As Classified sees it, there are two scenarios that occur no matter where or how you live - handshakes and middle fingers.
So when it came to naming his most recent album, the title was obvious. He would know, Classified - a.k.a Luke Boyd - has lived it all - the small town life in Nova Scotia and the fast paced flow of the big smoke.
"It's about the balance of the ups and downs, the gift and the curse," said the 33-year-old on the title of his latest album, Handshakes and Middle Fingers . "In life a lot of people will greet you with a handshake and a lot of people will say 'I don't know you, f*ck you.' It goes the same way in the music business. A lot of people will shake your hand and they're saying f*ck you behind your back so it works in life in general in a lot of different ways. Some days you get middle fingers, some days you get handshakes."
As one of Canada's better-known hip-hop stars after his 2010 single Oh...Canada from his Sony label debut skyrocketed to platinum, Classified's rise was preceded by an insatiable love for early nineties hip hop like House of Pain, Naughty by Nature and the Beastie Boys.
That's about all he could get his hands on growing up in the small town of Enfield, Nova Scotia, where access to anything resembling a live hip hop scene was limited. More than a little inspired and aware of a nascent lyrical talent, he created and released his debut album, Time's Up, Kid , while still in high school. Fifteen years later Classified admits his sound has progressed since then and he counts the experiences he recorded through as critical to his success today.
"I look at things a lot more differently and after 14 albums I'd like to think my rapping got a whole lot better, as well as my producing," he said. "Like the old saying 'practice makes perfect,' and at the same time just living life and being around the world and having kids now - all that stuff just gives you lots to write about that a lot of people in the world have gone through so they will relate to that stuff, I think hip hop is growing up."
A defining feature on his latest album, which he produced and engineered in his home studio, is the inclusion of live horns, acoustic guitar, a string section and orchestral hum. A year and a half in the making, a time that included the joys of new parenthood with the birth of his second daughter, Classified is proud of Handshakes - his best achievement to date.
"It's busy, trying to balance the music and the touring and the whole family thing but it gives purpose to it," he said. "As cliché as it sounds, I get most of my material just from life. I find I write some of my best stuff when I'm out doing my regular thing, whether it's getting some groceries or laundry or whatever."
Classified will play Garfinkel's on Wednesday, April 20 as part of an international tour to promote Handshakes and Middle Fingers. www.classifiedofficial.com.
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