Caleb L. Whiting, 17, won’t just meet his idol on Saturday. He’ll get to sing for him, too.
The Watertown High School junior will open for rapper Kendrick Lamar at 8 p.m. Saturday in the McVean Gymnasium at Jefferson Community College.
“This legit is one of the best lyricists out there,” said Caleb, a rap and rhythm-and-blues artist. “I know I have to bring my A game. I want to make sure I prove myself.”
Caleb found out he was opening for the singer last Friday, when JCC representatives, several members of his family and high school interim Principal Joseph M. McGrath came to his ninth-period class to tell him and his classmates the news.
When he saw his parents and the principal walk into the class, “I thought, ‘Wow, I’m going to be in a lot of trouble,’” he said. “When they said I was opening up, I had the biggest smile on my face. I was shaking. It was really crazy.”
He started writing music when he was 10 but got serious after entering a high school talent show in 2011 with several other musicians, including his engineer, disc jockey and producer, 18-year-old senior Phillip Armas. Phillip, who will be the DJ at the show this weekend, goes by the stage name “Dr. Philosophy” and produces Caleb’s music in a plywood studio in his bedroom.
“I draw inspiration from stuff I’ve seen, stuff I’ve been through, like relationships and family issues,” Caleb said.
Phillip said Caleb also writes songs about classmates and friends who are battling cancer or have died.
“He keeps it real,” Phillip said.
The two mostly have had gigs at Velocity and played at a benefit for the local Children’s Miracle Network last year.
“It’s definitely looking to be the biggest show we’ve done,” Caleb said. “We’re making sure the transitions between the songs are flawless and making sure I memorize the songs.”
Phillip and Caleb are not nervous yet, but Caleb said he thinks his nerves will kick in the day of the show.
His music can be found at www.youtube.com/user/upstatethisbecaleb/videos, and Caleb recommends “Somebody,” “Dear Diary” and “Dream Chasers” for first-time listeners. “Dream Chasers” has been viewed more than 4,000 times since it was posted a month ago on YouTube.
“We owe a lot to our parents,” Phillip said. “Our parents have gotten us further than we could have ourselves — through the rough, through the easy.”
Special guest 5 & A Dime also will be performing at the concert as part of the Karmaloop’s Verge Campus Tour.
Tickets for the show are $50 each and can be bought online through www.suny jefferson.edu or by calling 786-2431. JCC students can buy tickets for $30 each by presenting a SUNY ID at the JCC Student Activities office.