Halifax, Nova Scotia rapper Classified’s fifteenth studio album, Greatful, was released yesterday Jan. 15 on his Half Life Records label, and from the sounds of it, the Canadian multiplatinum artist has all the lyrical muscle of his youth plus mature insight and intellect, albeit with no new visionary objective to accomplish, just more good word. The emcee, whose real name is Luke Boyd, has an admirable and respectable soul, throwing out his rustic crafty flows in flawless technique and textbook hip-hop mechanics but aside from discussing what it’s like to be fully embedded in adulthood and digging almost every minute of it, Classi hasn’t picked a radical plan for Greatful, no op-ed on ISIS, no protests on behalf of the lower class, no anarchical antiestablishment urgings to his fans or anything else of that ilk (except for maybe a few fleeting worldly observations scattered throughout the LP).
Classified’s career-commitment to be a well intentioned conscious rhymer over likable, non-sellout, true-to-the-culture beats is so very evident. Though his personal character shines through a great deal, there can hardly be seen a fresh unique concept or risk that really separates this album from some of his others. Even his growing up and taking the good with the bad trope has been touched on before. Still, his disposition is dignified, and while Greatful obviously has some tolerable and even enjoyable filler, the good outweighs the more prototypical parts, as it is laced with both message and merriment in equal amounts.
Perhaps subconsciously, Greatful has a theme that was maybe not part of a preplanned strategy for the album, but it is one revolving around the satisfaction and fulfillment derived from good hard work. “Beautiful Escape” advances the idea of striving to make dreams come true, “Work Away” promotes logging dutiful hours for the betterment of the community, and even “Having Kids Is Easy” (the title is misleading) talks having to train and adjust your mind to handle the burden of children and taking the right steps to meet the challenge. Other cuts worthy of mention that may or may not link back to the work theme include the weltschmerzian “Noah’s Arc,” “Heavy Head,” which discusses twisted work expectations, “Square,” with its ruminations on existential reality, and “All My Life,” a song about a real love story, jealousy and all.
Classi is a real standup gent here. The album has a feel-good consistency and great knowledge and wisdom from the crucial years of his adulthood. Now a squeaky clean father figure from the early hip-hop generation, Classified may be hard pressed to find new fans of a younger, more rebellious nature, but his fine rap skills, his moral integrity and the neutral unbiased music production that he is so well paired with make for a near A1 experience in Greatful. Classi has said that this will be his last album, but he also said that that’s always how he reacts to each one of his LPs so the future is still up in the air at this point. If the latter rings true more so than the former, Classified can expect his fans to be much more “grateful” going forward.