Without further ado, here is the conclusion of the Classified interview I did for DOPEfm radio. We were talking at the venue before the concert last week.
Chase: “I’m still with Classified. We’re at the London Music Hall and we’re just in the back chilling right now, talking to Class. I want to talk about some autobiographical aspects of your album ’cause there’s a song on your new album called ‘Inspiration,’ did that really happen?
Classified: “Yeah, that’s all a true story. Yeah!”
Chase: “Let’s play that track right now and then talk about it after.”
Chase: “That’s an amazing story about how you sold a beat to a guy and he never got back to you with a final verse. You didn’t really think anything about it until you heard from his friend. And how it kinda motivated him and got his life back on track. And as we were talking about before about positives of hip hop music, you inspired that guy and probably made a difference in his life. It was cool to hear something like that ’cause you hear story rhymes on wax all the time that are, ya know, just gangster tales and that was a good-news story.”
Classified: “I think amazing things happen to all of us in life, just little weird things in your life, like that’s a cool f*cking thing. And that’s all that was. Ya know, that whole thing happened. That was a song that I started working on and kind of just lost inspiration and didn’t want to write to it so I just sold the beat to somebody else. And like you said, he bought it and I never heard from him for a while and then his friend emailed me and said he was super inspired by me and kind of helped change his life around to more of a positive direction. And then he ended up dying in a car accident and his friend just wanted me to know this. Just him telling me that story, really inspired me to tell his story but over the song that I started. So, it’s just a lot of different ways you can inspire somebody. You know the smallest thing can change somebody’s life, you know what I mean? That’s what the whole story is.”
Chase: “That’s amazing. It really is amazing. Talk about the power of hip hop. There’s positives in this that a lot of people outside of the culture don’t see. And that’s what I try to do, especially because I bring hip hop into the classroom as a teacher. The stuff I bring in is stuff that the kids aren’t familiar with ’cause they wanna listen to Soldier Boy and stuff and it’s nice to be able to, you know, I was playing your video today, telling everybody in the class, ‘I’m interviewing this guy tonight.’ I was talking about how I’ve interviewed Animal Farm and Sweatshop Union, and these guys that have positive lyrics and something to say and that’s why I’m a fan, big time, and I’m honoured just to because you always got something to say.
Classified: “Thank you, man. It’s cool. It’s funny because there’s a lot of hip hop guys I know that are teachers, you know what I mean. There’s a guy named Hotbox from down home, he’s a producer, he’s a teacher, and he does the same thing, just what you just said. It reminded me of it. He takes music into his students just to show them other sides of it. Another guy, Sean McInerney outta First Words , outta New Brunswick, he’s teacher. And it’s weird because a lot of hip hop artists become teachers, ya know what I mean, which kind of says something. I think a lot of hip hop artists feel like we have something to say and we wanna pass along to the youth and to try to give something positive. I think that’s a cool thing.”
Chase: “I think, like, Krs-One and D-Nice were doing that kind of thing, talking actually about teaching.”
Classified: “Yeah, man, The Temple of Hip Hop.”
Chase: “Yeah, it’s wicked. I know we already talked a lot about a lot of your favourite artists and how you’ve got them on your tracks but is there anybody you’re bumping right now in your car or your MP3 player?”
Classified: “On the tour bus, we’ve just been on the tour bus for the last few weeks. But we’ve been listening to a lot of old stuff like Das EFX, Dogg Pound, The Show Soundtrack, what else were we listening to? Ah, Statik Selektah, K-os‘ new record, we had that new one he has with Nelly Furtado and Saukrates ‘I wish I knew Natalie Portman,’ that jam’s banging. Nah, anything man. It’s not like 5 years ago when I used to go buy albums every Tuesday, and really dissect the albums and listen to it. It’s kind of changed. I just really like to hear a good song here and there and then I like to make my own mix CDs. But that’s the last full album that I really liked.”
Chase: “Yeah, that seems to be the trend. ‘Cause I’m old school and I still love albums-“
Classified: “Same as me. I love to hear a full album, know what I mean. Not something like an artist who goes and gets Timberland’s beat, he gets Primo’s beat, he gets the Dre, I like to hear an album where, like a Gangstarr album ‘Moment of Truth,’ I always go back to this where it’s like your emcee and your producer and they make a full album together. It’s just them guys and they do it all together. I think it makes a better whole product. It’s not like you’re just going to try and make a bunch of singles, it a whole point to the project. I really like hearing albums like that.”
Chase: “Yeah, me too, I kind of like how you put together your album, trying almost to make it a concept album with your choose your own adventure thing.”
Classified: “Definitely. That was supposed to be more of an interlude thing. I wanted a cool way to do interludes and I just had some funny shit and wanted to do something. And then that popped in my head and I was like, ‘Yo, that’d be a cool way to take listeners throughout the album as a choose your own adventure, day in the life of Classified.’ You can kind of, ya know, if ya wanna go to the club, go to track 18, if you want to go for a bike ride, go to track 7. It was just something cool to do, and, yeah, the reception’s been great for it so far.”
Chase: “That’s pretty cool. it’s nice.”
I didn’t play this song at this point of the interview but I thought I throw it on here for those of you who might not have heard it yet since we discuss it in detail after the drop.
Chase: “So, your current single threw me for a loop a little bit because I heard it on the radio. And the first time I heard it on the radio I was like ‘Oh, what’s this? Ah…’ Ya know? Anybody Listening?”
Classified: “That was the point of it. That was the point of it. That was a beat I had for like a year and a half. And I always liked it. To me, it reminded me of some Dungeon Family, Outkast shit. I’ve always been a fan of like that vibe. I wanted to do something that was, a point, like I really had a point to why I used that beat and a lot of people don’t get it. It’s because the whole underground / commercial thing of, ya know, is he underground? is he commercial? A lot of people call that beat commercial, right?”
Chase: “Yeah, definitely.”
Chase: “I don’t know. Maybe ’cause of the Phil Collins sample, the hook, maybe it’s just not as gritty a beat.”
Classified: “I’m not asking this to be hypocritical. I really want to know what makes a beat commercial and what makes a beat underground. What makes a beat underground?”
Chase: “Yeah, that’s a good question, especially for Dope FM ’cause that’s all we play is underground”
Classified: “And I’m just saying as a head because I’m the biggest head in the world and I don’t have an answer for it. I mean, how do you know a beat’s underground. Is it boring and a simple one-note? Is that what people consider underground? Is commercial something that anybody can just hear and go, ‘I’m really into this, I feel this, I like this, I can sing it back.’ To me, commercial / underground is in the lyrics. And that’s the whole point of ‘Anybody Listening.’ It’s like, I’m gonna make this beat so dope that I don’t care if you listen to what I’m saying or not. You’re gonna dance and you’re gonna sing this hook back. But in the lyrics, I’m gonna make sure I bring the message and the same shit I’ve always been bringing and the same thing I’ve always been saying. But at the first of the song, I’m saying, ‘Yo, what do I gotta do to get you to pay attention?’ And that’s why I’m using this upbeat beat, that I still like, ’cause I wouldn’t use it if I didn’t like it. But I knew it was a little more commercial than anybody’s every heard from me. That was the whole point of it. I was like, I wanna take this to other people who wouldn’t normally listen to me and bring my lyrics and say my point. And I’m kind of speaking from all MCs who are like, ‘Yo we put our heart and soul into our music and is there anybody who f*cking listens to the lyrics or do they just wanna hear the hot beat and a hot chorus, know what I mean?’ The whole song’s about that. If you really listen to all the lyrics, it’s me saying, ‘Yo, and I feel pretty fortunate, even though I never made a fortune yet.’ But a lot of these cats try to make it in rap don’t get nothing back, no feedback their whole life.’ Like I’m saying, people put their heart and soul into this and unless you got some hooky, catchy shit, a lot of people don’t listen to that. And that’s the whole point of ‘Anybody Listening’ but a lot of people don’t get that.
Chase: “That’s awesome, ’cause I didn’t get that either.”
Classified: “And I probably should’ve came out and said that stuff but a lot of people heard it, and even some of my boys heard it when I first came out and they were like, ‘Man, that’s a little different for you man. Like you sure you wanna go with this?’ And I’m like, ‘Yo!’ And the other side of it is, that that was the hardest song to make on the whole album. I never rapped that fast before in my life. The production on that song, like just the instruments I had brought in and tried. Like I spent weeks on that song, like trying different things and there was so much different production. It’s broke down.
We had Saukrates come in and try some stuff. So, ya know what I mean, for someone to go, ‘Oh, Class is just making a commercial track, trying to make the easy, catchy.’ This was the hardest f*cking song to make on the album. Ya know what I mean? I’m proud of that song. I think that song took me to a new audience and I said what I wanted to say. I really believe, and even in the lyric in that song, I think I say, ‘The beat bangs but still I speak with substance that will fill my needs.’ And that’s just saying, ‘Yeah I’m gonna make something banging and people might feel this but I’m still gonna bring out lyrics. I’m not just gonna say ‘Shake your ass to the fast beat.’ Ya know, I’m gonna bring some lyrics to it.”
Chase: “That’s awesome, ’cause when I first heard that song I thought it was more of a take on…you’re huge in Canada, ya know, but you’re not huge to the rest of the world.”
Classified: “And that’s how the other part of this works. This is our deal with Sony. It’s gonna be our first taste of hitting outside of Canada. So, I also wanted to put it out for that reason. Yo, is anybody listening? Are you ready to pay attention to some Canadian shit or what? So, it’s working a lot of different ways and that’s really why I made it the first single.”
Chase: “That’s awesome ’cause we really gotta support our Canadian talent, ’cause we’ve got tons. Just like listening to your album, even you’ve got some Maritime cats on there like Joel Plasket. So we have to support this and there was a time in the 90’s when I bought everything that was Canadian, ya know, even if it was little bit wack.”
Classified: (laughs) “Yeah I was the same guy. I’d buy any Halifax release that came out. Local shit, I’d buy it and listen to it like it was the new Death Row or the new Gangstarr or Redman album. I really followed that shit like religion man.”
Classified: “I appreciate it, man. Thanks for having me. It’s been good times.”
Chase: “Alright. We gotta close with a song. What song should we close with?”
Classified: “I wanna hear the intro off my album, Self Explanatory. If you buy the album this is the first thing you’re gonna hear. So if you like this, go check out the rest of the record.”
Chase: “Alright, thanks a lot Classified. It’s been an honour.”
Classified: “Thanks again.’