You don’t think of Canada and immediately envision hip-hop artists. But any tour-savvy border-breaching American hip-hop group, or any modern hip-hop archivist, will tell you that the Canucks have had it going on up there for quite a while now. Since roughly 1999, emcees from the Great White North have been permeating international airwaves with styles and content rivaling their American counterparts. The first group to achieve breakthrough was Swollen Members, whose debut album Balance, an incredibly well produced, darkly medieval collection of songs, redefined what conscious hip hop could be — think Dungeons & Dragons meets Souls of Mischief. Swollen Members continues to drop albums, and the group’s success in the U.S. opened the door for other artists such as Josh Martinez, Iraqi-Canadian standout The Narcicyst and, of course, Classified.
Classified is an emcee’s emcee. His American equivalent is something like Chicago’s Qwel (of Typical Cats), or a young Planet Asia. Classified isn’t afraid to tell you what it’s like to be a touring musician in the modern world of carnivorous promoters and shady door deals, and he refuses to be one of those cats that forgets where he came from. His music lets you know how he grew up, who he looks up to, what matters in his life and how it relates to the world around him. Some of Classified’s best punch lines involve him musing on what it’s like to be broke and married while on the road, or how people in the U.S. judge his success as an artist by the type of cell phone he carries.
Despite being well-seasoned, Classified is humble, an award-winning emcee who’s been in the game since ‘95 and is now in the midst of his golden years. This ambassador from the North is a hard-working rhyme-spitter with a lifelong dedication to his craft — about as real as real can get, and then some.
Classified opens for Slaughterhouse at 9 pm Saturday, April 14, at WOW Hall; $18 adv., $20 door.