Friday, April 17, 2009

Talking Points:: Classified - Self-Explanatory

Classified is otherwise known as Luke Boyd from Enfield, Nova Scotia. Unless you are also from Nova Scotia, you have not heard of Enfield, Nova Scotia. Hopefully though, if you're from Canada, and are aware that people in this country make hip hop music, you have heard of Classified. If you haven't, perhaps the fact that Class' new album, Self-Explanatory, is his first with major label distribution (yes Ack, he's on a major!), means there's a greater chance that you will. Of course, by you, I you as a metaphor for the greater, music-listening public as a whole, because you are reading this, and that means two things: 1) You read the hill, so you're awesome, and you've heard of everyone worth hearing about. 2) This post you are reading is about Classified, so even if you hadn't heard of him before...etc. and so on.

Anyway, Class is that rare Scotian musical animal: one that likely needs no hometown bias-boost from us. He's always been able to tour Canada extensively, and Sony appears to be pushing this album hard, so here's hoping it's doing a booming business for him already. But I've discussed his last three albums here on the hill, and why would I break that streak just because someone doesn't need our assistance? Saying the un-necessary is pretty much one of our specialties here on the hill, so let's have a word or two about Self-Explanatory, shall we? But given our verbose nature, how can we attack a 22 song strong animal such as this without writing a War & Piece like tome? You guessed it (or you read the title of this post), the Talking Points!

First, a couple points to help explain why I think Class is successful:
1) He has a tremendous knack for making music that has commercial appeal, while always maintaining a "real" hip hop aesthetic.
2) He isn't afraid to try something new, whether it be in his beats, who he collaborates with, or his song concepts.

Get Out The Way - Perfectly segueing from that last point, this is Class trying something different on the production end, with a non-traditional beat featuring guitar licks and some flute. It brings Hard To Be Hip Hop to mind.

CYOA - Not sure how I feel about these Choose Your Own Adventure skit-songs on the album. On the one hand it really is a good idea, and a smart way for Class to have his crew participate in the album. On the other hand, they stretch the album to an almost unwieldy 22 songs. I do like this idea for a concept album or mixtape though, Class should've put together a Halflife records album using this gimmick.

Up All Night - Seems like Class was anticipating he'd be reaching a lot of new ears on this album, so there are a few of these autobiographical moments like this laid back offering. It sounds like Mike Boyd Sr. making another appearance with his son on the hook, not sure though.

Quit While You're Ahead - Great song, and a smart move by Class to pay respect to three Canadian hip hop heavyweights on this one. Choclair sounds better than I might expect, Maestro is, of course, excellent (a Nice & Smooth inspired intro to his verse and then "get off my dick, I'm trying to study my script", respect the godfather!), and Moka finishes up in fine form. Solid stuff all around on that one.

CYOA 2 - Mic Boyd's level of excitement over the bike ride on this amuses me for some reason.

Anybody Listening - Quick, when you think of a hip hop song constructed around a Genesis sample, what comes to mind? One word: Awesomeness. Well, for me anyway. I know this is the commercial side of Class, but I'm not afraid to admit I enjoy it.

They Call This Hip Hop - Smart song sequencing right here, as perhaps the most radio friendly song on the album is followed by the grittiest one. The big, cinematic beat is augmented by some nice guitar licks on the hook, and both Royce and buzz-ed about newcomer B.O.B. fairly kill it.

Oh...Canada - Takes the concept from Class' popular song, The Maritimes, and extends it to the entire country. There are plenty of refs only Canadians would get, or care about, and it will likely just engender scorn from Americans, but whatever...CANADA RULEZ!

One Track Mind - At first blush, the pairing of Nova Scotia's two leading men in their respective musical genres is an odd one, but for me, it works quite well, and it's a lot of fun. Joel often does some of his best work when he's in a playful frame of mind, and this track gives him just that opportunity, and as I mentioned, Class isn't afraid of trying something different. And I'm not afraid of admitting I've had "One track mind, focused on important shit" stuck in my head for some time now.

Trouble - When I think of classic, uhhh, Class, this right here is the kind of song I think of. Rugged beat, catchy, sample-based, chorus, and aggressive raps about rappin' or beat makin'.

Used To Be - Is a fun take on the usually curmudgeon-esque "music was better back in the day" meme. A lot of the fun comes from the excellent, organ lick and horn-filled beat and the presence of Class' raucous younger brother. This a song-topic that could easily be a little stale, but this isn't the case at all here - a nice song.

Things Are Looking Up - A hopeful tune that features Class' rap-folk prodigy Chad Hatcher. It's a fine song, but I have to say, the Class-Plaskett combo steals the show on this album as far as his duets with dudes that play guitars go on this album.

Where Are You - Another wise Class move, bringing in another Canadian hip hop heavyweight, as big Sox joins Class for this one. It's another excellent outing for Saukrates in a Canadian cameo capacity this year, makes me hope he's got an album coming out at some point. This is a winner for me.

Loonie - If you know my history, you know what I think of this song: Excellent. Not only does he manage to use a Loon-call sample in a non-wack manner (something Canadian hip hop scientists were convinced was an impossibility), but he brings some of the best Canadian MC's (D-Sisive, DL Incognito and Shad - also some of my current faves, for what that's worth) together with Halifax's other small town MC legend: Buck 65. Not sure if this is the first time Class and Buck have shared a song (something I should know perhaps), but kudos to Class on getting this done, I love it.


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