Bay Area rapper, Caleborate (born Caleb Jamal Parker), says the choices he makes today and into the future should all be healthy ones. Whereas at times in the past the artist might not have taken the best route or made the most responsible decision, these days, Caleborate aims to promote clarity and sustainability over swifter or more toxic ambitions. But it’s not just about a green juice or carrot smoothie. Health comes in many forms, of course. For Caleborate, that also means financial, mental and community health. These are the thoughts he weaves into his music. The artist, who grew up at the feet of his playwright father, learned the power of language and expression at a young age and he works to breathe life into these every day, as evidenced by the rapper’s forthcoming 16-track LP, Light Hit My Skin, out March 26th and its newest single, “What U Want,” out today.
“I’m a big health nut overall,” Caleborate says. “Beyond physical health, I’m about taking care of yourself as a person. Your diet is more than what you eat. It’s what you watch, what you read. There’s a line in my song where I mention building credit and paying off debit. That’s something that I think is cool. Preaching financial literacy, that it’s attainable and doable, is cool.”
Growing up, Caleborate says, his parents were split. So, he’d spend a lot of times, beginning around nine years old, in the car driving from one house to the other. As the northern California highways sped past his window to and fro’, the radio filled his ears. In later years, his older brother exposed him not only to more music but to how to make it. Caleborate’s older brother helped write songs, so little brother would tag along to his studio sessions. Caleborate, who also began writing poetry around then, started to see how he could repurpose his stanzas in music. But there was one more important ingredient in the mix. His playwright father instilled in him from early on, through reading and editing school essays, that language was power and that powerful language was attainable.
“It made me proud to say my dad’s a writer,” Caleborate says. “So when people read my essays, I wanted them to think of me as a good writer too. My pops was the reason I started to care about words.”
Today, Caleborate’s style is an amalgamation of his favorite aspects from all his many influences. The 27-year-old artist likens the idea to that of a restaurateur. If making a new record is like the opening a new restaurant, then to fill out the eatery, Caleborate borrows from what he’s liked most in the other spots he’s visited. The way the lights dim from one, the color of the tablecloths from another and the floral arrangements from a third. In the end, the production has his signature on it but he doesn’t manifest it in a vacuum, as if some creative hermit.
“A lot of things have inspired me,” he says. “My dad, my brother, artists like Erykah Badu. If I was a restaurant owner, I would definitely curate my restaurant based on the best restaurant experiences that I’ve had and what things I saw worked really well.”
While the forthcoming LP is the first full-length for the artist since 2017, Caleborate has been working hard in the months between. Prior to 2015, he released numerous mixtapes, writing song after song and dropping them for fans. He unveiled his debut record in 2015 and followed that with another in 2016 and a third in 2017. Caleborate’s thoughtful track, “Caught Up,” was featured in the 2019 movie, Shaft, and he released and EP that same year. But his newest record is the result of three long years in the studio, suffering through many growing pains and finding renewed inspiration in his work ethic and abilities as an emcee.
“Over the years,” Caleborate says, “I’ve learned that music is like a living being.”
As a young person, he put his poems to songs. Then he made more and more. Doing so, Caleborate honed his artistic voice and realized that, in the end, hard work was the only way to continue through. Today, though, there is a great deal still to learn and, as a result, a great deal to share. On the emcee’s new record, Caleborate writes about what he knows and who he is. He talks about getting his hair braided, working out in the gym, flirtations and deep loves. He talks about growing up, experiencing racism and making a living through his art. To manifest the record, Caleborate says, he had to make some hard choices both in his personal and professional life. He had to distance himself from some past relationships and he had to do some serious soul searching. In the end, he found his answer.
“This is the stuff,” he says, “that I feel in my heart, that I want to put out.”
As Caleborate notes in the previously released single, “We Make,” he is “the culture.” His creative efforts allow him to be change incarnate. And one’s change can help to influence another’s. But to take it a step further, if one’s personal new directions are chosen with and fortified by concepts of health and sustainability, then the sky can only be the limit.
“When I say that,” Caleborate says, “I don’t just speak for me, Caleb Parker, or people who look like me or do what I do. There’s a lot of people who are the culture. I have friends who work on huge trains during the day, but they drop mad sauce in the streets and inspire people. I feel that I’m also putting an ingredient into this mixing pot. And I really want all people to feel like they’re adding to this, too.”