, the rapper’s creative process also provides sense of relatability with his fanbase.

For the rapper, inspiration is a vibe — that feeling that builds up in your body. His raw lyrics and ideas occur in random moments, whether is he on a plane, at home or just hanging out. This spontaneity lends itself to a certain persistence for the rapper, which has been useful for him thus far.

He always puts his craft first — even if that means having to neglect relationships or not being able to enjoy early adulthood to the fullest because of his busy schedule.

Reflecting on the very start of his career, however, Caleborate says he wouldn’t change a thing. He would advise himself to “keep rockin, keep going, stick through it. You have to stay persistent.”  

Despite this positivity, Caleborate faces the financial struggles that confront many emerging artists — especially one who is a college dropout paying for studio time, the costs of traveling, producing merchandise and acquiring new equipment. Caleborate says his current music remains good and honest, but “not the riskiest.”

“There is a lot that I’d like to do, but can’t because I don’t have the money. … It’s a weird hustle.”

Fans will get a chance to experience his music when he embarks on “The Real Person Tour” — a run of 16 shows which includes a set during this week’s Noise Pop Festival. “I’m excited but a little nervous because it’s nationwide.” Caleborate shares. “I’m interested to see how the music connects elsewhere, especially across the country. I know it’s gonna be dope.”

Still, it’s an opportunity to travel, and Caleborate is looking forward to seeing new places, breathing new air and, most importantly, drinking new beer. On a more personal note, his older brother, the rapper Cash Campain, will be performing alongside Caleborate for a few shows on tour.

After the tour, he plans to continue designing his merch line, experimenting with new styles of music and releasing a secretive “banging-ass project.” He also hinted that he will be moving to Atlanta to reunite with his father. Considering that Caleborate is from Berkeley and his roots are a significant part of his identity as a rapper, it’ll be exciting to see how his styles and perceptions continue to progress.

Ultimately though, the evolution of Caleborate’s music isn’t merely artistic growth — it’s a responsibility. “I have such a respect for music and artistry because the one thing that distinguishes us from animals, is art. When it’s done right, it literally can change the world. Art can move someone to tears or enlighten people.” If Real Person is any indication, Caleborate has a good chance at doing just that.

Contact Preya Gill at [email protected].