Classified, the Juno Award-winning hip hop artist whose “Inner Ninja” hit has been released internationally by Atlantic Records, has the kind of persona that resonates with kids. The 35-year-old married father has made visits to youth shelters in his native Halifax, Nova Scotia and Barrie, Ontario, and just listens to the kids, doesn’t try to set them on some kind of path.
“It’s cool to just talk to them, say ‘What’s up?’ sit there and keep it honest with them,” Classified — whose real name is Luke Boyd — tells Samaritanmag. “I think they just appreciate you taking the time.
“Most of them don’t ask for advice and you don’t want to go in there preaching to people at all. You just want to relate to them almost on a real level, to sit there and talk and walk away from them and have them go, ‘That man was fuckin’ cool,’ and then listen to the music and get something positive out of it.”
On Youth Haven Barrie’s Facebook page, there are photos of Classified’s visit back in March and posts thanking Ryan (no last name given) for arranging it and getting the 19+crew into the show. The emergency youth shelter provides food, shelter and support for homeless and abused teens aged 16-21.
“The one in Barrie was a last minute thing,” Classified recalls. “We met somebody at soundcheck who said, ‘We want you to come down and meet these kids’ and we all said, ‘Let’s go.’
“I think my music is positive and that young kids if they listen to it, not that it’s gonna help but it steers them in a more positive way sometimes. When you see kids at these places, they’re not much different than I was when I was 17, 18, 19 years old. Like when I was 16, I wanted to have a gun. I thought I was something I never was, you know what I mean? I thought this is what you had to do, you had to grow up and, I don’t know, a bunch of stupid shit.”
To clarify, Classified was never in a gang and never possessed a gun. He is just expressing how that lifestyle seemed cool and grown up when he was attending Hants East Rural High School in Milford Station, Nova Scotia, and even before then. He started Half Life Records in 1995 when he was just 17 and released his first hip hop album.
“I was just a kid who loved rap but before I realized what hip hop was about. It was more like, ‘Okay, I gotta dress like this. I gotta act like this.’ Not to say I ever had a gun or anything like that, but we definitely rolled with our little gangs and sometimes you’d almost push to have a lifestyle like that. Then, as you get a couple of years older, you’re like, ‘Fuck it, that’s stupid. Why would I ever act like that or ever want that in my life?’”
The fact the kids he’s met in the shelters are actually in the shelter is an admirable step in the right direction, where social workers and other experts can help them. “Our Mission at Youth Haven is to serve the emergency shelter needs of at-risk youth by providing a safe, supportive, healthy environment that encourages personal growth and positive change,” it says on its web site.
“Just the fact that they even come into it shows that they care about something,” Classified says of the youth there.
He doesn’t know of any immediate results due to his visit and talks with the kids, but he says he receives emails all the time from people whose lives he has affected through his lyrics.
“Mostly through a song that I wrote called ‘All About You,’ which I put out six years ago,” he says. The video for the song has a million views on YouTube (see video below).
“I had one guy email me that he was driving to go to this shack that he hangs out and drinks and kill himself and ‘All About You’ came on the radio and he heard it and just broke down crying. He sat on the side of the road and just decided not to do that. I get shivers now just talking about it.
“It’s just about make yourself happy, don’t worry about everybody else. It’s about you. Everybody can tell you what you’re supposed to do, what you’re supposed to act like, but you can see bums in the street who have a happier life than some of these corporate rich people who can not even smile . It’s just a real life song.”
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