Classified Classified

If there's one thing that stands out on Classified's new self-titled album (his 15th in an almost two-decade-long career), it's the production. While Classified is best known as an MC, it's behind the boards where he truly shines. As a rapper, Class is the likeable everyman; he's good but not great. As a producer, he's a wizard. Whether he's building a song around a sample from a children's show on "3 Foot Tall" or crafting upbeat pop on "Anything Goes," Classified has a gift when it comes to creating catchy, hooky beats that get stuck in your head. He's equally adept at making big, horn-heavy anthems, such as Raekwon collaboration "I Only Say it Cause It's True" or soulful rap ballads like "Growing Pains." Classified may be both a producer and an MC, but his new record is very much a producer's record, and that's okay. (Universal)