Published Mar 24, 2011Even a young child knows the story of The Tortoise and the Hare, a fable that teaches that slow and steady wins the race. But it's also a lesson that can be learned from Enfield, NS rapper/producer Classified, who has put that policy into practice for more than a decade and a half as he continues to strive for success with forward momentum made through constant touring and hit songs like "The Maritimes" and "Oh Canada." Album No. 14, Handshakes and Middle Fingers, is his best and most musical album yet, increasing his usual experimentation with live instruments and even adding a symphony. But more importantly, it serves as a springboard for Classified to take another step forward by going global.
While Sony Canada released Handshakes and Middle Fingers earlier this week, Sony International has first crack at the album in other markets, of which Classified (born Luke Boyd) says Germany, France, Australia and Japan are a top priority.
"We're going to them now," Class reveals in an Exclaim! interview. "The Sony main office from each country can either [take it] or pass on it and we [can] look at our other options."
Sony has already passed on it in the U.S., but Classified isn't sweating it. "We just signed with Decon," he states proudly of his new American distribution deal, joining such illustrious artists such as Jay Electronica, Jurassic 5, Aceyalone and others on the indie label, which should give Class the attention he wouldn't otherwise receive from a major.
Inking these international distribution deals means an opportunity for more exposure and access to more income, but Class knows it also leads to a lot more hard work. He has already toured with D12 and Royce Da 5'9 in the UK and Europe, opened for Hilltop Hoods in Australia, and played SXSW and a few dates up the West Coast of the U.S., but for all intents and purposes, Classified is pretty much starting fresh with these markets.
"Now we have a reason to go out there and do what we did in Canada almost ten years ago," he says. "Start over, play the small shows and build our fan base."
What Classified is referring to is his aggressive tour schedule that began after the release of Trial & Error in 2003, which has seen him hit the road for every album since and has put him the position where he can brag, "My income -- 80 percent of it is touring." Or, put more eloquently on "Step * Step," the NKOTB-inspired instructional blueprint for aspiring rappers, "You think selling records is going to make you income / What I make in sales I make in three shows and then some."
However, he's also no longer the young buck he was. Now a 33-year-old husband and father to two daughters, one two and a half years old and the other eight months, Class is more reluctant to embark on new tours. "There's a part of me that's kind of like, do I want to do this grind again?" he explains. "I know what it took to get where I'm at in Canada. We've got these deals now, I've got to go do this in the States, I've gotta do this across seas. But you know, do I wanna leave for six months and go over there and miss my kids growing up until they're five, six years old?"
Lucky for Classified, his day job when he's not touring involves producing and recording in his home studio, which means he has more opportunities to spend time with his family than a regular 9-to-5er, making it a little easier to contemplate going on tour.
"I've got to get away from it all, too," he laughs. "Like, if I was at home every day doing this it would just become another day, another day. But when I know I've got to go away for three months, you really appreciate those couple of extra hours a day you get to spend with your kids and your wife."
Hopefully with Handshakes and Middle Fingers finished, Classified can get out of the studio now and spend additional quality time with his family before setting out on the eight nearly straight months of touring that is ahead of him, starting with his tour across Canada in March and April (see the dates below). Before that, maybe he could read his kids The Tortoise and the Hare. It just might help them understand why daddy's going to be gone so long.
3/24 Sherbrooke, PQ - The Gait
3/25 Peterborough, ON - The Venue
3/26 Toronto, ON - The Sound Academy
3/29 Kitchener, ON - Elements
3/30 London, ON - London Music Hall
3/31 Brantford, ON - Club NV
4/1 Ottawa, ON - Capital Music Hall
4/2 Montreal, QC - Club Soda
4/4 St.Catharines, ON - Baracudas
4/5 North Bay, ON - Capital Centre
4/7 Thunder Bay, ON - Crocks
4/8 Winnipeg, MB - Garrick Centre
4/9 Saskatoon, SK - The Patricia Hotel
4/11 Grande Prairie, AB - Better Than Fred's
4/13 Red Deer, AB - The Club
4/14 Calgary, AB - Whiskey
4/15 Lethbrdige, AB - The Stone
4/16 Edmonton, AB - The Starlite Room
4/18 Nanaimo, BC - The Queens
4/19 Victoria, BC - Club 9ONE9
4/20 Whistler, BC - Garfinkels
4/21 Vancouver, BC - Venue