The secret’s out 

Classified is taken to the masses with release of newest album, Self Explanatory

click to enlarge 1617class.jpg

Who: Classified

When: Friday, April 24,

Where: Garfinkel's

So far, 2009 has been a great year for Luke Boyd.

Better known to Canadian hip hop fans as Classified, this hard-working talent just became a father, is house-hunting in his hometown of Enfield, Nova Scotia. On a professional level, however, he also just signed to Sony a few months ago, and very recently released his 12th album, Self Explanatory.

"When (Sony) first showed interest and returned some calls and said, 'we actually want to do this deal,' that's when it kind of hit initially. 'Like, OK, finally someone's going to put their own money and time and effort to help put this record out!'" Classified said with a laugh.

This latest effort actually draws on an old literary fave of all the '80s babies out there, the Choose Your Own Adventure-format. On it, Classified challenges listeners to select tracks based on the adventure they want to have, whether it's heading to the club, just relaxing at home, going on a date, or finding inspiration, they can pick one of 22 tracks to suit their mood.

"I used to read those back in the day, and I always want to do something on my album that's a little different, that no one's ever really tried or done before," he explained.

It was also a great way to integrate his friends and fellow musicians onto the album in a logical way.

Though his music is often uplifting and playful in terms of lyrics, melody and style, at its core, his messages are simply honest.

"When I first started, I thought you're supposed to rap about guns and bitches and hos, because that's just what I saw as a young kid... When I moved to Halifax and became more involved in the culture and started to really realize what it was, to me, it was more about just being honest and being who you are and not really giving a shit about what anyone else says."

And though he now seems to be on the verge of breaking out of the underground and into the mainstream, the journey to this point hasn't been easy.

"Just coming from Enfield, where there were three or four people listening to hip hop, then moving into Halifax and trying to learn more about the culture and the scene and stuff... and then from there, to start touring Canada," he trailed off. "Yeah, it's been a long time, but I think its just the way I came up, and just the fact that we kind of kept just going forward a little bit, just climbing a little bit more with every release."

He started out in the early '90s, after a friend introduced him to the Run DMC infamous single, " Its Tricky."

"I remember hearing that when I was like 12," he recalled. "I don't know what got me onto it, but then in the early '90s it was like Naughty By Nature, House of Pain, Cypress Hill. That's when I really got into it and started listening to it every day."

By 1995, he'd started his own label, HalfLife Records, and released his first full-length album, Times Up . Two years and three more records later, he was landing opening spots for groups like 112, Saukrates, Maestro Fresh Wes, Rascalz, Choclair and Swollen Members. He also started gaining nominations within the urban music industry, and received MuchMusic VideoFact grants.

The hard work really started paying off in 2003 and 2004, when he teamed up with Royce Da 5'9, and opened for artists like Ludacris, Busta Rhymes and Wu-Tang Clan.

This slow and steady approach seems to be paying dividends, finally. He's escalated from playing crowds of 10 to 15 people and touring on a Greyhound bus to selling out thousand-seat venues and traveling in his own tour bus.

But the hard work isn't over just yet. He still has plans to hit the road - hard - to promote Self Explanatory . In fact, he and his crew just returned from a European tour, where they were tapping into an entirely new market.

"It was like brand new, it was like Halifax like five years ago," he said, adding that though there weren't many people in the audience who knew his music already, the goal is actually to win over crowds and gain new fans.

"The first show, IV was on the turntables saying, 'make some noise if you know who Classified is!' Not a sound in the place," he said with a laugh. "Then after the second song, we had the whole place going off."

This week, they're preparing to kick-start a four-week Canadian tour.

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