Classified - Hand Shakes And Middle Fingers

Smart, mature, literate: Classified's first album since 2009's Self Explanatory continues the Canadian rapper's over-arching development. This second major label release is another shift away from the "don't mess with me" manifesto he began over a decade ago. It's thoughtful, likeable and extremely well (self) produced. It's a lengthy affair but rarely self-indulgent.

If intro 'Ups and Downs', a heartfelt examination of trying to be a businessman and an artist while at the same time settling into the demands of family life, hurdles self-pity and mawkishness, it's a pattern that recurs throughout. 'High Maintenance' makes you wonder if we really do need another paean to the tedious weed but it's a rare low point and at least he acknowledges the downsides. Single 'That Ain't Classy' peddles cool grooves and, coupled with a savvy worldview ("We've lost faith in the lord / We don't go to church, we go to war"), Classified's self-examination rarely rankles. It's not an original manifesto but it's realised with honesty and wit. Recommended.



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