Musicc Interview: Classified hip hop

For most people, mention of the Maritimes conjures up ideas of quaint kitchen parties, idyllic fishing villages and perhaps Anne of Green Gables, but certainly not hip hop. However, Halflife/Urbnet recording artist Classified–a.k.a. Luke Boyd–hopes to change this perception. For a little over a decade now, Boyd has been making a name for himself and putting Halifax on the hip hop radar screen.

“I came from Enfield originally, which is a half hour outside of Halifax, and there were only five or six people who even listened to hip hop there anyway,” states Boyd. “It was more a matter of getting in with the people doing shows in Halifax and it was not too hard to get heard ’cause there were not too many people doing it.”

Once Boyd solidified himself in Halifax, though, his troubles weren’t over. Getting noticed in Canada proved more challenging, but Boyd refuses to sacrifice his roots for mass appeal.

“After growing up I realized I had to represent myself,” he says. “When I was touring across Canada I saw how many stereotypes there are about the Maritimes so I wrote some into my work as a joke and people in the Maritimes loved it, and hip hop is all about representing where your from.”

With 10 albums under his belt, Boy-Cott-In The Industry being his latest, Boyd has achieved notable success. Still, excellent reviews and videos in rotation on Much Music do not negate the occasional bit of negative criticism. Instead of channeling criticism into negative energy as so many artists do, Boyd uses it to better his sound.

“You can definitely get stressed and want to curse the industry, it can give you a lot to say,” he explains. “In hip hop there is not a lot of constructive criticism, so you can either get down on it or use it to tighten up your work. I take a lot of it and build myself up ’cause if everyone says they like your stuff then you’re not going to step it up much. You have to use the criticism to raise the bar for yourself.”

Success for many hip hop artists is a double edged sword. On one hand there is the emergence of a new and larger fan base and conversely there is the danger of alienating the fans who brought you to where you are, and nothing can crush an artist’s career faster than being labeled a sell-out. Fortunately Boyd hasn’t had to sacrifice style or creativity to get to where he is at present.

“I own all my masters, so I don’t have anyone telling me what to do,” he says. “I have complete creative control so I just do what I gotta do when I want to do it. I say what I want to talk about but at the same time I have beats that are catchier. It’s all about staying true to the people who first started liking it.”

Boyd’s production skills have also gained him praise. Boyd has worked on albums for Spesh-K, Jay Bizzy and J-Bru and insists he enjoys doing music with other people.

“It keeps things exciting and there are tons of talented people in Halifax so you make connections ’cause it’s not a huge scene,” Boyd remarks. “For me to do beats for them or rhyme on their record is just another angle for me, it brings an excitement factor into it and also builds up the local scene.”

Balancing both writing and producing isn’t easy in its own right, but achieving critical acclaim in each is a praiseworthy feat. Boyd manages his roles by trying to keep things interesting. His recipe for transcending the mediocrity of a regular workday is both simple and universally applicable.

“When I get tired of one, I’ll do the other,” he states.

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