By Keith Sharp
When Classified (aka Luke Boyd) launches his 27-date Canadian Class Tour October 11th at Kingston Ontario’s Ale House he will be accompanied by two fellow rap artists whom he grew up idolizing and later touring with; namely Maestro Fresh Wes and Choclair.
Touring in support of his recently released “Tomorrow Could Be The Day Things Change” album which features seven more tracks than his six-track July EP Release “Tomorrow Could Be The Day”, the Enfield Nova Scotia native pays homage to the history of Canadian Rap Music by appearing with two artists who trail blazed the development of R&B hip hop long before the likes of Drake and The Weekend established themselves internationally.
“Choclair and Maestro Fresh are people I listened to growing up even before there was Canadian hip hop,” revealed Classified on the phone from his Enfield Nova Scotia Studio (located just north of Halifax Airport). “Maestro was the first Canadian rapper to score a hit with his “Let Your Backbone Slide” hit in 1988 and Choclair was the first Canadian rapper to score an international record label when he signed with Virgin in 1999, he was one of the first guys I toured with.”
For someone who released his debut album (Time’s Up Kid) in 1995, it’s hard to believe that Classified’s latest album is his 16th release recorded over a span of 23 years. Yet he believes that it’s been time well spent as he developed his recording apprenticeship operating his own label (Half Life Records) and learning the industry as he developed his craft. “It’s pretty amazing where I came from, I’ve been touring this country for like 15 years, I’m still in my little room in Enfield with my drum machine, doing my rap songs. Occasionally I see that I’ve made somebody’s top 5 list and I find that pretty amazing. It’s like wow! I’m in that circle now.”
Classified’s first breakthrough came in 2006 when his “Boy-Cott – In The Industry” release was nominated for a Juno Award and won a MuchMusic Award for Top Rap Album. He went one stage further when his 2013 “Classified” album (fueled by a hit single, “Inner Ninja”) won the Juno for Top Rap Recording leading to him co-hosting the 2014 Juno Awards in Winnipeg with Serena Ryder and Johnny Reid. With a total of eight MuchMusic , East Coast Music Awards and Juno Awards to his credit, Classified has connected with his audience by writing lyrics which are both topical and timely.
Boyd’s latest release deals with the subject matter of the mistreatment of indigenous women and children on tracks like “Powerless” and “Cold Love”, he comes out in favour of legalizing marijuana on “Legal Marijuana”, gives a shout out to The Beastie Boys (whom he was heavily influenced by) on “Beastie Boy”, gets reflective on “10 Years” and even mocks his own career on “Super Nova Scotian” while staying positive and upbeat on tracks like “Don’t Stop”, “Damn Right” and “Finish It”.
“I have always taken pride in writing about something meaningful” Classified explained. “Just growing up as a person, you see things happening in this world like the acceptance of marijuana and you think, that’s something I have been talking about. And then there’s “Powerless” and what is going on there. By nature, I am a positive person, I’m one of those people who ask `what’s the good side and what’s the bad side. There could always be a negative side of things but I always try to find the positive side.”
As an off-shoot to his recording career, Classified loves working with other artists and credits writing, producing and recording with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Ria Mae, David Myles, Jay Bizzy, Royce da 5’ 9” , Trent James, Saukrates and both Anjulie and Tory Lanez who are featured on his latest album.
“That’s the big thing, when I’m making my own beats, it leads to working with other artists, it provides me with such a fresh challenge,” Classified allowed. “Halifax is such a hotbed of new talent, it’s been this way since 1994, it always felt to me like something was happening but it’s really hard to get out of here unless you are prepared to take that chance.”
Classified loves the current social media aspect of the music industry in that it allows fans to discover his catalogue of work as well as be exposed to his latest releases. “That’s the great thing about streaming and Spotify. The people who discover one of my new tracks like” Cold Love” they can go back and listen to my other 15 albums over 20 years of work, your catalogue can continue to live.”
One of my biggest downloads is a track called “It Ain’t Over” that was originally recorded in 1999. I think I pressed 500 CD’s for that track but now it’s racked up over one million downloads on Spotify”
As for the upcoming tour which also features performances at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom (Nov.1), Toronto’s Opera House (Nov.16) and Montreal’s Corona Theatre (Nov.17), see full tour listed below), Classified thinks this will be the final club tour as he hopes to graduate into larger theatres and concert venues. “It’s going to be three guys having a great time. I’ll get to perform some of my new tracks and some of the old stuff and both Choclair and Maestro Fresh will sing some of their new stuff and their old stuff and we’ll all get to collaborate on some things, it’s going to be a blast.”