It’s difficult to determine what’s more rare. The fact that Classified has been able to sustain a career in the largely unsupported rap community in Canada, or that it hasn’t been until his most recent album, an astonishing number 15, that the Maritime musician has released a self-titled disc.
Branching out with his tongue and cheek track Inner Ninja as the album’s lead single, Classified has gone back to his roots both with his lyrics and location in the video for That’s What I Do. Hitting the streets of his native Nova Scotia, Classified assures fans that he’s still the same guy he was growing up on the East Coast, except that now he plays the Air Canada Centre.
Check out Classified in That’s What I Do below.
Bringing out his black belt skills, Classified, along with David Myles, has released a high-kicking video for Inner Ninja. Working as the second single from Classified’s upcoming January 29th album, Inner Ninja is the follow-up to Classified’s track Anything Goes, which featured appearances from Skratch Bastid and Saukrates.
Classified’s work with folk artists David Myles marks a continued effort to push the boundaries of hip hop crossover collaborations, with Classified having previously released The Hangover with Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy in 2011. The two distinct sounds on Inner Ninja definitely work, blending the strengths of each artist to create a radio-friendly pop track.
Check out Classified featuring David Myles in their video for Inner Ninja below.
You know those moments when you hear a song and it instantly becomes your new favorite? You listen to it over and over and even though it’s the exact same 4 minutes (ish) repeated in your ears with each listen, it doesn’t matter because it hits you different every time. This is what happened to me when I first heard the track “Mr Hurricane” by the Montreal band Beast and I was excited at the prospect of many more years of music from this new band…..unfortunately they have gone on indefinite hiatus after their 1st album. This project started just as a musical experiment between Betty Bonifassi and Jean Phi Goncalves; Betty is best known for being part of the Oscar nominated soundtrack for the animated film The Triplets of Belville and Jean Phi as a producer working with people like Lauryn Hill. Hopefully The Beast will return.
ps. This video was nomintaed for a Grammy.
I watched Jane’s Addiction at Ottawa Bluesfest a few weeks back and it reminded me of a few things I’d like to share: 1. Perry Farrell is one of great front men in the history of rock and roll, end of story. 2. While Nirvana gets a lot of credit for changing music, what we have to remember is that there were bands like Jane’s Addiction who were putting cracks in the wall that made it possible for Nirvana to be the band who happened to break through and take all the credit. 3. You can write a great song with just 2 chords kids, Jane Says is G and A and repeat for 6 minutes (give or take).
ACDC continued on with a new front man after the passing of original singer Bon Scott; 2 years ago Alice in Chains released a new album with a new singer 7 years after losing Layne Staley; and INXS found a new singer through a reality show and released new music 8 years after the death of Michael Hutchence. Well, now after settling with the estate of their late singer, Bradley Nowell, the surviving members of Sublime are able to release new music with a new singer named Rome Rameriz but only under the name Sublime with Rome. I was listening to this song on the radio while driving with a friend and he really liked it, when I told him it was Sublime with a new singer he stopped liking it……weird how our minds work.
I never need as good reason to talk about Enfield, Nova Scotia MC Classified, but it just so happens I have a good one. His latest single features award winning singer/songwriter (and East Coaster) David Myles on a track called “The Day Doesn’t Die”. Aside from his own music Classified is gaining a reputation for producing other artists, about 5 years back he found and produced music for a singer named Jordan Croucher who you’ll now recognize as just JRDN, and it was producing a David Myles track called “Simple Pleasures” that led to this collaboration.
This song has not left my head for months. I find myself singing the chorus at least once a day and it’s become a bit of a problem so I figure the best way to exercise this ear worm is to try and send it to you. The Stampeders from Calgary Alberta had a Canadian mega hit with Sweet City Woman in 1971 and it also cracked the top ten in the US, but that was kind of it for them in America. In Canada they continued to have big success and they even had a few singles creep into the bottom of the American charts but this tune was their one taste of US Rock and Roll fame.
I spend a lot of time writing about music and telling you why I think you should know about a particular song or artist, this week I’ve have chosen songs by artists I have recently interviewed so I could give you some of their insight as well. In the case of Chris Whitley, it’s from his daughter.
Poison Girl – Chris Whitley (1991)
Before passing away far too soon at the age of 45, Chris Whitley had a career in music that was fueled by talent mixed with random acts of discovery. Very early in his life and just out of high school he was discovered while busking on the streets of NYC by someone who ran a travel agency, and for some reason this person believed Chris would be huge in Belgium and offered to send him over there. Fast forward a few years and he released a couple of albums and even though he fell short of the grand Belgium aspirations of his travel agent fan, he did make a small dent in the music scene over there but more importantly it was the beginning of a musical path that would bring him back to New York and his next random moment of discovery. Sometime in 1988 Daniel Lanois discovered Chris Whitley playing in a NYC club and immediately took it upon himself to help Chris get a record deal, which he managed to do. His label debut was recorded at Lanois’s New Orleans home and produced by Lanois protégé Malcom Burn who at that point had worked with The Neville Brothers, Bob Dylan and Blue Rodeo. The album “Living with the Law” was thought to be the beginning of breakthrough for Chris Whitley and it helped him score a tour with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, but the stars never aligned and he became a cult artist; one of those musicians who didn’t have mainstream success but had the respect and admiration of the musicians who did. Everyone from Bruce Springsteen and Iggy Pop to John Mayer and Keith Richards have at one time or another mentioned his music and claimed to be fans.
When he passed away of lung cancer in 2005 he left behind a daughter, Trixie, who was 2 years old at the time he recorded that “Living with the Law” album at Daniel Lanois’s home, and she was with her dad through some of that process. Almost 19 years later Daniel Lanois started a new project he calls Black Dub which was completed by one more act of Whitley randomness when he called Trixie, who was an aspiring musician making ends meet as a waitress, and asked her if she would like to sing in his new band. This is what Trixie said about connecting with Daniel again:
“I was living in Dan’s house at that time when my dad was there, so I was about two or three years old… but I hadn’t seen him since then, but when we re-met It did feel like family in a way”-Trixie Whitley
Since the early 60’s The Chieftains have found huge success popularizing the traditional music of their Irish homeland and while on that journey have worked with a diverse range of artists like Mick Jagger, Elvis Costello, Madonna and Ziggy Marley. In 1998 they were part of an album called “Fire in the Kitchen” that paired them with Canadian artists and along with Great Big Sea gave their take on the traditional Newfoundland and Labrador song Lukey’s Boat. Bob Hallett of GBS said this about the making of the video in Ireland:
“A ton of money had been spent, and there was this big script, we’re going to do this and talk about that, go to this place… and the Chieftains are like no, we’re just going to sit here in this pub and drink a pint, and you guys can film that… and we’re like, alright, this is going to be okay”-Bob Hallett
Blue Rodeo, after more than 20 years, can still sell out arenas coast to coast. Their popularity never seems to waiver and the funny thing is, their biggest hit was from their debut album “Outskirts” back in 1987. That’s a LONG time to be playing everyone’s favorite Blue Rodeo tune night after night and it got me thinking about the relationship between a hit song and its writer; this is what Jim Cuddy says:
‘When we first started, the first five years, we played so much that there were certain songs we had to do all the time and after five years I had a lot of fatigue with certain songs – like Try. So I took a year off Try…I think now, we gauge the amount we play in general so it’s nice to have certain songs that people like and want to hear, and we try in our concerts to give people some they want to hear, some they don’t know they’re gonna hear, so no, I don’t really have a problem with any of them now”-Jim Cuddy
No Mistakes – Classified (2005)
Classified is getting a lot of well deserved attention since signing to a major label which is ironic for an artist like him because so much of his music and a lot of his appeal over his long career of making music has revolved around the topic of being outside of that world and being the ultimate independent artist. What I love about his story is that after a while, the industry just couldn’t deny the longevity and success of this guy and he is now reaping the benefits of that machine instead of standing outside in the cold…. and he hasn’t had to change a damn thing. The only difference now is that he has more time to focus on his craft and all of a sudden his music’s reach has doubled and tripled because radio and media often times need some sort of validation from a record company before they will support something, and now that he has been validated he is getting more exposure. So while you may be hearing him for the first time with his new found membership to the industry, let’s not forget all the hard work and amazing songs that got him there and feel lucky that he has a large and strong back catalogue that you can discover. This is what he says about the old songs meeting the new exposure:
“…for an older song that I do at shows that people still react to, is No Mistakes – which came out in 2004-2005, and it was just you know when I was still coming up, never really getting any play on Much or anything like that, and just doing my stuff… that’s the one I find that a lot of people if they go back and hear it they’re like, Yo, I love that song No Mistakes”-Classified
Highway of Hero’s – The Trews (2010)
The Trews have had HUGE radio success in Canada with something like 13 top 10 hits including 2 number 1’s, however, it was their 2010 track “Highway of Hereo’s” that has made the biggest impact for the band. “Highway of Hero’s” is a song that was inspired by the death of Capt. Nichola Goddard from The Trews’ hometown of Antigonish, N.S. and the song turned into a tribute to not only her, but all Canadian Soldiers who have lost their lives protecting our freedom. Released as a charity single for the Hero Fund (a Canadian charity that provides scholarships for families of fallen soldiers), it actually came in between albums for the band but now has turned out to be their most successful song but in a very different way than they have grown accustomed. It’s a beautiful example of how music can be so much bigger then sales and chart positions. This is what Colin MacDonald told me about the tune:
“I’ve had people come up at shows with their brother’s dog tags who didn’t come back and they just hold them up while we played it at the show. You know it’s hard to keep it together for that one when people do that kind of stuff, and I think overall it’s been a pretty moving song”-Colin MacDonald
thanks for listening,
I’ve been interviewing musicians for a long time; nine years in case you are wondering. Sometimes it feels like nine seconds, sometimes it feels like 90 years, depends on what day you catch me. This job is really just a form of people watching and a successful interview has as much to do with being well researched as does the circumstance in which the interview takes place. Interviewing musicians backstage while they are running between media outlets, their seats, and the bar, at the biggest celebration of Canadian music is not exactly Charlie Rose territory, but that type of in-depth conversation is not really expected at the Juno’s.
The idea is to be prepared to chat with anyone, at any moment, and just hope that if Neil Young or Robbie Robertson decide to stop by for a chat you are mentally ready and not flustered by the fact that you just spent 10 minutes reading about Melanie Fiona because she was supposed to stop by first. You have to understand that every media outlet in Canada is back there hoping to grab a sound-bite and scoop the next media outlet and all the artists want to do is celebrate with their friends and family because they just won a Juno. For our part, we were not interested in scooping anyone or adding to the mad rush of competition. We just wanted to try and find a moment out of the madness to have a conversation, as short as it might have to be, and paint our own picture of the night.
Is it ideal? No. Is it enjoyable? Meh. Is it exciting? Absolutely. There is something exciting about trying to force interesting conversations with artists for five minutes at a time, every 5-10 minutes. I’ve never experienced speed dating but I would suggest that our backstage Juno experience is exactly like speed dating and lucky for me…I’ve dated most of these people before.
What you are seeing here is the raw and unedited interviews we managed to score and even though Neil Young and Robbie Robertson did not stop by, I did see them walk by and I’m kinda glad that’s all it was because I want my first date with those dudes to be a little more romantic and special, like a first date should always be.
Highlights you ask? Me trying to cheer Sean and Bob from Great Big Sea up after losing their 12th straight Juno, Daniel Lanois’s hat and confession that there is no rhyme or reason to how he has navigated his almost perfect career, Classified making it through my three minute questions, Blue Rodeo making it through my three minutes questions and Keshia Chante’s mouth answering the question, but her eyes wondering “why in God’s name at the Juno’s is this guy asking me about Minnie Mouse?”
But my favorite moment of the night was interviewing “New Artist of the Year” winner Meaghan Smith because it was her first Juno experience and we were her first interview after she won her first Juno. It’s about as honest as it gets in this industry, she is over the moon with excitement and cannot believe that she just won a Juno and it’s written all over her face. She is giddy in the way I assume most people are after a first date with me.
Speed dating is fun,
Blue Rodeo 1
Blue Rodeo 2
Buck 65 1
Buck 65 2
Daniel Lanois 1
Daniel Lanois 2
Great Big Sea 1
Great Big Sea 2