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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Classified: Canadian Hip-Hop

I've decided that I'm going to write articles every so often about hip-hop collectives, artists, or labels that deserve more recognition. As such, these articles will focus mostly on underground and independent rappers rather than mainstream artists, but every so often, I may post about big name artists.
The first artist I'll post about will be Classified, the Canadian rapper from Halifax, Nova Scotia. The interesting thing about Classified is that despite being a white rapper from Nova Scotia, he's incredibly prolific and respected throughout Canada. Since 1995, Classified has put out 13 albums, the latest of which, Self-Explanatory, came out on April 7th, 2009. Not only that, but many of Classified's songs and albums reach the top Canada's music charts. As a white rapper, it's easy to compare Classified to Eminem, and in a way, he is Canada's Eminem. But Classified is so much more than Eminem. While Classified never turned his horrible upbringing into motivation for his music, he does still rap about what it's like living in Nova Scotia. Despite what people may think about Halifax and Eastern Canada, Classified tries to portray his hometown as a normal city, just further out and a bit colder. Check out his track "The Maritimes," which we've played on the show:

As with most other underground, independent hip-hop artists, Classified remains critical of traditional hip-hop music. In his song "The Final Time" off of Boy-Cott in the Industry, Classified has this to say about hip-hop:
There ain't no skill, ain't no wordplay, just mimics and clones
They all say they're keepin it real, but won't admit that they're wrong
And we got underground cats who are trying to be different...That's respectable
But it's a fine line between being different and good and different and pitiful
Your beats are made with pots'n pans and they don't hit
And if you can flow on a beat then please just leave and don't spit and that's it
Classified took the classic underground approach to hip-hop and started his own label, Half Life Records, in 1995 and put out his first 8 albums independently. His first album Times Up received quite a bit of acclaim from Halifax's underground scene. Then in 2003, he signed with the underground, Canadian label URBNET Records and has put out his latest albums through them. Interestingly, though Classified isn't that widely known in America, when he signed with URBNET, he began gaining more attention among American underground rappers and was able to get them to make appearances on his albums. For instance, Royce da 5'9", Busta Rhymes, and B.o.B. have all made made cameos on his later albums. Classified has also opened for artists such as Ludacris, Busta Rhymes and Blackmoon.

Still, as a larger name in the Canadian music scene, Classified tries to team up with other Canadian artists in order to promote the country's unique sound. Though relatively few Canadian rappers make it big (Kardinal Offishall and K'naan being the primary ones), Classified prefers remaining underground so he can have more control over his music and production. However, unlike in America, Canada offers grants to Canadian aritsts who seek to create an album. Not only does this subsidize the cost of creating music, but also allows for country-wide tours, which are rare in Canada. But it's not only the Canadian government that helps to endow the arts in Canada, it's also popular media companies such as MuchMusic, the equivalent of MTV up North. MuchMusic has created and offered many grants to Canadian artists in hopes of increasing the number and quality of the music and videos procuded. For the channel, a dearth of music and videos would limit the Canadian-ness of the channel and turn it into another MTV clone. So, with the grants, Canadian artists are able to get the funding they need to create their music. Additionally, Classified produces each of the songs on all 13 of his albums. This is most clearly shown in his track "Beatin' It," which we've also played on the show:

Though Classified may be one of the first rappers to come out Nova Scotia, many have followed including Buck 65, Sixtoo, Universal Soul, along with many up and coming DJs. In the end, the point to take away from all of this is that while the big-time rappers come out of Atlanta, LA, New York, and Chicago, a lot of the smaller artists do exist in places like DC, Minnesota, and Halifax. And that's a trend that you'll continue to see in many of the articles about underground hip-hop.

Here's one final video, it's Class's new single "Anybody Listening"

Yeah, that's a Genesis sample. And yeah, that's Banksy and Shepard Fairey. Dope.

1 comment:

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