Amongst the increasingly crowded landscape of Chicago Hip-Hop these days, it is becoming harder to stand out. It seems as though you need to create an entirely new sound to even reach ears outside your own city. It’s with that as the backdrop that Calez released his latest project, Ceito, a decidedly turn-of-the-millennium, East Coast-feeling mixtape. Instead of creating a new lane, Calez plays on past aesthetics in one of the better listens of the year so far.
The 2008ighties frontman has been hard at work since releasing Kids With Raps back in 2012. Generating a solid buzz across the greater blogosphere then, his debut project showed glimpses of the clever wordplay and hustler’s mentality all set to his unique vocal inflection. On Ceito, we get a more streamlined, on-point Calez that exudes maturity learned from having navigated through the Chicago explosion over the past few years.
Calez also handles production on much of the album, rhyming over keys and an abrasive chorus on the opening track “What’s Good” and turning things up for tracks like “Positive Energy”. He sounds almost Wyclef-like on “Didn’t I,” and “Thick Girl” is a hark back to the early-2000s with a progressivist’s touch.
It can be hard to create an independent persona, sound and aesthetic in a crowded place like Chicago, but Calez does it wonderfully here. While it would have been nice to see a bit more range on the bpm side of things, the mixtape is more like an album; an album that touches on the past, while being able to fill every minute of your present day.