Classified Gets His Smoke On and Off

Classified Gets His Smoke On and Off
Hip-hop obsessed East coast rapper/producer Classified has changed his tune. Not musically, necessarily, but regular life is increasingly encroaching on his rhymes, as well as his lifestyle. "I always try to write about life and a lot of times that was just music because that's all I did for the last ten years," he explains. "And now, with the last two years, having two girls, being home ― that's definitely going to come out in my lyrics. That's just kind of what I'm doing, where I'm at in life."

It all comes out on his 14th album ― and second for Sony ― Handshakes and Middle Fingers, his most ambitious effort yet. Once again it's a self-produced project improving on the previous album, although there are no obvious conceptual conceits this time, such as the Choose Your Own Adventure theme running through his last album, Self-Explanatory, or beat-making song "Beatin' It" from his indie album Hitch Hikin' Music.

In some ways, Handshakes is a return to his roots; Class concerns himself less with coming up with, as he describes it, "that crazy thing that's never been done before," opting instead to "make some cool beats, write some shit I'm thinking about and just try to make the songs as big as possible." Mission accomplished, especially with the addition of more instrumentation, including a symphony that helps give the album a much more musical vibe. The bumping, boom bap beats remain on first single "That Ain't Classy," but there are also chill tracks such as opening song "Intro Up And Down," which eschews drums for soaring strings, flutes and melodic background vocals.

His daughters ― ages two-and-a-half and seven months ― are mentioned on more than a few songs, such as "Intro Up And Down," "Passion" and "Stay Cool"; his wife also gets her share of mentions, including new weed anthem "High Maintenance," where he outs her as the one who got him into smoking so much weed, a habit that has become almost synonymous with the Enfield, Nova Scotia rapper-producer.

When asked about "High Maintenance," Class laughs. "I'm twisting one up right now." Marijuana isn't an unusual topic for Class, but this time around it's more conflicted. Early in "High Maintenance" Class raps, "Smoking for a couple years and got no plans to change it," but by the end he's pointing out the negatives, with lyrics like "I hate it, I meant I need it / I mean I hate it, I mean it." Sure, the negative effects of weed were touched on with previous anthem "It's Sickening" from Trial & Error, but Class also says of that song, "The way we do it, it's like joking, but it was always something in my head, like, 'Okay, I smoke weed but I'm not going to do this forever.' Now I'm 33 and I'm like, 'Fuck, I've gotta slow down.' I feel like the health is deteriorating."

Does that mean he's ready to pull a Snoop Dogg and quit? "Oh dude, I've been trying to quit for two years," he confesses. "I swear to God, I try to quit maybe every two to three weeks. I tried that this morning but as soon as I started making beats for two and a half hours and nothing worked, it's like, 'Fuck it, I'm going to get weed.'" You can't argue with the results ― Handshakes and Middle Fingers is another fine example of Canadian hip-hop that should once again earn this "pot smoking pot head" accolades, awards and a host of new fans.