No one knows the grind like Enfield, N.S. rapper Luke Boyd.
With almost 20 years in the business and 15 albums under his hip hop moniker Classified, the East Coast emcee and producer is proving that hard work does pay off.
With a move from Sony to Universal in Canada (he’s signed to his own label, Half-Life Records and is distributed by Universal) and a recent deal with Atlantic Records south of the border, 2013 is a turning point for this level-headed hip hop head.
“A lot of people ask, but I don’t think I’ve changed the formula,” he says. “When you do something so much and keep yourself interested, you get better at what you’re doing … you get more secure with yourself.”
His latest, self titled, album debuted at Number 1 on the Canadian music charts. The single, “Inner Ninja” (Featuring David Myles) still sits at Number 5 on the iTunes charts. Revered widely as an anthem for the bullied, “Inner Ninja” has a much more playful feel than his tried and true fans are used to.
“I never would have done ‘Inner Ninja’ five years ago,” says Classified. “It’s too quirky and different … there’s always people saying I’m selling out. But people just don’t understand. I’m doing me 100 per cent.”
Now more than ever, it feels like fans are getting a real taste of Classified — like the name has caught up with the man. And he stays true to where he came from. He lives down the road from where he grew up, he’s had the same friends since grade school, and he still records in his home studio.
“It’s the way I’ve always done it,” Classified says. “I work on my own time, I engineer by myself, I eat lunch with my kids. I don’t go into the studio for nine hours at a time … I don’t know any better. I never went to Toronto or L.A. I did move to Halifax for a couple of years, but I’ve always been close to my family and friends.”
His two brothers, Jake and Mic, tour with him, and he recently had his two young daughters along on the bus for a few days.
“Usually on tour, we sleep all day and we’re up all night. But when you got kids at the hotel, you got to be up at 8am.”
In the track “Growing Pains” Classified raps words of advice directly to his daughters: “I hope you and your sister can work through the bruises and the blisters, the sibling rivalry when you argue and bicker. Lot of pain, lot of joy, you’ll go through it, I went through it. Ain’t nothing to it if you keep your family rooted.”
In fact, the theme of children runs through the album. Classified hired a children’s choir to sing on “Inner Ninja” (the video also features young martial artists) and one has a solo on “3 Foot Tall”.
“They killed it,” says Classified. “They made both songs for me. On ‘3 Foot Tall’ I had three or four people sing the chorus, but it didn’t sound right. I even had Joel Plaskett sing it. I was going to use him, but we had the kid try it and it just sounded right. Joel’s in the background singing the ‘hey hey’s’,” he says.
Classified used fan submissions to create “Wicked.” After putting simple drums and guitar samples on the net, he asked fans to sing or play along and submit their creations.
“I ended up with like 150 submissions. Even the hook ‘Ain’t no rest for the wicked’ came in that way. It was cool. I’m definitely doing it again. It was the easiest song I’ve ever done.”
After the Canadian tour, Classified is heading south of the border for a string of festival dates. M
With Kayo and Qwake
Thurs., April 11
Doors at 9pm
$25 (general admission) – $89 (V.I.P.)
at Lyle’s Place, Ditch Records and ticketweb.ca