I met Calez for the first time while shooting the video for “Natural High”. He showed up with the rest of his 2008ighties Crew. I didn’t really know how he got there, and had never heard his music. During a break in shooting the party scene, he approached me, introduced himself, and asked me about submitting to RubyHornet. I gave him my email address, and told him to send away. A few days later he emailed me some music. After that he texted me. Then he called me. This routine repeated itself several times in a short span. At this particular time, I was probably at my busiest and most burned out. I sincerely didn’t get a chance to listen to it, and then the rounds of emails, texts, etc… made it even easier to ignore. But, Calez stayed persistent, even making a song and video for “Middle Finger”, a song centered on his frustrations in getting exposure, and pretty much a direct response to not being featured on RH. The thing about it though, the song and the video were both really dope. I posted the video, helped it get on a few other spots, and reached out to Calez about his music and his persistence.
Calez and the rest of his 2008ighties crew are all talented. They run the gamut of activities, rapping, shooting videos, handling production, and more. And they’re only getting better and wiser. With one ear on the past sounds of Hip Hop’s golden era, and the other firmly in the present, the crew pays homage to Hip Hop’s past while working to shape it’s future. We put Calez under the First Look microscope as an artist to watch. Get to know him in the interview below. Also check out his new record, “Rapping Habits” of his forthcoming LP, Kid With Raps.
RubyHornet: Let’s start with your start? I understand you’re from Chicago, and about to start school at Columbia College. Introduce yourself to our readers.
Calez: I’m Calez, just a 19-year-old artist/musician that has a genuine love for music, and I love to make it with my team. Oh yeah, and the Columbia thing.. I’m going to start next year. I’m at a community college unfortunately.
RubyHornet: At what point did you start listening to music? Who were some of the artists/songs that made you want to start creating your own?
Calez: I started getting into Hip Hop seriously around 10 or 11. I always listened to the radio and heard rappers like Jay-Z and Mase, and I wanted to rap. I would write rhymes here and there, but for some reason, I always thought that you had to be older to become a rapper. It may sound corny as s**t, but when Lil’ Bow Wow came out, it kinda made me open my eyes and made me see that you can become one at an early age.
RubyHornet: Coming up in Chicago, who are some of the artists that have influenced your sound, as well as your grind?
Calez: Coming from Chicago it was hard trying to find a sound because the Midwest is so complex. We really don’t have a signature sound in my opinion. This is what makes us so unique. I went through southern style rap and more, yeah, pretty much took some loses. Though it helped me find myself and I started listening to the classics like Big L, Nas, Notorious B.I.G, and AZ, which are some of my favorite flow-ers. I like the way they use their words and just make it flow so nicely on the beat. I want to have a signature flow like that. Also, Pharrell is a HUGE inspiration in my music far as channeling emotion whether through his words, or production. His music helped me find my production sound and people like Kanye, J Dilla, Primo, Flying Lotus, and probably a couple more. Oh and far as grind, DJ Mano kicked my ass. At first he told me my music was wack and everything… But it helped me get better and want to prove him wrong. Now he’s like my big bro/mentor. He will be working with the team soon.
RubyHornet: You are a part of 2008ighties. Who makes up that crew? And what is the mission statement, or the philosophy that brings that together?
Calez: The group consists of myself (Calez), Johnny St. Cloud, Julian Malone, Fonz-E Mak, U.G., Legit, and Sani. When we make our first project together it will drop under the name Brkf$st Club, but 2008ighties is like the brand and music group or label. You can do anything, you just don’t have to rap to be in it. We came together just on some music s**t at first, but then we formed a brotherhood you know? We helped each other develop our own sounds and become a family. They’re the best man. I’m a fan of each team member’s music. “2008ighties” is just a concept I came up with back in ’08. I was really getting into the Hip Hop s**t in high school, like I was the only one in my school with a rope and some OG Nike’s on and people were always looking up to me cause I was different and didn’t give a s**t what people thought. But the name is 2008ighties basically because we are a Hip Hop based group, even though everyone in 2008ighties sounds different, and it’s not just boom bap Hip Hop. It’s just respecting our roots (80’s until) and combining them with the era we live in now (2000’s), which forms 2008ighties.
RubyHornet: On “Middle Finger” you take an interesting approach, definitely one of frustration, but also genuine curiosity. Tell me about writing that record? How much of an influence was RubyHornet, lol?
Calez: It was just a regular day. Me and Julian were in the studio and I was playing around, then found the background sound. Ju was like, ‘man that’s dope,’ and I was like, ‘yeah I’ma make something out of it.’ Going through drums, me and Ju picked the “Let’s Ride” drums by Q-tip and as I was listening to the beat, I said to him, ‘You know what? I’ma make this song for people who don’t f**k with us bro cause I’m tired of this s**t. And I’ma shoot a video of us just doing us.’ So, after coming up with the basis of the beat we left and grabbed some food. I made the hook up in the car, and I came back to write the verses. Then we shot the video about 3 days after.
Oh, and haha, Ruby Hornet…. it’s all love now, even though I thought RTC was a send off at one point, lol. But he’s a cool dude and about his biz. But basically we never hated any blogs, just were frustrated with the way that they only f**ked with people they got co-signed to them, or knew personally. “Middle Finger” was basically a message to say f**k you and a co-sign, we’re artists with talent, and we are going to make it anyway.
RubyHornet: As I mentioned, you ask some questions about young artists getting their music posted on sites. Has anyone given you some answers, have you learned anything in just working with writers/bloggers since dropping the video?
Calez: I have learned to be more humble about getting exposure on blogs, cause you guys need new product as much as we need you to get it out. I realize you guys have lives of your own and it annoys you to get hawked, s**t I would be too, haha. Though, I feel like destiny is destiny, because if I didn’t make “Middle Finger” I believe it would of taken longer to get where I am at. I’m not saying go out and burn bridges and diss blogs, but you have to make noise and put in a little more effort far as getting you dudes’ attention if you want to be heard.
RubyHornet: Your last mixtape was titled, Is Calez Famous Yet? What is your concern or relationship with fame? Why not, is Calez A Dope Emcee Yet?
Calez: The concept of Is Calez Famous Yet is kind of what it sounds like. I was the dude in high school everyone knew rapped, I had people tell me, ‘you’re going to be big, you’re going to be a star.’ Then one day someone asked me, “Is Calez Famous Yet?” And I decided to make that the title because it is the sequel to my mixtape The Bus Stop, so it’s supposed to be like “Are We There Yet?” It’s kind of hard when people tell you you’re going to be on MTV, BET, FAMOUS in the future because most of the people I hear about that are successful come from people telling them they’re not going to be s**t. That’s why I humble myself and keep my struggle in mind and use them telling me this for fuel. I was going through a lot and still am, but the way I present myself and my image no one will never know unless they listen to my music.
RubyHornet: “I’m not a maniac, you just don’t understand.” Tell me about that line. Who is it that doesn’t understand, and do you ever have to convince yourself?
Calez: Well, Julian made that hook but the feel I got from it is people can look at you and judge, but never really understand what you’re going through unless they are in your shoes. So a MANIAC can be a totally normal human, but from the outside looking in, can be totally different to someone else.
RubyHornet: Your next project is called Kid With Raps. From that title, it seems like the LP will consist of personal records, and a lot of your aspirations going forward as a kid with hopes to be a professional emcee. Is that right? What can you tell us about the new project?
Calez: Exactly. You’re right! Kid With Raps will be more personal than any project I dropped. It will be more of a Late 90’s Hip Hop mixed with my naturaul chords I pick for emotion and just a kick ass album. It shows my progression and hopes and dreams from when I started to where I am now. Most of the production will be from me and probably one beat from Ju and Sani, gotta keep the sound contained so it can grow.
RubyHornet: Lastly, for many this will be their first time getting familiar with you. What are three things you want them to know about you before checking out more music?
Calez: First off, I’m always honest in all my music and I put my heart into my s**t and appreciate everyone that takes time to listen and say something to me about it whether good or bad. Second, this could not be possible withouth my 2008ighties family, so check out their music also. Lastly I believe in taking chances. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take and I live by it.
Follow Calez on Twitter @thekidcalez.