There are rappers and then, there are rappers. The italicized version highlights hip-hop's skilled labor tier, the bar for bar spitters, its wordsmiths -- artists who believe the building blocks of rap music success rest on a foundation of craftsmanship.
Indeed, for elite rhyme sayers it's about being good. And San Diego rapper Cali the Dreamer is definitely sure-handed, the result of inummerable hours spent sculpting concepts, harnessing rhythm and molding his repertoire.
It's dedication, which not only helped in yielding his first proper release, 2019's "No Turn Unstoned," but in terms of discipline and what he puts into his music -- that's also something he holds in high regard.
Music. Community. Culture.
"I take a lot of pride in the rhyme schemes and wordplay," Cali says. "I'm a huge student of the game; [I have] a lot of respect for hip-hop."
It shows, too, so for listeners who appreciate that kind of integrity, he's confident they'll connect.
"I think a lot of people who have that same respect for the music, when [they] hear me, [they're] going to be like, damn, I can relate to this cat," he says.
But it's the sense of urgency running through "No Turn Unstoned," a deep-seated want to succeed, that makes him standout. Whether micro-mincing syllables or rattling off a litany of personal attributes, Cali raps like his life depends on it -- he sounds hungry.
And the hook from "Marathon Dreams," as it breaks through a flurry of stuttering snares, is a prime example: "Been chasing my dreams, they tell me go get a job, the f--- do you mean.... I can't believe that you wanna stay in the hood, I be trapping to leave."
That's a go-getter mindset, the kind that comes from innate motivation. And while he deals in familiar themes -- weed, women and money -- at its core, "No Turn Unstoned" is a project fueled by the drive to prosper.
Most definitely, desire is a strong impulse, and when it's matched with well-earned swagger, the sky's the limit.
To get where you want to go requires concentration, and as he raps on "Set the Bar," "When I write I imagine when hoes ain't call me, I was hurting, but now I'm just way too focused for distraction," Cali the Dreamer has no interest in wasting time.
Remember, he's a rapper and isn't about to get sidetracked -- neither his appetite nor his ambition will allow it.