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Fight to be Heard with Cal Combs

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Did you know that everything you see on Facebook or Instagram has been filtered through a computer algorithm to only deliver results that are considered of relevance to you? 

While in most cases this is a good thing and keeps us up to date with the people who are closest to us first, it also causes a slew of problems. If I watch videos related to surfing, there will be surfboard ads in my margins within 24 hours. If I support the Democratic party, everything that appears in my newsfeed will be a vaccuum of my own opinions and I will hardly experience anything of opposition. This is why many people are so steadfast in what they believe; the algorithm has convinced them that the world is on thier side with hundreds of posts from all over the place agreeing with them and little to no posts in opposition. 

So what does this mean for artists? With most social media sites, there are 'opportunities' to promote posts or run personal ads on the sites. As an artists, these options are often the only way we can get our music past the algorithms. Facebook reported  $9.3 Billion dollars in ad revenue for the second quarter of 2017. This is money that artists have to hand over as a subscription fee to get past the limitations of the site's algorithm, but is it fair to have a "free" site managing your exposure, making and breaking artists based on ad purchases? 

I make hip-hop music. And no matter which way you look at it, no matter if you love hip hop and it is the only thing you want to hear every day, if you spend any amount of time showing an interest in rock or jazz, the algorithims are going to remove my hope of being heard directly from your newsfeed and once again take away my livilihood and that is exactly what this is... my life. 

In the past few years I have been living in Tokyo, Japan working my ass off to release an album every year. Additionally, I have started an online store and have been designing and producing my own clothing as a means to stay alive in the music industry. Not to mention the constant flux of freelance work I am doing,  but still it isn't enough to be self-sustained. 

Most people don't know that to produce, release, and distribute a top 20 single will cost over $100,000. Of course a lot of artists sign onto record labels and hope for them to manage thier career adequately enough and give them the opportunity to make a top 20 single, but let's be honest we would all rather be our own bosses and bypass the terms and conditions of labels. 

I started rapping for a reason. I am not convinced nor motivated by the idea of celebrity. I have no need for things that hip-hop has continually prescribed as "success" And I will tell you why. 

About 3 years ago, I was completing my student teaching practicum at Madison Central High School in Richmond, Kentucky. During my time there, I turned more than a few heads by organizing, funding, planning, pitching, and finally builiding a recording studio inside of the school; and all of this at the age of 22 before I was actually certifed as a teacher. 

My students found out about my music and took to twitter and facebook to compare notes about the mysterious student-teaching-rapper-guy. 

Something like that spreads around a school within minutes of the initial discovery. 

My two worlds collided and suddenly, I was the teacher that kids wanted to talk to about everything in their lives. I built relationships, heard terrible stories of abuse and crimes and was forced to shape my entire idea of teaching around the fact that life is hard and kids just need someone to listen and care at school. I changed more in that year that I could have ever imagined.

My music was going around like crazy and my students were listening more closely than ever. I was so proud that the kids were deconstructing my lyrics and appreciating an art I had worked so very hard to produce. Everything was great and I felt valued, understood, supported and everything. The students continued to seek council with me until one morning when everything changed. 

A student asked if she could talk to me in the hallway. She looked me in the eyes and told me I saved her life.

I couldn't think of how to properly respond so I just let her talk, seeing that she needed someone to listen to her, and so she continued. 

"Last night I was going to kill myself" she said.

"I was playing music so that my mom wouldn't hear me cutting my wrists and your song came on right when I finally thought I could do it. You said 'drop the pills, drop the razor blades, I'm writing this for you tomorrow is gonna be a better day' and I listened... I don't know, I just thought that you should know you saved my life." 

She walked back into the classroom, sat down, smiled to the girl next to her and began working on her bell-ringer response.  

I don't know much about anything really, but when something like that happens. A coincidence of such grand significance, you can't help but look up and outward to God or the universe or something. 

I was cleanly pulled from my existence and shown a purpose beyond anything I had ever seen before. It was a moment of knowing that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing. Peace, in other words. 

I have almost never talked about this situation before, which is probably why I have not acquired the fanbase that I should have. I have made it difficult for people to understand how I tick because I have covered so many things up. It feels shallow of me to explain these situations as a means to an end, so I stay quiet and humble, but this is hip-hop and that business model doesn't work here. 

If I am going to sucessfully have a voice in this industry, I will have to buy my way into it like everyone else has with a business model, promotion, distribution, music videos, production, etc. 

If you can donate even just a few dollars, everything recieved through this go fund me will go towards the development of my music and my brand. If this is a successful campaign, one day I will be on TV saying thank you and telling the stories of those who supported me from this new beginning in my life. 

I really hope that you can believe in me and see that I am doing this because I care and because I see my own success as a way to change things positively for everyone.

Help me fight to be heard.

Take Flight


Caleb Combs
Lexington, KY

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