From the country that brought you maple syrup, ice hockey and South Park comes Classified’s freshest album, Handshakes and Middlefingers. Luke Boyd aka Classified comes at you with fifteen weighty tracks examining the idea of ‘balance’ between family life and artistic responsibility. This is Luke’s second major studio album but actually his 14th in a career spanning more than ten years. Since his debut LP, Time’s Up Kid, he has gone from strength to strength in creating diverse sounds that stand head and shoulders above the plethora of hip-hop honeys cavorting around in Beamaz or reclining on the Benz.
The hotly-anticipated album opens with “Ups and Downs.” The video shows him sitting at a table suffering from what I can only presume is writer’s block. Scenes of family life accompany a slow and steady discussion of how the family divide domestic chores, so that he is able to be a good dad and still produce work of this quality. Classified and his catchy, borderline popsicle choruses find themselves on an industrial site for “That Ain’t Classy,” with images of sparks, fireworks and an orchestra thrown in for visual stimulation. He is a man that likes to dance that fine line between working the ‘hidden’ scene and the understandable aspirations for mainstream, pop-esque recognition.
For me, the videos add a great depth to the meaning of his lyrics. He has often been nominated for Juno and Much Music awards and in 2009 was honoured with “Best Hip-Hop Video” for the direction in “Anybody Listening.” Greater depth comes from his ability to “real-talk” with frank accounts of his daily trials and tribulations. The rest of the album is thoroughly worked with elegant female vocals and impressive instrumentals, from the bassy beat of “Passion” to the flutes in “Maybe It’s Just Me” to the jazzy tones of “Young Soul” looking back on his day as a youth as his journey to adulthood via the divorce of an uncle and the death of his grandparents. A solid album overall.