Classified on His New Memoir Off the Beat ’N Path: This book to me and my fans is more exciting than a new album
Off the Beat ’N Path
MacIntyre Purcell Publishing
Classified AKA Luke Boyd has had a storied career since having grown up in rural Nova Scotia. His honest lyricism has always told personal stories—about skateboarding and playing hockey or working his first job—and is now seen in his first book: a memoir called Off the Beat ‘N Path. He was generous enough to sit down and talk with Matthew Shaw for Atlantic Books Today about the book, as well as his new acoustic album and tour.
Atlantic Books Today: I think you are one of the few hip hop artists who write about real things, in a genre dominated by talk about sex and drugs.
Classified: In the mainstream, yeah [but] in hip hop you can talk about anything. That’s what made me fall in love with hip hop were songs that just weren’t about falling in love and falling out of love, like ‘oh shit you can write a song about the Maritimes or you can write about whatever,’ it gives you the option.
I was rapping what everyone else was [when] I was Sixteen: ‘I got my gun I was in the street.’ And Jorun [Bombay], who was my producer at the time said ‘you don’t have a gun’ and I said ‘I know this is rap and hip hop.’ Being a dumb teenager that’s just what I thought it was supposed to be, not really understanding the culture. Just seeing the Snoop Doggs and the gangsta rappers and loving the music in that style.
[Bombay] told me ‘write about your life.’ [Then] my music had an identity, like a kid rapping about the Maritimes and the shit he goes through and what he lives through … I’m an average Canadian … that is why my music works so good in Canada.
ABT: How do you stay creative in these times?
Classified: It’s hard to stay creative just sitting in your house and it’s starting to open up a little bit. Just living outside, that’s where my best ideas come out, not just sitting in my studio like ‘hey I got an idea.’ I find nothing good ever comes out of that. But it has definitely been hard.
The bonus of that has been working on an acoustic album and this book is, well, I never did this before. It’s been good that way and refreshing. It’s not like, ‘oh let’s do another album again’ and do what I normally do. It was a new avenue and it was a fresh exciting idea that kept me interested.
ABT: Since you are busy with the book and the album, do you have any new music on the way?
Classified: Nope! Not one song. I’m focused on the book and the acoustic album and the acoustic tour.
That’s how my mind works. If I start working on a new song and I like that new song I will get excited and be like ‘eh that other stuff can wait.’ … This book to me and my fans is more exciting than a new album. It tells stories that I couldn’t tell on my albums, and just for my hardcore fans—the ones that grew up with my music 10 years ago.
ABT: Do you have any stories that didn’t make it into the book?
Classified: There were hundreds. I came up with one yesterday. I was mowing my lawn down by the pond. When I was 19/20 years old, I was with my girlfriend, who is my wife now. We went to a psychic, which back then I didn’t believe in and now I kind of do.
The psychic told some basic stuff. I wasn’t doing music the same level I am now. I was still starting out. And the psychic said ‘your boyfriend is going to be very successful with what he does, you’re gonna have a property with a waterfront,’ which we don’t have, but we have a pond in the front, so I was ‘okay it’s kind of the same thing.’
So, I’m not a big believer in telling people their future, but that popped into my head. That happened 20 years ago but I’m here living pretty comfortable and successful in a job that most Nova Scotians don’t do.
ABT: In Off the Beat ’N Path you talk about opening for [American rapper] Ludacris; you were told to not be so good.
Classified: That wasn’t Ludacris doing that. That was just management … I could never do that [to another artist]. I’d be too insecure if I did that.
ABT: You also write that you skateboarded, and you still skate. Who are you a fan of? And can you still do tricks?
Classified:Yeah, I still skate and know a couple tricks; I’m afraid to fall now that I’m older because it hurts to fall. I’m a fan of TJ Rogers and Steve Caballero and all the 80s skaters since I was 10 years old.
TJ is from Canada and the only reason I know him is I met him in Calgary. He is doing a thrasher skate film and I’ve been checking his stuff out. He’s crazy.
ABT: Have you ever been starstruck by a musician or other celebrity?
Classified: Snoop Dogg was next level for me. If I was on my death bed and wanted to do something with one person, it was Snoop, and I got to do that. We were face to face. Whenever you do collaborations, it’s not face to face. When you want to work with someone, you email their manager to send their verse. You get it and put it back together in the studio. With [Snoop], it just worked out, hanging with Snoop Dogg in Truro making a song. That’s just bucket-list shit.
ABT: What advice do you have for artists coming up?
Classified: Two things I always say is be yourself, find your identity. … And the best one I always say is tour. Do shows.
[It’s] hard right now with COVID, but there are two million artists right now on the internet, on Spotify and YouTube, that are trying to get you to listen. If you can go to someone’s town and play in front of 100 people, they are gonna remember that show better than any playlist you are on or [any] YouTube channel they find you on.