While hugely popular in Canada, hip-hop artist Classified (born Luke Boyd), has received worldwide acclaim as both an emcee and producer. Residing in Enfield, Nova Scotia, his relatable lyrics and melodic boom-bap style beats made him one of the most influential figures in the history of Canadian hip-hop.
In a career that spans fifteen studio albums, Classified has always been ahead of the pack. His understanding of hip-hop music and hip-hop production is incredible.
What’s your earliest musical memory?
I remember my Dad’s band practicing in the basement… I remember him running the PA, microphone and speakers. They’d often have late night jam sessions.
How and when did you discover hip-hop?
I discovered hip-hop when I was 12 years old when a friend showed me Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky”.
In a few words, describe your production.
Classic 90’s hip-hop with more melody. Yeah, boom-bap drums with lots of melody.
Is that something that you were aiming for?
Not consciously, it’s just the music that I lean towards. I came up on 90’s hip-hop, but I appreciate old music too, bands such as the Beatles. I like digging into old records. The melody that I heard on these old records has really influenced me over the years.
How old were you when you first started making beats?
I first started making beats when I was 16 or 17.
How did you keep taking it further?
By constantly learning and trying to perfect the craft.
Today, new technology makes it much easier to make beats. For instance, I just bought a new program that offers pre-made drums. Before, I would start by sampling a drum break on the MPC, and chop up each kick, snare, and hi-hat individually. The gear has definitely changed. It is a lot faster.
Earlier in my career, I would make a beat by chopping a sample and adding drums to it. Today, I want more. For example, I might start with the same chopped sample and drums, but I will then bring in live instruments such as a guitar, piano, or strings to give the song more layers and melody.
Who influenced you?
Mainly 90’s hip-hop. I was influenced by producers DJ Premier and Dr. Dre. The Beatles have also influenced me so I will put them here as well.
What is your current setup?
I currently use an MPC Renaissance, an MPC 2500 that I still use occasionally, Pro Tools, Komplete, my Yahama Motif keyboard, and vinyl.
What is your favourite song that you’ve produced for yourself?
“Beatin’ it” Because it’s about making beats.
How about for other artists?
“Ooh Love” by Ria Mae. It was an easy track for me to produce. Once it got out there, a lot of people heard it and liked it.
Could you talk about the role of live instrumentation in your beats? There are a lot of songs on the album Greatful that sound like they’ve come straight from vinyl records.
A lot of it comes from playing stuff a certain way. I will filter what I’ve played and add effects to make it sound sampled.
Do you think that your exposure to vinyl records has shaped your ear?
Definitely. Take Adele, if I had the chance to work with her, I would not make her voice sound huge like it is on the radio. I would make it sound sampled. The sampled sound is a staple in hip-hop. In fact, I recently started using the plugin Isotope Vinyl where vinyl simulation can be added to any track.
How have the expectations you set for yourself creatively and financially 10 years ago aligned with your achievements today?
My achievements gone way past anything that I expected. I’m a bit pessimistic by nature. I was part of a hip-hop group in high school, but I still went to university and got a job. Saying that, I am more than satisfied with the results. More recently, my career as a producer has really taken off. As a result, I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with many different artists.
Do you have any advice for upcoming producers?
Don’t make things so in the box. Everyone is using the same programs and the same sounds, which leads to lack of originality.
Years ago, I would never have used a kick and snare from a drum machine. I sampled my kicks and snares directly from vinyl, that way no one else could have the same sound as me, unless they sampled the exact sample kick and snare and processed them the same way as I did.
At the same time, don’t be scared of new equipment. When using new programs, it’s important to be creative with it and do what sounds right.
What can we expect from you moving forward?
We’re currently re-launching our label Halflife Records. I’m currently producing a bunch of stuff for other artists as well as for myself. I’m producing records for Elijah, A-F-R-O, R.A. the Rugged Man, Ria Mae, and I’m currently 6 tracks into my new Classified album.