Toronto isn't the only place in Canada that's producing dope rappers! There's also a small province called Nova Scotia, which is home to an artist named Classified.
The Nova Scotian native not only has a plethora of albums under his belt, but he's worked with a few notable names you've definitely heard of.
GlobalGrind caught up with Classified to discuss his self-titled new album, how it was growing up in Nova Scotia, and the music scene cultivated in Canada.
Check out our exclusive interview below!
GlobalGrind: Tell me about Classified the self-titled new album coming out January 22nd. You mentioned you worked with Raekwon and who else?
Classified: From down here, Raekwon and Kuniva from D12. On the same song we did a track together. I have another one with Maychild and Caramel who are pretty big artists in Canada. Other than that, it’s pretty much me in my studio by myself turning on the drum machine and making beats and writing rap songs.
So sonically, how would you describe the album?
I used to be very sample-based because I came up on ‘90s hip-hop, so it’s always been drums, dirty samples, which I still try to stick to, but I use a lot more live instruments too, so I have like violin players come in, horn players, flute players, guitar players, everything. We kinda started with the barebones of the drum machine sample, then bring in the track and all that, and then bring in a lot of live instrumentation stuff on top of it. I really wanted to make it musical, not just a four bar beat that keeps looping on four minutes. Musically, I really just stepped it up and then lyrically, I think I’m coming from a different point that a lot of people don’t come from with that ‘90s sound, back when the ‘90s was either New York or L.A. I’m from a small town in Canada.
How was it growing up in Nova Scotia? What was the hip-hop scene like?
I’m actually from Enfield, which is like 25 minutes from the big city of Halifax. It was me and two friends that rhymed. Then I moved into the city, that’s more how I found out about the scene and learned about deejays, breakers and graph writers and stuff like that. No one really knew about what was going on down there. Nova Scotia is kind of its own little island. We don’t get all the concerts that go to Toronto. Just kind of in a secluded place in our own little area, but I think that made me work that much harder and really just try to come at an angle that no one else has done in hip-hop.
When was the first time you fell in love with hip-hop, like the first record you got?
Run DMC – "Tricky." I was like 11-years-old, I remember we were camping and one of my friends had it on a tape like ‘check this shit out.’ My dad was in a band so we always had music around. The Beatles and Jimmy Lewis and all this shit was always around. Something like hip-hop, it’s just the attitude and everything, it completely caught me off guard. From then on it was just buying the Naughty by Natures, the Cypress Hills, I was playing all those records and stuff.
How is/was the music scene in Canada?
There’s the hip-hop scene, the urban hip-hop R&B, then there’s everything else. The hip-hop R&B is pretty much, you know, I think you can count probably on one hand how many artists make a living off it. But if you go to the rock world, it’s a whole different world. There’s a structure. There’s a foundation. There’s an industry. If Nickelback comes out with a rock record or Sum 41 or whoever, they know what big radio stations to go to. They know what press to do. They know what to do to blow the record up if it’s good. With hip-hop…maybe you can do this. Maybe try this. It’s still just a lot of trial and error, and trying to get the word out there. It’s starting to happen. I think with Drake and The Weeknd coming down here, I think people are a little more comfortable to be like, ‘Oh, I’ll check out some Canadian hip-hop stuff.’ I think people are more comfortable checking it out now.
How do you feel about the stigma of Canadian hip-hop artists?
For me, I don’t care. I gotta be me. I gotta do me. I gotta be what I am, because if I don’t my family, my friends, they’ll call me on that sh*t. It just came to a point where this is what I am, this is who I am, if you don’t like it, cool.
You’ve toured with a lot of people. What’s your favorite moment?
D12, probably. Touring with D12 and Joe Budden is probably the funnest one where it was just really on a personal level. We did a lot more days together. We did a month or something. It was really more of a friendship where we grew to know each other.
What’s one thing that most of your fans don’t know about you?
I don’t think anything. If you listen to my records, if I have something in my head that’s like ‘people don’t know about that about me,’ I will put it in a song right away. I lost my virginity in the graveyard. I didn’t know until it was over. Stupid things like that. That’s funny to me. Some people would be like, ‘why the f*ck did you put that in a song?’ and I’m like, cause people would remember that sh*t. Everything that’s in my life that I feel is going to cause some reaction; I’ll put it in a song. I think that’s what makes people relate to you.
The very first record you ever recorded, do you remember what it was? And would you let anybody hear it today?
It’s not recorded, but it sucked. I feel like my first three, four albums I ever put out I didn’t like. It was something that was just like, I’m fifteen, let’s make a couple songs, put it out and I’m happy. It was really like my fifth or sixth album before I felt like, ‘OK, I feel good about my sh*t right now. I really feel good about it.’ Anything I do, you see the evolution. Even with Life’s a B*tch, which came out in ’95, I think. It was on the internet, I saw it the other day and someone posted it up.
If I sent you to the most deserted place in Canada, and you can only bring three albums with you, which albums would you bring?
Mine are pretty obvious. I’d say Doggy Style by Snoop, Illmatic by Nas, Moment of Truth by Gang Starr. That album for me was what I was trying to do. A dude who made his beats coming from a real perspective talking about his insecurities. Talking about everything. It was just real sh*t, like, average kid in the middle class home could relate to it, or somebody from lower class. It was just real sh*t.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I eat donairs a lot. Canadian! Canadian cuisine! It’s totally East Coast. You can’t even get it anywhere else in Canada except Nova Scotia. Everywhere else it's rip-off versions of it. Eat a lot of that. Smoke a lot of weed. Play a little hockey. Canadian. And watch movies with my girl.
If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing?
Last job I had, I worked at a help desk. I went to school for like a year. After grade 12, I wanted to take a course that taught me how to use music equipment. Studios and stuff like that. That turned into working at that help desk. Did that for a year. I’d probably still be doing some kind of help desk, computer shit or something. Or teach. I wanna be a teacher some day.
I really like your track “That Ain’t Classy,” and I know you that you’ve been on the road a lot. What kind of classy advice would you give groupies?
I don’t think you can be classy and a groupie. I don’t think the two go together.
What would your three rules to keeping it classy as a groupie be?
Don’t be groupie. Wait ‘til the hotel. Know the music. Those are the worse ones actually. When it’s like, 'I’m your biggest fan. I’m your biggest fan.' And then they don’t know who the f*ck you are sometimes. They’ll come up to you like, 'I love you. I love you. By the way, who are you and what do you do?' And they just want to be around you because there’s other people around you asking for an autograph and stuff. Those are the worse ones. Those are the ones that you know just want attention because they need attention. They were deprived as a kid or something.