He walks into the Red Dog Tavern in Peterborough casually sporting a grey hoodie and sweatpants combination, and wearing an Edison cannabis company hat.
Award-winning Canadian rapper Classified, whose real name is Lucas Boyd, is currently on The Canadian Classic Tour to promote his new album Tomorrow could be the day things change.
Classified has been grinding in the hip hop music scene for nearly 25 years. Now 40, he says his values have evolved.
He says he writes songs about what he personally goes through but also what he sees unfolding in society. With each album he is less afraid to take risks.
Powerless is a song he says weaves together stories of sexual abuse and missing and murdered Indigenous women and children.
“I’m sorry that she is affected. I did not ever intend to hurt anyone.”
“How in the name of God, could you think that she wouldn’t be affected?! How?! You do not have no idea how devastated we are feeling because of what you did.” – recording at the beginning of the song Powerless
This impactful recording is between a church minister and an angry and hurt mother confronting him about the alleged childhood abuse of her daughter, Marianne Ashfield French.
Classified added it to the beginning of his song Powerless because, as he told Ashfield French, the recording sets the tone for the song.
Ashfield French, a fan turned friend, initially contacted Classified after he became vocal on social media about another story of abuse in Newfoundland. She shared her experience with him and sent the audio recording he later used in the song.
“I think it’s resonating with people because a lot of people don’t rap or sing or make songs about stuff like that,” says Classified. “Whether it’s missing Indigenous women or it’s child abuse or whatever it is.”
Before she reached out to the artist on Facebook with her story, Ashfield French didn’t know she and the artist were born on the same day, in the same hospital in Enfield, N.S.
In the Powerless music video, the rapper chose to include Indigenous musicians and dancers. To bring light to Indigenous issues, he boldly shows images of people who have gone missing or been murdered.
Before he explored the heavy topic of abuse, he says he didn’t realize how often it happens.
According to Statistics Canada, it is estimated there are 460,000 sexual assaults in Canada each year. A staggering number considering many cases are never reported.
Ashfield French says she is touched because Classified went to bat for her when she feels the police and church did not. She was struck by his desire to make right what he perceives as wrong. She says he went above and beyond to try to help her.
“When he says ‘I wish I could do more than write a song’, he truly means that,” reflects Ashfield French. When the song came out, she was able to make peace with her past. “I not only felt powerful, I felt free knowing the man who abused me must be feeling pretty powerless.”
Powerless has touched many people, it’s palpable when fans hear it live.
Ashfield French was in the audience when Classified performed at a night club in Calgary recently. She says listening to this song brings up mixed emotions, especially hearing the pain in her mother’s voice. She was stunned to see the audience’s reaction.
“I looked around at the crowd and there were so many people crying. It felt good because it’s helping,” says Ashfield French.
Finding success doesn’t mean you’re rich / It means you found your happiness – lyrics from Fallen
Throughout his rollercoaster ride of a career, Classified says even when times were tough, he never wanted to give up and walk away from his childhood dream or let his fans down.
I tried to walk away from it, but I heard that voice in my head / Saying please, don’t stop – lyrics from Don’t stop
Connecting to his peers and audience is at the forefront of his musical mind.
He says he likes collaborations with other artists because not only is the process fun, it also gives him better perspective and fresh ideas.
He has worked with fellow Canadian talents David Myles and Ria Mae. He says working with Snoop Dogg was one of the highlights of his career.
Backstage in Peterborough, Classified talks about everything from marijuana legalization to encouraging people to be themselves. Mid-conversation, legendary rapper Maestro Fresh Wes strolls by and enthusiastically gives Classified a handshake.
During this tour, the rapper asked fans on social media which local band should open the show.
“It brings the community together, it makes the hip hop scene more interesting and [makes] people pay attention to the show and what’s going on,” Classified says.
His fans also keep him motivated and amaze him with their loyalty.
In October, Classified signed a female fan’s arm. She told him she intended to have it tattooed. The next day, he was shocked to learn she had followed through with her promise to permanently ink his signature on her body.
The tattoo artist, Jay Ivaree, says seeing the celebrity repost her work on Instagram was very exciting because it was the first time something like this has ever happened to her.
Classified’s six-week Canadian tour started in Kingston and ends in Montreal on Nov. 17, with 25 big cities and small towns in between.
“Every small town is very similar,” says Classified, a self-described small-town east coaster boy at heart.
He made the conscious choice to keep this tour local to Canada. He says he is at a point in his career where he is comfortable enough to do so even though he smiled reflecting back to the days in Europe, on the road with his friends in a minivan.
When the concert series wraps, Classified says he has no idea what’s next and he adds he likes the ‘not knowing’ factor. He muses he may just pick up and go to Japan with his family for two to three months.
“It’s the simple things like not having to work a nine to five. I’m pretty lucky I can just do whatever I want every day, fortunately I like doing what I do so it’s keeps moving,”
He divides his time at home between writing songs and making beats in his studio while being a present husband and father to his three children.
Tomorrow could be the day things change – album title
This is certainly a hopeful and ambitious title, one the rapper says lives up to its name because it is his best work yet.
“I think there’s stuff there for everybody whether you’re into hip hop [or not] there’s still song writing on there that I’m going to talk about s**t that might be relatable to someone who knows nothing about hip hop, just real-life s**t, I just think it’s universal,” Classified says.