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Posted on June 16th, 2011 (10:00 am) by Joseph Weathered

Hailing from Nova Scotia (?!), Canadian emcee Classified releases his 14th studio album (his second on a major label), Handshakes and Middle Fingers. Coming off of one big hit, "Oh Canada", which catapulted him into semi-stardom, Classified recognizes the difficulty of going from underground nothing to mainstream something on the first track "Ups and Downs", a great, honest opener about what's going on RIGHT NOW in his life.

Handshakes seems like the piece of work one does after finally receiving some long-earned success; the album feels self-conscious over all the the new attention. In the rock/electro-tinged production "That Ain't Classy", Classified rails against the folks who changed once they get a single: "The radio is putting me on and I got a record label that footin me on but I still stay classy." It's a declaration from the man; a foothold into what he once was and what he is now. Everyone gets some sort of success at some point in their lives; it's all about what you do when you get there. Classified, despite all of the misgivings he has about being in his new spot, makes very, very single-oriented hip hop. All of the music is very clean, has good production and Classifieds' flow and delivery is solid. Handshakes sounds like an album that has a lot of great, meaningful lyrics and said lyrics are placed in front of some well done, professional-sounding production that comes off like everything else out there.

That's not to say that the album is common place; "Unusual" is a unique piece with almost lite-rock beats and production, with special guest Joe Budden joining Class to speak on the dark and light parts of life. Every part of the song works good across a broad audience, but does the fact that most of the songs on here fit that line mean that the impact of the music is deluded?

Most of the issue with the album is that while Classified chooses to display himself as a true defender of hip hop, he's making a lot of stereotypical sounding hip hop. Constantly reminding everyone about how he's not going to change now that he got successful on a few tracks, then falling into the usual hip hop tropes, like clubbing and weed smoking on other tracks. The guy's got a lot of material in his personal life, but there has to be a difficultly in trying to balance the interesting personal life stuff with PG-rated "bitches and hoes and we're up in the club poppin bottles" stuff. Classifieds' best option is to create more music like the track "Maybe it's Just Me", a quirky production of flutes and DJ scratching with endurance-testing flow. If he goes down that road, it might work; if not, it means we're probably in for a lot of middle-of-the-road songs that wind up on sports video games and adverts.

Track List:

1. (Intro) Up and Down
2. That Ain't Classy
3. High Maintenance
4. Unusual (feat Joe Budden)
5. Danger Bay
6. Run With Me
7. The Day Doesn't Die
8. Old Soul
9. Passion
10. The Don't Know (feat Mike Boyd and White Mic)
11. Step, Step
12. Stay Cool
13. Give It To You
14. Desensitized
15. The Hangover (feat Kayo and Jim Cuddy from Blue Rodeo)

Classified: Handshakes and Middle Fingers
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

54 / 100
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