#DutchyCorners | Classified [Interview]
Enfield, NS – With almost 15 years of making music under his belt, Luke “Classified” Boyd has gone from establishing himself as an up and coming artist to watch out for within the Nova Scotia scene to now being one of the most recognizable acts in Canadian hip-hop. He’s gone from absorbing the knowledge and experience of older East coast pioneers like Jorun Bombay to now being an inspiration and guiding light himself for younger Maritimers, artists and producers alike. To say the least, he is recognized across the country as one of Canada’s premier hip-hop artists and that alone is an accomplishment in a country still very-much regionally divided when it comes to hip-hop support.
Class has 14 official singles with just as many videos and video appearances – if not more – including “Find Out” which earned him the 2006 Much Music Video Award for the Best Rap/Hip-Hop Video. His list of accomplishments continues to expand including a local nod at the East Coast Music Awards and a list of artistic accolades that he sounds off on in “Fall From Paradise” which demonstrates the versatility in his ability to work with different types of artists… it’s just a small portion of who he has worked with but it summarizes the diversity quite nicely:
“I rocked shows with Busta – Had songs in his movie/Ate chicken with Luda, conversated with Son Doobie/I drank with Buckshot, and DJ Evil Dee/I did songs with Maestro and smoked hash with Keith Murray” – Classified, Fall From Paradise
Although “Fall From Paradise” was first featured on Classified’s 11th album, Hitch Hikin’ Music, it is also the lead off single to his latest release which is a compilation of older material giving newer fans a chance to see where he has evolved from. While You Were Sleeping has been well received by critics and in support of this project Class has recently embarked on a Canada-wide tour spanning from Victoria to Halifax. There is just over 20-dates on the itinerary and the whole thing kicked off in the West coast on January 17th with the last date being an all ages event in Halifax at the Marquee Club.
Aside from focusing on his own artistic growth, both musically and from the business side of things, Class has also taken his Halflife Records to a new stage by signing a distribution agreement for the label with EMI Music Canada. He’ll be doing a ton of production for his own roster of artists as well as the new solo album he is currently working on.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Classified just before he hit the road for the tour and spoke with the artist/producer about his upcoming projects, his outlook on the growth of the scene, managing his own label, working with his brother Mic Boyd and heading out on yet another National tour, amongst a variety of other things.
In support of the While You Were Sleeping Tour, Class and company will be doing some video blogs for HHC, documenting the tour’s progress every few days. Unfortunately, on the very first date of the tour, the tour bus was broken into and a video camera and laptops were stolen. Because of this, we’re asking all of our Victoria/B.C. viewers to be on the lookout for anyone trying to offload any Toshiba or Gateway laptops containing half of Classified’s new album! Check out the first entry of the blog at the bottom of the piece for more info on that issue in particular.
Ladies and gentlemen… Classified! Enjoy the interview.
HipHopCanada: What’s going on Classified! It’s great to have you back at HipHopCanada.com. How has winter in Enfield ( Nova Scotia) been treating you? Have you guys been hit with an insane amount of snow?
Classified: Here and there… Nova Scotia weather. One minute we’re in a snow storm, next it’s a beautiful sunny day… things are good though.
HipHopCanada: No doubt… Global Warming in effect, or maybe not? Anyways, you’ve put out a dozen full length releases including your latest While You Were Sleeping. Would you consider it a “greatest hits” type release or is it more for the fans that weren’t around to appreciate the earlier big records you put out – or the people that took a minute to catch on to the movement you were building, hence the implication of the name “while they were sleeping”. Basically, what was the thought process behind getting this project out and what kind of response has it received?
Classified: Yeah. It wasn’t’ really a greatest hits album. It’s more like you said, for the fans that weren’t around to hear the earlier records… we wanted to put it back out so you can checkout the growth and just what I was up too back then. A lot of people were e-mailing me to get my older releases which aren’t available anymore. So I figured we’d put together this compilation… have some old stuff on it, new stuff, etc. So far the response is great… we’re not really pushing this like a big release i.e. Hitch Hikin’ Music. It’s just something we wanted to put out for the real fans that are checking what Classified is up too.
HipHopCanada: The video you’ve released to accompany the new project is getting an incredible amount of love, East to West… “Fall From Paradise” was featured on your 11th album, Hitch Hikin’ Music but has really taken off with video and of course being the lead off single on While You Were Sleeping. When did you decide you wanted to get a video done for this song specifically and how did you come up with the treatment?
Classified: I wanted to do this as a single for Hitch Hikin’ Music. But, we were already up to single 4, I think… and we didn’t want to do anther video for that album.. I was going to put “ Paradise” on While You Were Sleeping anyways because the whole song is basically summing up my career so it went perfect with the album. The video idea was RT. He said he wanted to make the realest hip-hop video ever made, and I think that’s what we did… I got to shoot my first video in Enfield too. So that was great… those are one of those things I always wanted to do since I was a kid starting to rap. Shoot a big video in my small town.
HipHopCanada: I know you had posted in some message boards, including the HipHopCanada Community, for the sake of getting feedback on which tracks people wanted to see on the While You Were Sleeping release but how did you ultimately select what was going to be on there?
Classified: We actually setup a voting process so you can go to each album and pick your top 2 songs… so we went with that for the majority of it. But then, I have a couple of my favorites that I had to put on their anyway. But ultimately it was all chosen through the survey.
HipHopCanada: What track is your favorite on the release and why?
Classified: Depends on the day… and what type of mood I’m in… But to name one, probably “This Is For”.
HipHopCanada: In support of this project you’ll be going on another cross-country tour – The While You Were Sleeping Tour – hitting over 20 Canadian dates in the span of a month. Through our site, Facebook, MySpace and a variety of other sources, I’ve heard from a lot of people that are really anticipating this tour… what should the concert goers expect and who are you bringing along with you?
Classified: As always… a good time, if you’re into my music or not. You’re going to have a good time. I don’t just go on stage and rap my songs… we really try to put a show on. We do a little old school shit, a lot of call backs to keep the crowd into it and NO MEAN MUGGING. [It] never seems to be too much bullshit; everybody always seems to come out just to enjoy themselves.
HipHopCanada: Any new locations you haven’t visited before?
Classified: Yeah. Kamloops, Oshawa, Hamilton, and Trois-Rivières… always good to hit new spots. You can use those old tricks from the shows from the last tour!
HipHopCanada: What city holds it down the heaviest, concert wise? You don’t need to answer that considering you’ll be visiting every OTHER location that you don’t mention in the coming weeks. [Laughing]
Classified: I’m all good… my top 4 cities are probably Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria and London. Those are always good shows!
HipHopCanada: How do you approach a show? I’m asking a man with a TON of shows under his belt so I definitely need to see what you’re pre-game warm-up is, so to speak, or the pre-game meal. Do you have a set routine in place to make sure the show goes down smoothly?
Classified: I don’t really have nothing like that… it’s funny ‘cause people who hang out with me before shows always say the same things to me… “Man, don’t’ you have a ritual or like to be alone before you go on? You’re so laid back…” I just hang, smoke some green, have some drinks and make sure the system is loud, so when I do go on everything hits hard right out the gate.
HipHopCanada: Are you superstitious? If so, what kind of superstitions does Classified abide by?
Classified: Not really superstitious… but, I seem to be knocking on wood a lot lately.
HipHopCanada: For the production heads… What kind of equipment have you been using?
Classified: The old MPC2000. But, I actually just upgraded to the MPC2500… a Roland Fantom XR, Korg Triton for my keyboard, about 5000 old records, and lately, a guitar player, bass player, sax player, and a flute player.
HipHopCanada: Aside from your own camp, have you placed any big records recently? Who’s been shopping for that Classified sound?
Classified: Motherfucking no one! [Laughing] Honestly, I kind of stopped shopping my beats lately. If someone approaches me, I have a ton of tracks, but [I’ve been] just so busy with Jordan Croucher’s release, Chad Hatcher’s release, Mic Boyd’s release and my own stuff. Take in the fact that I produced every song on those albums, plus did all the business and record label shit. I don’t have much time for anything else.
HipHopCanada: You recently parted ways with Urbnet and have recently signed on to a new situation with your own Halflife Records through EMI. Can you provide any insight on the move and what your ultimate plans for Halflife are in 2008 as a business?
Classified: Just to grow… I appreciate everything Urbnet has done for me but it really didn’t’ make sense for me. It was Halflife the label, going through Urbnet the label and then to the distributor Fontana… and now it’s Halflife the label going through EMI Music Canada, the distributor so the money is a lot better for each CD but a bit more work. It just makes sense.
HipHopCanada: Tell us about the Halflife line-up? What can we expect from who and when?
Classified: Jordan Croucher’s No Dress Code in stores now which is R&B/hip-hop. Classified, While You Were Sleeping… in stores now. Chad Hatcher’s Tunnels and Pathways, in stores now which is folk/hip-hop and pop. Mic Boyd’s Lost In The Wood coming out February 26 th… hip-hop and bit of experimental shit.
HipHopCanada: Let’s talk a bit more about Mic Boyd, your younger brother. HipHopCanada is already in the process of getting an interview together with him in support of his Lost In The Woods album, but I wanted to ask you some questions about him as well. How is it to work with your brother? Has the transition been weird in seeing him as a younger sibling to now also a fellow artist and colleague?
Classified: Not really ‘cause he’s always been making music. This album is like 4 years in the making and he’s always worked on my own stuff with me. The chorus for “Find Out”… “Get up, get back, get down, get with it…” that’s Mic Boyd. You’ll notice his voice a lot on of some of my choruses. Plus, I always have him rhyme on at least 1 song from each album so we’ve been working together for a while. Sometimes it goes great… we’re brothers so we can say whatever we want to each other… “That beat sucks” or “That verse sucks”, but then sometimes it can be hell… a lot of sibling rivalry, always fighting about something stupid.
HipHopCanada: How much of a role did you play on the upcoming release?
Classified: Of Mic’s… I produced it all and rhymed on 2 tracks.
HipHopCanada: On the flipside, a track getting a lot of love on this release is ” Love the One You’re With” featuring Mic and also Mike Boyd, Sr. your father… breakdown the musical background of your family and how that joint came together.
Classified: Dad is old… he’s been in a band since he was 15. So we always had music around the house growing up; that’s how I got into recording. Going into his band setup using the mics and recording to a tape deck…. with that track. One night Dad was in the studio, I told him to play a bassline… then I added some drums and then he started singing that chorus for “ Love The One Your With”. I loved it and made him get in the booth right away. We recorded it all that night… then me and Mic did our parts the next day. I also got Dad on 2 songs so far for my new album dropping in the summer… a lot more live instruments and live vocal samples on this album I’m working on.
HipHopCanada: That’s dope! From 1995 to present day you’ve put out at least one album per year except in 2002 when you didn’t release anything officially. If you can recall, why did you miss a beat (year) and what would you say is the biggest thing you’ve learned about the music industry in that period of time?
Classified: Shit, I can’t even remember, but,, I think usually the way it works for me on full-length releases, it seems to take about 14 or 15 months to start an album and put it out, manufactured, [get it] marketed in the stores etc. So after 7 releases with the rotation of the years it just works out that way.
HipHopCanada: How far has the Nova Scotian scene come since ’95? In your opinion, what’s the biggest positive change and what’s the biggest thing still holding things back, if anything?
Classified: I don’t’ even know anymore. [Laughing] I guess the biggest thing from then and now is back then, if you rapped, you knew everyone else that rapped from Halifax. It was just a small tight group. Everyone did shows together etc. Now, there is a million cats out here making music… just a lot bigger things now. With the Internet/Facebook/Mspace a lot of people are getting their music out. A lot more videos are being made etc. People seem to be taking it a bit more serious.
HipHopCanada: OK, I have one more question and since I already asked the one I usually end things with earlier, I’m going to make this a good one – and one that people really want an answer to. What’s next for Classified? Can you give us the slightest bit of insight into the next album?
Classified: Yeah. Like I said, I’m 6 songs done into it now and I’m not one of those guys who makes 40 songs and picks the best 15. Once I finish a song, it’s done and it’s on the album. So I’m almost halfway there. With this album, I think it’s more instrumental, but still banging… a lot of records, when they bring in live musicians don’t’ have that boom bap sound and we’ve still got that. And I’ve still got a lot of shit to say about music, about life, above myself, [and] about experiences. Right now the album is called No Expectations or Ear Infection but I’ll probably change that again in the next month!
Editor’s note: Classified is currently on the While You Were Sleeping Tour with Shad, J-Bru, Mic Boyd, Chad Hatcher and DJ IV — to check out a full listing of the tour schedule, click here. For more information on Classified check out http://www.myspace.com/hiphopclassified.
Written by Jesse “Dutchy” Plunkett for HipHopCanada