For some underground artists, signing to a major label is perhaps the most important goal of their careers. Long-shot fantasies suddenly aren't that long and the superfluous side of the music industry that was once relegated to jokes and afterthoughts - fame, fortune, a gaggle of gals with questionable morals - can seem curiously within reach. For Classified, signing to a major just seemed like the most effective way to get his music heard by a few more people.
"I've never been one that's, you know, 'I gotta get rich or die trying,'" says the Halifax MC and producer with a laugh. He signed with Sony in November after more than a decade of putting out releases independently, including the Juno-nominated Boy-Cott-In the Industry (2005) and Hitch Hikin' Music (2006). "I just wanted to have more access to international connects and be able to focus on more than just Canada. I want to get overseas, I want to get down to the States and get some product down there and I want to make sure the album reaches more people."
For his major label debut, Self Explanatory (out April 7), Classified modelled the album after the popular Choose Your Own Adventure children's game/books of the '80s and '90s. Every few tracks, an announcer prompts the listener with two options - such as go home or go to the club - and the listener makes his or her choice by skipping to the designated track. The idea came about, he says, while thinking of new ways to present an album and remembering his fondness for the series as a child.
"I just wanted to bring the whole album aspect back to the game," he says. "Singles are so important now, and ring tones and all that shit, and I was just like, 'How can I tie my whole album together?'" Over 22 tracks, Classified weaves together direct, grimy hip-hop joints - such as "They Call This (Hip-Hop)," featuring Royce Da 5'9" and B.o.B. and "Quit While You're Ahead," featuring a home-grown line-up of Choclair, Maestro and Moka Only - with songs coming from the relatable, everyman angle. These include "Still Got It," about love and heartbreak, and "Things Are Looking Up," featuring Chad Hatcher, about staying positive during tough times.
"I think people respect the honesty of it," says Classified, who feels that fans in small towns across Canada can probably relate to most of his music.
Other featured artists on the album are Saukrates, Shad, DL Incognito, Buck 65, D-Sisive, Chad Hatcher, Joel Plaskett and Mic Boyd. In March, Classified embarked on his first European tour, with D12 and Royce Da 5'9", in promotion of Self Explanatory. On April 23, he will be joined by Mic B, J-Bru, Chad Hatcher and DJ IV for a 26-stop Canadian tour beginning in Vancouver and ending back home in Halifax. Waiting for him there will be his wife and six-month-old daughter, Taylor Sophia Boyd.
"If I could live the way I'm living right now for the next 50 years, I'm happy," says Classified, with a sense of genuine satisfaction rare among most rappers. "My whole plan is to kind of build my bank account up so that I can keep living like this. I don't need to spend $200,000 a year.... I got my house, I got my wife, I got a daughter now, I got a car and I'm healthy. I'm good."