It was finally the weekend, and east coast rapper/Canadian icon Luke Boyd, known as Classified, hauled his Enfield, NS crew to our nations’ capital in support of his latest album, entitled Greatful. Supported by fellow Canadian rap-star SonReal, this fifth-to-last date of a substantial cross-country trek was witnessed by an excitable, sold-out crowd at Algonquin Commons Theatre.
Following an opening set from Toronto rapper JD Era, the Algonquin Commons stage was taken by force, as Vancouver’s SonReal and his skillful disc jockey DJ-Rich-A unleashed an artillery of energy into the well-receiving audience. From the very beginning of his set, SonReal – born Aaron Hoffman – seemed determined to show us “what the hell he [was] ‘bout to do right now”. Whirling and leaping over every inch of the stage [and beyond], the tornado-like performer encouraged the crowd’s participation countless times throughout the night, handing out high-fives left-and-right, and leading us in the singing of everyone’s favourite party anthem [I’m talking “Happy Birthday to You”] for a delighted audience-member. This two-man army did their job well; indeed, no hype man was needed, as SonReal delivered an energetic set full of inspirational lyrics and encouraging messages.
Shortly after nine-thirty, following an epic musical introduction from the ever-illustrious DJ IV, Classified and his Halflife Records entourage took to the stage to begin their well-endowed performance. The set, which was built upon numerous hits from Classified’s four most-recent, monumental albums, was exceptionally well executed, and surely satisfied both new fans and old.
This high-energy performance demonstrated Classified’s 21 years of experience, featuring precise lyrical ability, astounding stage-presence, and meticulously-timed ad-libs from his brother and hype-man Mike Boyd. Yet, although he is a veteran, Classified was not afraid to have some fun with the audience, and even got a little rebellious by encouraging folks in the main seating level to hop down to the floor – much, I am sure, to the security’s annoyance, but entirely to the crowd’s delight.
Through the theatre’s sound system, and with a three-piece band contributing to the sonance, Classified’s beats came across as grittier in this live setting, in contrast to the refined production of his records. Audience favourites included the bouncy hit “Inner Ninja”; the amusingly patriotic anthem “Oh…Canada”; and the decade-old “All About U”, for which Classified invited an eager audience member onstage to sing/rap with him.
At one point during the show – which was an all-ages deal – Classified peered into the audience, searching for the youngest fan. A father of three daughters himself, Luke Boyd sang rhymes about his everyday life on the East coast. One fascination I’ve always had with Classified’s music is that his lyrics make any biography unnecessary, as his verses are jam-packed with more information about himself than one could find by scouring the far reaches of the internet. In a way, this juxtaposition between humble, self-examining raps and the noise, crowds, and lights [beautifully arranged, by the way] of a sold-out rap concert make Classified’s act one of the most unique and sincere presentations in Canadian hip-hop music today.
The Nova Scotian star delivered a bold headlining performance, capping off a gratifying night for Ottawa’s rap music fans.