New York’s Caleb Giles’ music sounds like a necessary exhale. The 22-year-old rapper grew up on gospel music and a healthy mix of soul and 50 Cent. These influences evidence themselves all over his 2020 release, the soul loop-heavy Meditations. Equal parts measured and soothing, the project was made to be listened to on a crisp fall day, outside, right as the smell of rain lifts off the concrete.
Despite the turbulence of 2020, Caleb Giles finds solace in creation. Since his 2017 solo debut, Tower, Caleb has blended his jazzy roots with classic poetics, positioning himself as one of the new vanguards of New York’s underground scene. In 2018, Caleb released There Will Be Rain, and 2019 saw the release of Under The Shade—both projects drew critical praise and saw Caleb Giles grow into his voice and pen.
Though Caleb Giles uses Meditations to remark on “watching the world burn,” the warmth of his work acts as a salve. Early on the album, Caleb brings up grand ideas of sight and knowing, and through the process of making it, the methodical artist has gained a better perspective on himself as a man. Meditations takes the community aspect of Giles’ music and brings it inward. This time, Caleb Giles is communing with himself in hopes of a better tomorrow.
The last time we spoke, we discussed Under The Shade and the importance of comfort in writing. This year, almost all comfort is gone. How did that impact the writing of your new project, Meditations?
I still find great comfort in a lot of things. This year [has] been a challenging year, but for me personally, I’m blessed to have things that are unchanging in my life. Music, my faith, things like that. And things that do change, they’re for the better.
Meditations is very measured and soothing. How did you find enough solace to both soothe yourself and put it on wax?
I started writing this record on Thanksgiving 2019. I was at my father’s house, there for the holiday weekend, and I was writing music. Come pandemic time, I had several songs I thought were gonna go and be the record. I was blessed with this quarantine to slow down and reconsider not only the music but what it is.
A friend of mine put me on to this idea of, “The medium is the message.” What are you saying without saying anything? I think there were a lot of [inconsistencies] with my original draft of this record. I was blessed with this quarantine to rewire and—I was sad at the beginning, as most of us were—I was determined to use this time to grow. I was exercising a lot more. I had to shake [the sadness] off. I was able to muscle through it, and eventually, it was just fun.
You have a great line about seeing and knowing. What did making Meditations show you about yourself?
In regards to that line, I’m talking about intuition. Especially where I grew up, having intuition is a lifesaver. It’s not enough just to see and observe; you gotta know what’s going on.
Beyond that, what I learned about myself? I went through a lot in the past eight months outside of music—people in and out of my life. I went through a break-up. What I learned the most about myself is that my birthright as a human is abundance and joy. In the world we live in, it’s easy to not even know that by birth, your right is joy. I’m only focused on what serves me, my joy, and my mission.
What does Caleb Giles know now that he didn’t know during the making of Under The Shade?
There’s a lot of things I didn’t know. I learned a lot about myself very rapidly. I learned you gotta allow things to flow in and out of your life. You only have control over how you feel and what you choose to give power to. Nobody can love you the way you love yourself.
You mention, “watching the world burn.” Later, you talk about the distance of fond memories. How do you get to your joy?
The world crumbles, watching it burn, these are all true things. But the path unfolds outwardly as you go inward. Easier said than done. My joy, I realized, it’s not attached to people or things, or situations, or jobs, money, whatever. I have things now. That doesn’t make me any [happier]. Before this, I was working off a busted-ass laptop. The joy comes from understanding the way God sees me. The God I worship loves me unconditionally and sees me as beautiful. That’s how I see myself now. It takes time because you’re bombarded with information and bullshit day-to-day.
You do sound exceptionally lucid.
Even Meditations, the title came to me in a dream, actually, way before Thanksgiving, and I started writing. I wrote down [the title], and I knew I was proud of it, from jump. When I make an album, I don’t think about what I’m doing; I keep going [off intuition]. I was focused. It’s all music. So I’m focused on myself more emotionally, spiritually, and that’s where I reside. Then, it translates to the music.
I talk about loops and circles a lot on the record, and ones and zeros. It’s possible to be a one and a zero at the same time. It’s possible to be multi-faceted, to be a lot of things at once. It’s about understanding that not everything is golden. You have to have the self-love and self-awareness to step out of harmful holding patterns. To me, meditation is a focused practice. You remain present, which is what I was trying to do with this record.
Photos by Chris Currence.