In a class of his own

Juno-winning rapper Classified plays in Nelson on Thursday.

Juno-winning rapper Classified released his latest album 'Greatful' last month.

Classified is just enjoying the ride on his latest tour.

The 38-year-old Canadian rapper-producer, whose real name is Luke Boyd, released his 15th album entitled Greatful last month. It’s his first record since 2013’s self-titled album, which spawned the Juno-winning single ‘Inner Ninja.’

Classified plays at Spiritbar, 9 p.m. on Thursday. He spoke to the Star about Greatful, working with an idol and looking back on a successful career.

The Star: This album has a lot of finality to it. I’ve got to ask, is this your last album? Because it feels like it.

That’s kind of how I felt when it was done, but it feels like that after every album. I don’t know. I think this might be my last album. I’m always going to work on music … but I don’t know if I’ll do another 15, 16-track full album again.

Is this an album that you really could have only made at this point in your career? Your last song is thanking people for your career. You have a song to your wife, you’ve rapped about your family before but it seemed like you were trying to say something.

Not as personal.

Yeah. How did that come about?

I think just honestly being alone in the studio, like 16 months. Usually when I work on an album it’s eight, nine months. It’s usually a lot more people coming in and out of the studio, a lot more friends being around. With this one I found I just spent a lot more time by myself and I think when you’re by yourself you dwell on more personal stuff. You write songs about things you wouldn’t normally write if there was a bunch of people around. I think that was the main thing.

Even just growing up, trying to come up with new topics, things I haven’t talked about. What else am I going to talk about besides personal stuff that I go through? Otherwise I’m going to redoing things I’ve already did.

Is that a struggle for you? You’ve been around a long time now, you’ve put out a lot of albums.

Totally is. It’s not a struggle but it’s something I take a lot of pride in. When I first came out, like on my second album, I just rapped. ‘I’m on the mic, I got the mic, I’m ready to keep it hyped.’ You know, whatever. It rhymed, cool, it’s clever. I remember reading a review, they were like, ‘You know it’s cool, concept rap, but he doesn’t write songs about anything.’ This is like in ’96. From that point on, that really just stuck in my head. If I’m going to write songs, I want to have a topic. I want to have a reason. I’m still going to have battle rap tracks, talking shit here or there. But I don’t want to have a whole album of that. I want to hear just more depth, more substance. Just a reason for people to give a shit about a rapper from Nova Scotia.

You’ve got a track on this album that sort of blew my mind, ‘Work Away.’ I love the samples at the beginning of people talking about what they do and where they are.

That’s a track I did with David Myles, who I’ve worked with many times. We’re always in the studio together. He sang the first little thing, ‘I may be tired but…,’ and he was just playing on his guitar. Kind of the same we started ‘Inner Ninja.’ … It’s a song about working hard. At first it was just, I work away, I’ve got to go to work, but I’m working hard at it. But then when we started working on it more it started leaning toward people who were going away to the oil fields. People who leave their house for three, four weeks, come home for a week to spend time with their family.

Me and Dave, being from the East Coast, we have a lot of friends that all moved out West to work. Even bigger than that, going across seas for a couple weeks. It just affects a lot of our close friends and families. We started writing the song and it really just came to be. Like, okay, we know where this is going now. And then we reached out on Facebook and [asked] if you work away, let us know what your name is, what you’re doing and where you’re from. I think it adds a really personal touch to it.

You’ve toured a long time now. Does that wear on you now?

Definitely. Definitely. I’m laying in the bed right now. We were up to like six in the morning partying on the tour bus. It’s not something I can do 12 months a year, I’ll tell you that. We usually tour a straight tour, we might do two tours in a year. We do one for six weeks, and then we do one September or October for two weeks. And then it’s a lot of one offs … Some artists just live on the road. They just don’t go home. That’s just not the life I’m trying [to live.] I want to be home around my kids and stuff and have a lot of time and things. Just try to balance it out and keep it not consistently touring.

You’ve got Snoop Dogg and DJ Premier on this album. That’s awesome. How did that come about?

Snoop, we played some shows over the years together but we didn’t really know each other. But our management had connections. When he ended up coming here to shoot ‘Trailer Park Boys’ last June, we tracked him down. Where they were shooting was like 20 minutes from my house. We ended up bringing a small studio to his hotel, set it up and did the sound in his hotel.

So what about Premier? Because DJ Premier is like hip-hop royalty basically.

Straight up, man. ‘Moment of Truth,’ Gang Starr, all that stuff is what I grew up on. I had the song (‘Filthy’) done and I knew I wanted cuts on the sound like an old school hip-hop ’90s rap. My brother (rapper Mike Boyd) actually said, ‘Hey you should reach out to Primo.’ I said, ‘Yeah, that would be crazy.’ Started connecting the dots in my head. Well, I’ve got a good relationship with Royce da 5’9 and his manager, and they work with Primo. They have a group together. So I just reached out and he’s like, ‘Man, send me the sound.’ Sent him the sound and then Primo called me, just on the phone two or three days out of the blue, and he’s like, ‘Hey it’s Primo. Got your track, man. Feel it. What do you want to do?’ I was just like, wow, okay.

What’s that like? You pick up the phone and Primo’s like, hey let’s do this track.

It’s exactly what you think it was. I’m trying to play it up cool, like, ‘hey what’s up.’ But in my mind I’m like, ‘Primo’s calling!’ It was definitely surreal. It was cool just because it was that personal. Like, with Snoop it was more through managers, and then when we face to face we talked about it a bit. With Primo, he just picked up the phone and called me. It was cool.

Let’s just say hypothetically this is your last album. If you stick to that, are you happy with what you’ve done with your career?

Oh yeah. I’m good.

Do you think you’ve left a statement on Canadian rap or was that ever an intention for you?

It was at first. Definitely, when I first came in it was like, get respect from your peers, from the other MC’s you listen to, the other ones you work with. In the last verse of ‘Heavy Head,’ I say it is. Every thing I wanted to do, I did it and beyond. I’ve did a lot more than I ever thought I’d do. … I’m happy touring Canada. I’m very happy with my personal life. Obviously it would be great to win a Grammy or some shit like that, but I’m not down in the States grinding it out for six months in advance to make that happen. So it’s not that important to me.

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