From his modest beginnings in Enfield, Nova Scotia to his current standing in major-label hip-hop, Classified (nee Luke Boyd) has shaped a path that few, if any, Canadian rappers can claim to have followed. Having been in the game for over thirteen years, Classified has been influential in the rise of East Coast hip-hop, and his work with renowned artists has gained him recognition worldwide.
2008 was a busy year for Classified. After spending a few months on the Never Say Never tour with D12, Joe Budden, and Royce Da 59 , he struck a major-label deal with Sony BMG music, and is in the process of releasing his fourteenth studio album, Self-Explanatory. Recently, The Medium got a chance to speak with Classified about his music, life on the big stage, and hip-hop.
The Medium: How was the Never Say Never Tour with D12, Joe Budden, and Royce Da 59 ?
Classified: It was a little different for us doing it with some people we didnt know, but it went really well, we got along with all the artists. And hopefully we played for a few people who have never been to a Classified show before.
TM: Are you going to hook up with them again?
C: Yeah, were actually going over to Europe halfway through March and then heading over to Australia in September and then bringing them back to Canada to show them what we do here.
TM: You have a new album coming out soon (Self-Explanatory). How is it different than your last one?
C: Musically, we used a lot more live instruments and stuff, but Ive still got that hip-hop sound. My stuff kind of comes from that sample-based stuff in hip-hop and Ill always have that sort of influence. But I tried to use some live violins and stuff. Just all around I think its more musical. Lyrically its my growth: where I was a couple of years ago when my last record came out to where I am now. Mentally, physically, everything, just where Im at. Its the growth I guess.
TM: Any major influences?
C: Yeah, just the artists I worked with on this album. I got to work on a couple different tracks with Maestro, Choclair and Socrates from Toronto.
TM: I heard Joel Plaskett contributed.
C: Yeah I did a track with Joel Plaskett, that down-East connection type thing. I liked a lot of his music. I thought he did unique and different shit. On the track he plays drums, piano, and guitar. We went to his studio and just kind of hung out for a day. He had this piano loop that he had an idea for and we just built it from there. We also did some work with Chad Hatcher andMic Boyd.
TM: Mic Boyd (Classifieds brother) helped out?
C: Oh yeah, always got the Classified/Mic Boyd track. Hes on two tracks.
TM: Whats your favourite track on the album?
C: Depends man, depends. It depends on the mood Im in, you know what I mean? One day its one track, and another day its another one. Today Ive been liking Quit While Youre Ahead, the one with Choclair, Maestro, andMoka Only.
TM: Any stories behind that one?
C: That track was built over a year. That was a track that me and Maestro started with and I wanted to get some of the other guys on it because its sort of a track talking about people saying how you should quit while youre ahead, and then saying fuck that, were still doing the thing, you know what I mean? So we got Choclair, Ive worked with him before, and showed him the track and he was feeling it. Then I wanted to get someone from the West Coast so I called up Moka Only, and he was feeling it. I remember I sent him the beat at like 5 oclock on a Thursday night and by Friday morning I had his verse in my inbox ready to go. We never got to get in the studio with him, but it was cool doing it with Maestro and Choclair.
TM: What do you think will stand out from the record?
C: Just my honesty man. Im a real guy that does normal shit just like everybody else and it comes out in my music. But Im growing up, doing different things and it did give me fresh shit to talk about. The older we get and how we think about things differently. How the album is musically as well, I think its a really, I dont want to say 90s sounding record, but I was heavily influenced by early 90s hip-hop. So its got that bang, but its got melody too with all that instrumentation; makes it sound current and fresh.
TM: Going on a tangent here, you just switched to a major label. Any reason behind that?
C: Just to get my music out to more people. Its always what Ive been trying to do, with my last two records put out on my own label. And its kind of still like on my own label. Its honestly no different than having it on my own label other than I have more people to push my shit and get it out there and have them invest their own money so I dont have to invest mine. The deal was totally on my terms and I control everything. I brought them two or three songs when we first started talking and they were feeling them, and they said okay, were going to do it. So I went back to Enfield for nine months, made the album, brought it to them and said, this is my first video, this is my second and they were cool with it all and respected what I had done over the years and believed it had been working. Dont fix it if it aint broken.
TM: Any more videos planned? I know you just released one.
C: Yeah, that video wasnt supposed to be a video really, it was just going to be a little internet thing that we did to get things going for the album. But some people were feeling the love so we ended up putting it out. MuchMusic was feeling it so they started spinning it. But were going to have a lot more videos. I honestly want to do a ton of fucking videos for this shit. Because its so easy to shoot a low-budget video on YouTube now you know? So you can do that for the tracks that arent going to be going to radio and stuff. So hopefully I will release ten videos.
TM: Youre pretty big in the Canadian hip-hop scene. How do you feel about where it is and where its going?
C: I think its good one way because there are so many artists making music right now. Like it can be broken down by provinces and you can name like five or ten rappers from each province where before you could count all the rappers that you knew in Canada on two hands. So its just a lot more artists doing stuff. But at the same time were not that much further than we were ten years ago in the industry. The industry is in shit and shambles right now because of CD sales and everything else. But for Canadian hip-hop just to compete, theres not much money behind it, not much planning, and not much foundation behind it in the industry, but the scene is great.
TM: What about hip-hop in general and the state its in now?
C: I think there is some awful hip-hop right now, but I also think theres really good hip-hop too. I think a lot of the stuff that you see in the media… well, I dont feel most of it. But the underground shit, if you go look for it on the internet, theres a lot of good music being made.