Looking up Classified material

By Gina Loitz

Think of all the major players of the hip-hop and rap game: Those hat trickin’ players who not only rap but produce as well, doing so under their own record labels. Easily the first to come to mind is the godfather, Dr. Dre with Aftermath Records, which catapulted Eminem into stardom and subsequently snatched up Shady Records. The dynamic duo and their record-breaking labels then tag-teamed the “Get Rich or Die Trying” gat slangin’ gangsta, 50 Cent. Bringing it closer to home, Canada has its own emcee/producer/label manager from Enfield, Nova Scotia, Classified, with a refreshing philosophy on the game.

“I’m not about to get rich or die trying,” says Classified. “I appreciate how my fans can approach me respectively and comment on what I’m doing.”

This is proven true as Classified fans contributed to him winning the Rap/Hip-Hop Single of the Year at the East Coast Music Awards in 2007 for his single “Find Out,” accepting his award wearing a hoodie displaying his HalfLife record label and hand-delivered by the infamous Trailer Park Boys.

He boasts not about gats, ‘hoes in different area codes’ or what he’s got rollin’ on 24s, but instead brings listeners back to reality by sharing stories of how he lost his virginity in a cemetery with “High School Behavior” from his 2005 album Boy-Cott-In The Industry, or shedding insight into the intricacies of layin’ down a beat with “Beatin’ It” from 2006’s Hitch Hikin Music.

“Right now I’m writing more than producing, but if all I did was write, I probably wouldn’t rap no more,” says Classfied. “Going back and forth, from writing and producing, keeps it exciting.”

He produces for fellow artists under his HalfLife label, the leading independent label in Canada, most recently producing fellow East Coaster Chad Hatcher’s debut album Tunnels and Pathways featuring a song they did together, “All about You.” Classified also helped produce the soulful melodies of Jordan Croucher.

“The whole ‘urban music’ term is a funny word for me,” he says. “I’m from the country living in the city, so I’m trying to break down the labelling as music [in all genres] is so old now. You gotta be doing new stuff with it in fresh ways. I mean, there’s only so many notes on a keyboard.”

So Classified mixes it up on many musical fronts, but remains true to hip-hop as his ultimate forte. However, he also explains the challenges with “Hard to Be Hip Hop” (with Maestro Fresh Wes) on Hitch Hikin’ Music. In a country like Canada, which he describes as “The Maritimes” as a great place to live, but with “So many artists/but no one making money,” himself included.

“For me, I’m just happy if I keep going the way I am,” he says.

It seems to be working. With a long list of albums and accomplishments, Classified has a lot to say about what it’s like being a Canadian in the predominantly American rap game. A selection of his fan-chosen tracks and music videos can be found on his newly released While You Were Sleeping compilation. Hopefully Canada will wake up to one of its own, making his own, with a unique and independently creative sound.

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