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Calboy Is a Trendsetter

By Donna-Claire Chesman on

Currently, Calboy has 16 pets. “My pets are doing great, man!” he tells Audiomack with joy. “I got the pythons, a variety of iguanas, and leopard geckos. I got a lot going on, and they are great.”

The Chicago rapper who broke with “Envy Me” in 2019 knows how to balance his fun personality with a strong hustle. He began recording himself in 2016, which led to two mixtapes the following year and a record deal. By all counts, Cal is living the dream.

The story of Calboy finding himself and his sound parallels the PUMA story, where both artist and brand approach art as a means of bringing the best parts of the past into the contemporary age. With the RS sneaker line, PUMA is rebooting an ‘80s design through a streetwise lens in much the same way Calboy’s music carries a classic and conceptual spirit, but the edge of a Young Thug or Future.

With the RS sneaker, PUMA delivers on extreme reinvention: colorful, vibrant, comfortable, and bold in every way from the exterior material to the sole. The silhouette is a triumph in the shoe game, born out of constant innovation, and fits Calboy’s story as he recounts listening to older pop-punk staples (The All-American Rejects, for one) and remixing their emotional sound into his own. Calboy’s tastes—a lot, a lot of Adele and Coldplay—are full of delightful surprises.

“I never been a part of a trend,” Cal tells Audiomack with his signature, hardwon confidence. The artist sees himself on the cutting edge of the industry, which is why his partnership with PUMA feels “fantastic.” “I’ve been rocking PUMA since I was a kid,” he continues. “PUMA go a long way with me. It’s just me living out my dreams and doing things I’ve wanted to do. It’s excitement and a rush. It’s a fun journey.”

Back in May, Calboy spoke on music industry lessons he learned throughout his “Envy Me” rise. Candidly, he said, “Fame does not stress me out. It’s more the technical situations that stress me… New partnerships, new deals, new people, and not knowing everything. That’s the stressful part.” Yet this new venture and the success Calboy envisions for himself heading into 2022 do not feed into that anxiety. Yes, Calboy still struggles with being different in an industry that praises the “copycats,” but his assuredness as a businessman has only increased.

How important is style in today’s rap landscape?

I see a lot of copycats—everybody is influenced by everybody. But there’s individuals that their style is different, and they take pride in being different. It’s 50-50, but for me? I think style is very important and I stay true to myself. I take pride in that.

The Calboy story is one of constant growth and re-invention. How do you make sure your music stays ahead of trends?

I’m a trendsetter if anything. I take pride in being different and doing what I love. I really don’t care what others feel about whatever I do—how ever I dress or deliver the music. I don’t care about [outside] thoughts. I stay away from trends just by being me and taking pride in being me.

Were you always this confident?

I’ll be completely honest: No, I wasn’t. I had to learn and bump my head a few times. I had to read, take advice from my brothers, and go through a journey. It molded me into the person I am.

What’s the best advice you have for artists who are struggling to find their voice in the same way you have?

Lock in and get into tunnel-vision mode. Identify your goals and shoot straight for them. Never derail. That’s the problem! When people start to get off-track… It’s best to stay on something and stay consistent and focused.

Usually, when you fail, it’s because you let yourself fail. You stopped. My brothers always tell me: “Don’t quit, because tomorrow could be the day everything changes for you.” Whatever it is, you can’t stop. That goes for anything: art, TV, comedy. Just perfect your craft and keep going.

You’re making music with that powerful, classic spirit. Who, or what, would you say is your biggest inspiration?

I’m inspired by a lot of different things and people, old and new. Some of those would be J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Chance The Rapper. I got that edge, so I like the Futures and the Young Thugs for the sauce they put on the music. I also listen to alternative music. It’s a lot, a mixing pot. I take small details [from artists] and I dial into those.

Who’s one artist fans would be surprised you’re listening to?

Adele! I surprise a lot of people when I say I listen to Adele. Some Taylor Swift. And I listen to The All-American Rejects, Coldplay. I surprise people when I start singing along to those types of songs.

During our previous interview, you told me you still feel like you don’t fully understand the industry. Has that changed?

It’s the same… Different individuals didn’t grow up like I grew up, and I have to deal with that. I don’t think that’ll ever change, because I’m different from a lot of people in the industry.

Photos by Kumo. Styling by Brandy Penelope. RS sneakers provided by PUMA.

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