Cali Snipes [Interview]
Toronto, ON – Cali Snipes has been in the game much longer than he’s been recognized for. Having a nationally distributed record at the age of 14, Cali knew that music was in his heart and blood – and he would succeed at all costs. However, just as he thought he was about to blow, he encountered setbacks that delayed his buzz and his push of the single “Give It To Dem” was sacrificed. But Cali is back in full effect – stronger, wiser and more relevant than ever – and won’t allow anything to stop his career.
I had the opportunity to speak with Cali and fellow Offense-member Ceaza Leon about the release of New Era. “New Era is going to be the hottest thing when it’s released. It’s a street album that is definitely going to fill a void” Ceaza said of Cali’s upcoming project, “No one wants to even try to touch him right now. Lyrically, he’s on a whole other level.” Check out Cali’s present and future takeover breakdown:
Writer’s note: Cali & Ceaza allowed me to listen to New Era– and it’s banging!
HipHopCanada: Peace, Cali Snipes! “Money To Burn” is obviously banging out everywhere – how does it feel?
Cali Snipes: The best feeling ever. This is what I’ve been waiting for — what every artist dreams of.
HipHopCanada: Did you know that was going to be a single? What was the recording process like?
Cali Snipes:Yes, we knew. Well, first off, the record was supposed to be on a Watts beat. At the time I lost communication with him but started writing to that record. It’s just messed up how it all works out for its own purpose – the track was originally called “Prime Ministers” – and I started writing to the beat. but I couldn’t release the record as a single [with that beat]. One day me and Aristo were on the phone cycling through beat CDs. We came across Rich Kidd’s CD and flipped through it, vibing, and then the “Money To Burn” beat came on. Once that came on we knew that was it. Aristo was saying we should finish it. And regardless of who produced it, we knew that the track was a banger.
HipHopCanada: You love this track.
Cali Snipes:Yes, and what it represents. Me and Watts are back in contact now and look out for more stuff from us. “Money To Burn” was destined to go out but my only concern is that people wouldn’t listen and it would fly over their heads. As far as that goes, I’m just happy to see that DJs are taking it in. Shout-out P-Plus, Boogeymen, Dred-E Maximum, Majic Tricks, no questions asked . . . they just gave me that love.
HipHopCanada: What does “Money To Burn” represent to you?
Cali Snipes:It’s not necessarily that we have money to burn but rather how every day we burn money. We put in gas, we got groceries, raising kids, buying lunch. It’s always burning. And it can pertain to the ballers too . . . that’s cool. Just note that the lyrics define a deeper meaning.
HipHopCanada: When did you start recording? What’s your background as a MC?
Cali Snipes: Since I could remember, music was my life. My eldest brother (Redz) is a reggae DJ and my next bro is a DJ/MC (Ski). I looked at them as a little youth coming up. Growing up as a youth we would go to Jungle, my brothers would take me to see artists like Super Jay, Nasty Howie and those guys . . . it was crazy, so that’s where the emceeing comes from. I was living it. Legion of Beats was the first to ever record me when I was a little youth; first record I ever recorded, he vinyled it and it was placed in HMV. I was about 14/15.
HipHopCanada: And what about from then to now?
Cali Snipes:I linked up with Aristo who helped me with the business. I ran into business delays and learned a lot. A big part was not knowing how to deal with producers and management – a lot of the tracks I did had clearance issues, and then not being able to get a hold of producers when they got a management.
HipHopCanada: Your new street album was due out a while ago. Why New Era was held up?
Cali Snipes:I didn’t want it to be put out without consent from certain producers. “Give It To Dem” was my project. I was just so concerned about doing music at the time, not the business side. I was on house arrest for a good while. As soon as I was free, it hit me hard knowing that I couldn’t push the single when a manager came into the picture. The majority of the singles I had were from Watts and I had put all my energy into it . . . then when I couldn’t push them? That’s when I took time to regroup. That, plus personal shit contributed to the time of New Era not being put out. But there’s no better time than right now. People know I’m here now.
HipHopCanada: What does New Era represent?
Cali Snipes:New Era is about the new blood. Fresh blood in the game and a new set of people to look towards . . . a new face, a new sound, a new voice. For a good period of time, there were the usual amount of artists looking over our city, but all I’m stating is the new voice. Musically? It’s a street album – something on there for the man’s on the block to the average person working a 9-5.
HipHopCanada: And a real album will coming after?
HipHopCanada: How did you hook up with The Offense?
Cali Snipes:I knew Aristo from school. We linked up then . . . it was an on and off thing at first. We used to freestyle in the cafeteria, banging on the tables and such.
HipHopCanada: What’s Freeborn about?
Cali Snipes:Freeborn is a record label.
HipHopCanada: What’s the difference between The Offense & Freeborn?
Cali Snipes:The Offense started with 3 different groups collaborating together. Freeborn Records (Aristo/Cali Snipes) , The Commitee Gang (Ceaza Leon/El Nino/Choice), and Triple Threat Entertainment (Littles The General/Quake/Sincere/P-Nutt). Now, The Offense has evolved into a system where artists/producers/directors/engineers/promoters etc. work together to showcase each other. And, as a parenting system to some of the best young upcoming talent across Canada. We’re all solo artists, but most of us have been working together for years. Freeborn (the label) consisted of myself and Aristo.
HipHopCanada: Dope. What’s your favourite track you’ve done to date?
Cali Snipes:“Goodbye” and “Hardcore Poetry” which are on New Era.
HipHopCanada: You’ve been in the game for a minute but you’re only now getting spotlight – what’s the thing you wish you knew?
Cali Snipes:If I had known then what I know now, I would’ve taken things into my own hands. I would’ve gotten more involved. I wish I was more business savvy.
HipHopCanada: Do you think it’s unfortunate that an artist can’t just be an artist?
Cali Snipes:It’s unfortunate that we don’t have that machine where we can just do music. Here you’ve got to wear all hats. It is unfortunate, but in the same way, it makes us develop our own brand. Like, the position I’m in, I’m loving it because I’m just doing me. I don’t have the machine behind me. I’m just learning. When you’ve been doing the leg work, you gain a lot of knowledge.
HipHopCanada: What is your current deal situation?
Cali Snipes:I AM UNSIGNED! A lot of times from what I see, when you’re with majors, you’re kind of their project, their property. Since I think it’s a big thing to have control with your own music, I’m waiting for the right situation.
HipHopCanada: Are you looking at the States?
Cali Snipes:Yeah, you got to. That is the big machine. Been doing some interviews and press over there.
HipHopCanada: What is your own lyric you feel defines you?
Cali Snipes: “I’m fluent enough to build with the skill of a backpacker/at the same time with the mass appeal of a gat clapper”.
HipHopCanada: What was the set like for “Money To Burn”?
Cali Snipes: It was s cold and raining for a bit. There wasn’t that many people at the beginning . . . but I was just so excited. Knowing we’re about to set the bar again, it was electric. I understand Sharpshooter . . . I’m right there with him. We can see the direction.
HipHopCanada: Do you feel jealousy from other artists in the city?
Cali Snipes: Yes, in a sense, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel it. It’s Toronto and it’s the same goal, but you can’t let that stop you. The jealousy is the reason why people come at you, my whole team has felt it, that’s the reason why the team has to keep moving. Anybody who is jealous, maybe you’re just not doing enough. I have appreciation for everyone . . . I can’t really watch that. It’s like if you’re driving down the road and you see someone put their middle finger up, you can’t pull over . . .You’ll crash.
HipHopCanada: You’ve had other artists question where you’re from.
Cali Snipes: If you’re going to question, get your facts straight. Growing up at Jane and Finch, Satellites . . . that is the reason I am the MC that I am today.
HipHopCanada: You’ve had a few stage names – break that down.
Cali Snipes: [Laughing] Sly Calibur is the original name I went by – it just morphed and abbreviated, then Cali Snipes.
HipHopCanada: What’s next for Mr. Sly Calibur himself?
Cali Snipes: First off, New Era is coming out, the street album, then the album. I’m looking to do a short film – my whole motive is to do something different. No one has broken it down that way. The videos that we’ve done . . . it hasn’t been done before. We’re blazing trails – I’m raising the bar up. So yes, a short film and an EP is coming with Beat Juggernaut and more videos. Trying to get that MuchMusic love. Get used to my face, I’m here!
HipHopCanada: Any shout-outs?
Cali Snipes: First, to HipHopCanada for giving me this opportunity. Big up my homegirl Teezy AKA Tara! To my fam, for the love and support. The whole Team Offense, from West to East. BattleGround Entertainment, Legion of Beats, Sharpshooter, Elite Squad, The Smugglaz. To all my producers Rich Kidd, Watts, Soundsmith, 2oolman, Beat Juggernaut, Veterano. Shouts-out to Fresh Kils and Adam, my engineers. Big up all the DJs and radio hosts, cause you’re the ones that put “Money To Burn” where it is! My DJ Lynx Da Navigator, DJ P-Plus, Boogeymen, Dred-E Maximum and the whole Drill Squad, DJ Majic Tricks, The whole OTA Live, The Real Freqs, Back Road Radio, Leche from Off Da Tracks, Bizz from The Crackhouse, Royalty Radio, The Real Morning Rush, The Static Show with Channel 9. And, I’d like to shout-out the whole Toronto. Bless.
Editor’s note: Check out more Cali Snipes at http://www.myspace.com/slycalibur.
Written by Tara Muldoon for HipHopCanada