Classified: Comfort Music

By: Todd “DG” Davis

We recently caught up with one of Canada’s most well respected rap stars – Classified. We talked about new projects, his label and more.

Having already unleashed a staggering number – eighteen to be exact – of self-produced studio albums, as well as collaborated with a who’s who of stateside Hip Hop heavyweights; Snoop, Raekwon, DJ Premier and Royce da 5’9, among others, Classified, who hails from Nova Scotia, is one of Canada’s most well respected and ultra successful rap stars. 

Now let’s hop right into this latest single / video, “People” — Tell me about this particular track; how did it come to fruition?

Man, I just woke up one day, hopped on social media and was sick of seeing everyone hating on each other…these people hating on these people…’cause of religion…race…wealth, etcetera…and I was kind of like…I’m sick of everybody right now…no one wants to listen to anyone else’s opinions or have a grown up conversation anymore, just so much hate…I wrote that first line…I don’t really like people, and the rest just came out.

How does “People” either differ and / or compare to previous Classified efforts?

Couple different ways. I think a lot of my fans were a bit shocked and taken back with those first couple lines of the song…but…once you listen to the rest of it, you get where I’m coming from and realize it’s actually a pretty positive song about bringing people together…also, the flow and style of beat / production of these is a bit different than my normal Boom-Bap style. 

For it, your own imprint, HalfLife Records, entered into a business partnership with Big Story Entertainment — What particular string of events led to this union?    

Just seeing their excitement for my first single, “People,” I felt like they had the same vision I did with that song, and it makes a world of a difference to have a team that believes in what you’re putting out, so just made sense.

What are your future plans and / or goals for / with the label? And, who all else besides yourself of course currently makes up its artist roster?  

I only started this label because back in the day I couldn’t get anyone to put my music out, so I started my own label…but after selling 400,000 albums and having nine gold and platinum singles and owning all my masters, it worked out great; I’ve worked with a lot of artists over the years, but right now the one I’m focused on is Brett Matthews.

As a lyricist, when you sit down to pen your rhymes where do you draw inspiration from? 

I know it’s cliché, but just living, I don’t do Greek going to the studio with a blank page and trying to come up with lines. I’d like to be out getting groceries or doing whatever and when a line or song idea pops in my head, I’ll write it down on my phone, and, then, when I get back to the studio and I have a beat, I’ll open up my phone; draw inspiration from those notes I made.

Reflecting, tell me your whole inception into music — When did you first become interested in it? And, how did it all begin for Classified?

I always had music around my house because my dad was in a band growing up. But in the mid-’90’s listening to Naughty By Nature and Cypress Hill, I just fell in love with the music and started writing rhymes as a hobby with friends…eventually starting to record a bit, and then producing my own music, and then I wanted people to hear it, so I just started putting it out…eventually setting up my first tour, and it just kept growing like that.

Now you’re a native of Canada, correct? So growing up in the ‘Great White North,’ who all did / do you consider to be your strongest musical influences?

I was always influenced by ’90’s Hip Hop, East Coast and West Coast in America, but there was definitely some great artists in Canada that made some dope shit too…like Maestro Fresh Wes, Choclair, Kardinal, Saukrates , but, yeah, where I’m from never had a big music scene, so I was influenced by so many other scenes.

In having said that, how do you classify your overall sound and / or style?  

I think production-wise definitely that Boom BAP sound is what the foundation of my music is made on most of the time, and then riding I never grew up in the streets or in the ‘hood, so I never wrote about that; I just wrote about my life, and I think that I come from a unique spot for most Hii Hop artists, and that’s why I find a lot of people can relate and find my music fresh. 

Where does your moniker originally derive from? 

The newspaper…I wish I had a better story for that. lol.

Switching gears here, what exactly do you want people to get from your music?       

I want people to find something to relate to. I want people to find hope, and I want people to get comfort from my music.

If you could collaborate with any one artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?        

If you asked me 10 years ago, I would’ve said Snoop or DJ Premier but fortunately I got to work with both of those guys already…so now I’d say Dr. Dre or Redman or Curtis Mayfield.

If you could play any venue in the world, which one would you choose and why?  

And, my goal used to be the arena in my hometown, but I played that last year…so now I will say Madison Square Garden.

On a more serious note, are you happy with the current state of Hip Hop?

For sure, I think there’s great music out there if you want to go dig for it, I don’t know if most of the mainstream current Hip Hop is my vibe, but I’m not gonna hate on it…I’m just not gonna listen to most of it.

What do you feel has and will continue to be the key to your longevity?        

Hard work, consistency, and give my fans topics that aren’t usually talked about and Hip Hop.

Do you have any other outside / additional (future) aspirations, maybe even completely away from music?

Not really, besides raising my kids to be happy people, but no I still have fun. Turn it on, my drum machine, rolling up a joint, making beats. I still have that same excitement is when this was just a hobby, so.

To date, what has been your biggest career moment(s), at least thus far anyway?

Being able to support myself, my kids, you know, I’ve been around the world…to worry…I’ve been around the world on trips, just taking my kids to see the world and the fact that I could do that often, making music, feels pretty special.

What’s an average day like for you? 

I get up, I’ll do a little work out, do some emailing for an hour or two, then take the dogs for a walk, then hit the studio till suppertime. Then, I try to have a pretty normal supper with my family and then after supper, maybe take the kids to basketball and karate or go out there biking with my boys.

Please discuss how you interact with and respond to fans…   

I’m pretty open. My fans are usually really respectful, so I can go out and people might approach me and most of the time they just want to shake my hand or say, “hey, love your music!”

What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Do shows, live shows, make that real connection with fans; it’s easy to put your song on the Internet, but you’re battling with 1 million other people…but if you can get a live show and have some people see you play, that’ll make a real connection.

Looking ahead, say five or maybe even ten years from now, where do you see yourself?

Doing the same thing I’m doing now probably; I tried to retire a few times, but when I have free time I still wanna go to the studio, make some beats, still find me.

As for the immediate, what’s next for Classified? 

My next single, “Wonder,” is coming out October 27th. I have a few other videos too that are getting ready to come out, so just dropping some more music…and I’m taking my daughter to Toronto tomorrow to see SZA.
Is there anything I left out or just plain forgot to mention?  
No, man, you covered a lot. Appreciate it. Thank you.

Any “parting” words for our readers? 

Thanks to everybody that checked out my Music before or if you haven’t, I appreciate you going to check it out now…you might find something you like.