“The lyrics and storytelling and the messages in my music are something that people say sticks out, and I really put an effort into keeping in my music,” Caldwell said.
“ALLCAPSNOSPACES” features production reminiscent of the old school jazzy vibes of some of JSWISS’s favorite artists, such as A Tribe Called Quest and The Roots. The EP shows Caldwell’s progress since his first project, “Awthenticity,” which he recorded while he was a student.
Although there’s no consistent message or theme in the album, Caldwell said there’s a good balance between songs that are heavy on wordplay and those that are more introspective.
Two tracks which stand out as especially inspiring and important are “Karma,” which discusses a variety of issues including poverty and violence, and “We Ain’t the Same,” which discusses racism.
“I hope that my music inspires people directly and indirectly,” Caldwell said. “I hope that the messages specifically inspire people to think a certain way about different topics.”
While Caldwell has a passion for the storytelling style of rap reminiscent of the ‘90s “Golden Age” of hip-hop, listeners can also hear newer influences in his music.
“His ability to kind of mix old school hip-hop vibes with newer content is his best asset I would say. His music doesn’t sound dated but it has hints of the old school vibes,” said DJ Forge, the official disc jockey for UNC’s basketball and football games.
It was at UNC where Caldwell found other aspiring artists, and they banded together to form No9to5, a collective of emcee’s and producers that have opened for several big-name artists such as 2 Chainz and Juicy J and toured the east coast multiple times. Their most recent performance was at Local 506 Wednesday in support of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The EP will kick off a big year for No9to5, which is planning its first national tour.
“He has been an example to the No9to5 collective as a whole of how you’re supposed to hold yourself as an emcee as well as a businessperson because, kind of like he always says, ‘An artist is a business,’” said Joshua Rowsey, a member of No9to5.
As a student at UNC, Caldwell did over 100 performances on and off campus. Caldwell graduated from UNC in 2013.
“I wasn’t wasting a lot of time so I’d really try and be efficient with it and really go hard with the music,” Caldwell said. “It really helped to come up with my work ethic.”
Since graduating, he has been living and working in New York City. As well as performing in the legendary Apollo Theater and opening for members of The Roots, one of his largest influences, he continues to work with No9to5.
“The hardest thing about being someone like me who has found success on the underground level but not on the mainstream level is just, every day, staying consistent,” Caldwell said. “Just keeping things growing and moving towards the ultimate dream.”