[Review] As Nate and Bahá See It: Classified – Toronto x London

Here’s a fun fact: Classified has been interviewed on TCUS more times than any other artist we have worked with (we now have five Class interviews in total!) So long as actions speak louder than words, which is a philosophy we tend to subscribe to ’round here, then Classy is one of our favorite artists. Understandably. We have yet to release the footage, but when Class dropped through London on 2011’s Handshakes and Middle Fingers tour, we held a paintball contest where two lucky winners got the chance to turn Class into a technicolour dreamcoat.

In addition to that craziness, we decided to do something a little different with our regular concert reviews this time around– we had one of our Toronto writers Nate Martin review Class’s show at The Sound Academy, and one of our London writers Bahá El-Hajar review the subsequent show at London Music Hall. You can read their takes back to back below to see what the programming differences and effects were between city stops, and to see how and where Nate and Baha’s opinions were similar and diverged (Nate and Baha were not acquainted and did not discuss their reviews until after submission). Lessons learned: Don’t mess with concert energy, if you don’t know what the “1’s and 2’s” are you’re straight NOT LEGIT, “The Maritimes” are <3ved, and Class is a bona fide show boat. –Kara-Lis Coverdale

Toronto, March 26, Sound Academy: On the third stop of his Canadian tour, 7-time Juno nominee Classified pulled out all the stops on the eve of the Juno Awards. Classified was supported by Duck Down Records duo Kidz in the Hall and the legendary Chocolate Boy Wunda, Pete Rock.

Kidz started off the show to a surprisingly packed house, and delivered a hype, up-tempo show to an uncommonly receptive Screwface Capital crowd.  Their last jam, “Driving Down the Block” (inspired by Masta Ace Inc’s 1994 classif ‘Born to Roll”) was banged out by producer Double O on his Alesis drum pad and spit by emcee Naledge.  This jam was the highlight of their dope set.

Up next was DJ Pete Rock, who didn’t waste a second getting into bangers. Gangstarr’s “Just to Get A Rep” and “Mass Appeal” gave way to a hype “Welcome Home Prodigy” Mobb Deep sequence.  Throughout his performance, Pete saluted fallen greats J Dilla, hip-hop’s most recent loss Nate Dogg, and the aforementioned Guru of Gangstarr.  He also showcased his cutting skills, slicing up records with signature style, and providing Classified with a fully engaged, amped crowd.

When the Nova Scotia emcee took the stage, he opened with the familiar claps of 06’s “Find Out” and received a raucous ovation from the partisan crowd.  His set continued with “Hard to Be Hip-hop” and “Young Soul,” the first cut from the night taken from Handshakes and Middle Fingers which dropped just four days before the show. “The Maritimes” was a crowd favorite given East-coast was in the building, as was “The Hangover” which are lyrics East coasters can appreciate. To follow that slow jam, Classy picked the party back up with his 1st album single “That Ain’t Classy.” I gained a new-found appreciation for this synth-driven jam as it’s surely meant to be heard in a packed venue at high volume.  Fans were then graced with “Quit While You’re Ahead” featuring a live performance by Choclair on his performance.  A lucky young lady from the crowd then joined Classified on stage for 2007’s “All About You.” Class then did a tribute to his influences, including ODB’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” “OPP,” and somewhat unexpectedly, ACDC’s “Thunderstruck.” My favorite jam on his new record was up next, “Danger Bay.” Anyone who has grown up in Canada has to remember the theme song.

The rest of the set list included “High School Behavior,” “Don’t Mean to Be a Problem,” “Maybe It’s Just Me” “High School Maintenance,” and 2011 Juno-nominated for Single of the Year “Oh Canada.” For his encore, Class did “Unusual,” then tore through 8 classic tracks in 8 minutes.  All in all, Class put on a dope show.  The tempo was a little wavy, particularly when the energy from uptempo tracks was abruptly disrupted by slow jams.  But since this was necessary for the high percentage of ladies in the audience, however, no complaints from me.

Once Class wrapped up, Pete Rock took over the back room and spun past 2 AM. Unfortunately, only a handful of people stuck around to appreciate his legendary talent on the 1’s and 2’s. If you get the chance to catch Pete, don’t sleep: without him and his peers, even Classified would not be the producer that he is. —Nate Martin

London, March 31, London Music Hall: Just eight days before he whipped through London, Classified had released his fourteenth album, Handshakes and Middle Fingers. Yes, fourteenth! Dude stays on the grind and has come a long way from 1995’s Time’s Up, Kid. Classified was supported by DJ IV on the 1’s and 2’s and Duck Down Records duo Kidz in The Hall as well as Half-Life’s very own Kayo and J-Bru.

Kayo kicked off the show, hyping up the crowd with a very energetic set.  Originally from St. Lucia, Kayo is currently a university student in Halifax where he was picked up by Classified’s Half Life label.  It was the young MC’s first tour, and he didn’t dissapoint– the crowd was fully engaged by the end of his set.

Kidz in the Hall, a duo consisting of Naledge and Double-O hailing from NYC and Chicago respectively, were next to take the stage.  Their set included “Jukebox,” “Love Hangover,” and a couple tracks off their March 7th release Land of Make Belief. This was their first Canadian tour, and they kept a consistent tempo and fired up the crowd for J-Bru.  J-Bru, a fellow MC and long time friend of Classified was next to take the stage.  His charismatic set included his rendition of Dr. Dre’s “Kush,” “You Ain’t Black Enough” (produced by Classified), and “Moving On.” The opening acts left the crowd fired up and fully engaged for the main man.

When Class finally got on stage, he opened up with “Find Out,” way back from ’06. Then, when the crowd was the rowdiest it had been all night, Class continued his set which included “Hard to Be Hip-Hop” and “Young Soul,” from Handshakes and Middle Fingers. “The Maritimes” was up next, and it felt like the entire crowd sang along word for word.  Then Kayo came back on stage to perform “The Hangover” alongside Class, but the song felt really out of place when he followed it with “That Ain’t Classy.” It’s a great joint, but I don’t know why he placed such a slow jam between two of the rowdiest songs of the night.  Class then brought up a lucky lady who had been singing along the entire show to join him, while performing “All About You.” The 2011 Juno nominated single of the year “Oh Canada” was the last song of the set, right before he did a 7 minute mix of 7 classic tracks for his encore.

DJ IV spun a few tracks as the crowd dispersed, and all in all it was a pretty solid show.  Aside from the poorly chosen order of the set list which dispersed the tempo of the performance at times, it was one hell of a show that left us Londoners satisfied. —Bahá El-Hajar