Classified kicks it in Vancouver [Interview]
Vancouver, BC – In the wake of commercial success, Classified has failed to lose his individuality. After all, that is rare of a typical rap career gone “mainstream”. Yes, his music did change – it matured and got a heck of a lot catchier – but Class never sold out. He has the same laid-back attitude and is still goes hard repping Canada’s brilliant underground hip-hop scene. HipHopCanada recently caught up with the Canadian favourite in Vancouver to discuss what’s in store for him this year. Check out the interview after the jump and make sure to cop his latest album, Classified on January 22.
HipHopCanada: You are starting off 2013 with a new album, what are your what are your goals or resolutions for this year?
Classified: No resolutions, never did the New Years thing. I know this year is going to be busy just because I’ve been in the studio for the last 6/7 months. So this year I know everything will be about working it out. Start the press, start the tour, start the summer festivals and all that stuff. It’s going to be busy but I just hope to balance that with the home life. Just kind of make sure it’s not too busy.
HipHopCanada: What are you most looking forward to?
Classified: The tour definitely, like I said, I’ve been sin the studio for the past 6 months and I just want to get out and play new music. The tour is in March and then we are going to Holland in September I think, to do some festivals. Lots of festivals in Canada as well this summer. Just a lot of shows. We are still mapping it all out.
HipHopCanada: Why did you choose to self-title your upcoming release?
Classified: I just couldn’t come up with a name that I think summed up what I was looking for in the album. Nothing suited it and I never did the self- title thing before so I thought I’d do something fresh instead of keep digging for a name that I didn’t think was there. I just felt like every song was it’s own thing. There wasn’t a recurrent theme throughout the album where I thought this was what I was trying to say with it. Every song had it’s own spot so I did the self-titled thing
HipHopCanada: Do you usually name your album after you’re finished making it?
Classified: Sometimes, not all the time. Usually, like with Handshakes and middle fingers, it was just what summed it up with the balance and everything. With this album I felt like doing something different rather than trying to come up with a clever name. This will be just me making some music.
HipHopCanada: Aside from David Myles, who else will you be collaborating with?
Classified: Mic Boyd, my brother, he worked on the album a lot with me, Raekwon from Wu-Tang Clan is on a song and Kuniva from D12 is on the same one. Madchild and Kardinal Offishall. Kayo. Just a lot of different musicians, not any famous people or anything. A lot of different people, a lot of people who you wouldn’t know their name but still have an instrumental part in it.
HipHopCanada: You’ve toured with pop punk band Hedley before and collaborated on tracks with the David Myles the folk singer. Are there any other genres of music you are interested in exploring?
Classified: No. Even the Hedley thing, we didn’t do music together, it was a tour thing. They are all super cool and a great bunch of guys, actually Dave came over today. I guess when I’m producing I do a lot more. I always try to produce as many different types of music as I can, not just hip-hop, I’ve always done hip-hop. I’ve done a little bit of R&B, and some light rock kind of stuff and folk music with David Myles, but with that hip-hop foundation and hip-hop beats behind it. I’m always trying to do something different. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
HipHopCanada: What sparked the switch from Sony to Universal?
Classified: It was nothing like I hate Sony; there was no animosity. They were happy kinda doing what we were doing. With this next album I wanted to really go for it this time, I wanted [them] to put up some extra money and come up with more ideas. I just felt like me and my manager kept bringing things to them, bringing more ideas, where I wanted people to bring that to me- that’s kind of what I was looking for. With Universal we have a very unique deal with them. They’ve been great and I’m really happy with them. They’ve been bringing out ideas and just seemed to be matching our attitude with new ideas to market stuff rather than just radio, radio, radio.
HipHopCanada: How has your experience with Universal been so?
Classified: Very great. So far it’s been great, they’ve been bringing ideas, they’ve been on us saying things like we need this interview done, or this clip or video done, you gotta get it done which is great. I like having someone else on my back letting me know what I need to get done rather than me sitting and thinking all the time about what I should be doing next.
HipHopCanada: So you like that pressure?
Classified: I love it just because I can focus more on my music. If I gotta go do stuff, I go deal with it but I don’t have to be constantly thinking about what we should be doing to let people know that the album is coming or whatever
HipHopCanada: Before you were signed, did you set deadlines for yourself?
Classified: Not for making music but I definitely had deadlines for like a Video Fact grant or booking for a tour, that kind of stuff. Definitely always had small deadlines but I never put them on for recording albums, like okay this album needs to be done on this date, it’s always been like you work on it till you feel like you’re almost there and then you squeeze out the last few tracks.
HipHopCanada: One goal of yours had always been to go international. How is that journey coming along?
Classified: It’s not like I’m really trying to go international, it’s kind of like bonus to me. I’ve always focused on Canada, when the album came out we would be like okay when will we tour Canada, how are we going to market Canada, radio Canada, etc.
The whole States thing or overseas in Australia was like a bonus, we weren’t looking for it but if people came and were like, hey we want to book you for a tour come with us, and if it made sense we would go for it. Like when NHL came and said they thought my song was amazing and wanted it on the game, but it wasn’t like we were down there grinding like we did on the tours in Canada.
I’m trying to break into there but just with a different plan. I’m not trying to do what I did in Canada where I tried to do the ten, thirteen-year plan. I’d be like fifty by then [Laughing].
HipHopCanada: Why do you think you’ve been so successful in maintaining your individuality compared to other artists who “mainstream”?
Classified: That’s funny because I just had a girl who tweeted me today saying that I sold out on my new stuff, and that it screamed sold out [Laughing]. But it’s whatever. I just make music that I enjoy. I just get bored of stuff and I’m not trying to keep making the same type of music I’ve always made.
People call my stuff commercial but it doesn’t bug me because I still don’t believe it. When I sit down and make a song it’s not like a twenty-minute process where I think of the easiest way to make a quick buck off of a song. I actually sit there and try to come up with topics and actually work on my shit. I work hard and always try to bring something new that I haven’t done yet.
Sometimes on a song like Inner Ninja, I sit there and think jeez are people really going to except this because its just so different, but at the end of the day I know what we worked on I know that we made something unique. It’s one of those songs where people either love it or hate it. It’s the type of music that I like and whether people are gonna love or adore it, they will always be like whatever anyways. I always try to bring something new that I haven’t done yet.
HipHopCanada: How much fun was it working with all those kids in Inner Ninja?
Classified: They were great, they stayed outside for like 16 hours that day. RT! shot that video and he did a great job. I was really happy with how it came out.
HipHopCanada: How do you perceive yourself as an artist?
Classified: I guess you can still say underground. I think nine times out of ten when I do these radio interviews that are more commercial, people say to me you don’t rap like other hip-hop artists, you talk about real stuff. And I’m like a lot of artists do that but you just listen to commercial rap so you’re used to that kind of music. I consider myself still underground but with some kind of mass appeal to it. Just stuff that whether you are a hiphop head or not, you can still relate to what I’m saying.
HipHopCanada: Do you feel that you have finally received the respect that you deserve in the Canadian music scene?
Classified: Nah. I’m just joking [Laughing]. I think I definitely have. I guess at the same time it depends. For my peers, I totally think I did and that’s how I started doing music; you weren’t making it to have a big hit on the radio or have labels applaud you. It was about the people you made music with, the people you respect. I definitely think I’ve received that respect. In the super commercial Canada, like the Nickelbacks, I think I’m still underground to them. I don’t know if my music is necessarily made for them. I’m good, I’m not losing any sleep over it.
HipHopCanada: Do you ever read comments about yourself?
Classified: Oh ya, it’s entertaining as hell.
HipHopCanada: Nowadays, mostly because of the Internet, artists like Macklemore and Mac Miller-
Classified: Say it, they are white. You can say white
HipHopCanada: …as well as Danny Brown-
Clsasified: He’s dope, I got his album on my phone right now.
HipHopCanada: …have blown up without the help of a label. Do you think staying independent, in this new era of social media, is now sustainable for an artist?
Classified: Oh yeah, totally. It’s just if you are willing to put in the work because it is a lot harder to be independent. But If you put in a lot more, then you will get a lot more on the pay day. You can be your own major record label, just go hard with the radio team and the marketing team. Set up all your stuff and stay on people but really try to do your stuff. I think every person is different though too. I know so many people who were independent and were like I couldn’t do it, I cant fucking deal with it, I just cant do it anymore; I don’t want to do it. And then you get people on majors who say the same thing and then you get people on majors who are doing great and couldn’t be happier and you have independents who feel the same way. I think it depends on the artist and what kind of situation they are in.
HipHopCanada: How did you stay motivated in your early days?
Classified: I think just because it was a small climb. Like every album I put out, to me, it was a bit better then the other one and we kept getting a little bit more success and the tours got a little bit more bigger. Even the fact about why I was doing it. I wasn’t doing this like “I need a hit record or I quit rap”. It was not like that for me at all. I like making music and I like putting it out so people can hear it. Then when it felt like maybe this is more of a career thing, we were kinda just working it and made sure we were always moving forward and never staying stale. That’s what we said to Sony on the last album, I just didn’t want to do the same thing; I wanted to make it bigger this time. Just always trying to move forward .
HipHopCanada: So the plan wasn’t always to make music professionally?
Classified: Not really. I got my first cassette when I was like fifteen and I was doing music from when I was about15 – 21ish while I had a job. I worked at the help desk and it got to the point where I had to question, when I was around 20, 21, where I was gonna go with this and try to see if I could turn it into something. Before that it was a hobby, like a “tryna get famous” hobby as a young kid thinking like “awh everyone’s gonna love my rap” [Laughing]
HipHopCanada: What was the most eye opening experience for you as an artist?
Classified: I don’t know if there is any industry thing. I guess just people, like fans reacting to your song. I have a song called “All About You”, which I wrote years ago. Just people emailing you saying that they have those words tattooed on them and it meant a big thing and it saved them from a lot of bad stuff in their lives. I think those are the things that make me look at music differently and go okay this isn’t just me making my beat on my drum machine, just rapping and getting all the people to say hell yeah or whatever. It really can hit people and change their lives; the biggest over all thing that makes you kind of question what you’re saying and stuff.
Interview conducted by Shaheena Azmatullah for HipHopCanada
Photography by KassKills for HipHopCanada