Classified - Hand Shakes & Middle Fingers

HipHopDX Editor's Rating:

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 3.5
  • 5

Average User Rating:


14 people have voted.

5 is the most popular ranking.

11 people gave it a perfect five.

Cast your vote »

Handshakes and Middle Fingers proves to be an overall solid effort, with varying production styles that keep it refreshing from start to finish.

The replay value of rap songs can be influenced by many factors, including quality of production, lyrical talent, content, and how the various parts fit together to make a cohesive final product. Although radio stations steadily repeat tracks that may have great production (and maybe even some admirable lyricism), the content usually ends up in the “tried and true” category of topics that the majority of people can’t relate to - unless one has taken up a career as a hustler or exotic dancer. When a listener can find common ground with the main point a song is trying to make, that understanding will resonate with a listener and make the track hit them in a more personal way. This concept is something that Canadian emcee Classified seems to master in his latest album Handshakes and Middle Fingers, filled from start to finish with his perspective on real life issues to which the common middle class citizen can relate.

“Ups and Downs,” the introductory track, instantly draws in Classified’s audience as he introspectively admits some of his doubts or flaws over a melodic instrumental sans percussive elements. He then launches them full speed into the high energy “That Ain’t Classy,” letting listeners know he’s not the stereotypical flashy rapper. Class maintains this same level of honesty through the end of Handshakes and Middle Fingers, especially on “Passion” (which explores the forces that motivate him to keep following his dream), “Young Soul” (focusing on a man coming to terms with the fact that he’s aging), and “Step It Up“ (a how-to guide on making it in the music business).

Handshakes and Middle Fingers features few guest appearances, which is logical for a project so obviously personal, but the handful that do appear are worth noting. Slaughterhouse member Joe Budden stops by on “Unusual” to represent Shady 2.0, and trades verses with Classified over a piano-driven beat with a smoothly sung chorus, as he raps, “my sermon won’t be over ‘til church ends, my first Benz made me see I had the worst friends, meanwhile thought I was hangin’ with the same men, success ain’t never change me, but it changed them.” Underground heavyweight Brother Ali shows up to assist on “Maybe It’s Just Me,” which happens to be one of the more unique songs of the album as far as production is concerned. As a flute melody over Indian Tabla drums drive the song, Ali shows some versatility and switches up his flow a bit from his norm, hitting a zone for a few bars that could even be described as having rapid fire, aggressive delivery rather than his soulful usual.

Handshakes and Middle Fingers proves to be an overall solid effort, with varying production styles that keep it refreshing from start to finish, and the kind of honesty expressed through confidently delivered lyricism that would be very difficult not to respect. Juno-nominated Classified shows that Canada’s Hip Hop scene is alive and well, and reminds out-of-towners that it may be worth grabbing that passport to take a trip to the country to scope out the scene firsthand.

Purchase Hand Shakes & Middle Fingers by Classified


  • J.P.

    one of the best albums of all time.

  • Mike Meraz

    WOw this album is a classic and I'm only 9 songs deep in it Lol.. This is the first that I've heard of this dude..he's dope as hell though..any other albums you'll could recommend from "Him"??? DX?

  • AM33

    Passion - 'made it in the game, never dissed rappers or had the it factor...' - great line!

  • sincerejk

    pretty solid. class is a real cool and humble guy. i smoked a blunt with him once when i was going to school in halifax. good peoples

  • Aenima

    I live in Italy and i have just recently discovered Classified, 'cos here no one knows him. I listen to (almost) everything, from punk to darkwave, from hip hop to indierock, and i really think that Classy has it all. Gorgeous beats, a precise and effective (and pop!) sense of the melody, humble and personal lyrics, intelligence, a lot of dignity, big hooks and a a great flow. He deeply respects the listener, and does it thru great (and yes, catchy) songs. Big ups for Classy. A perfect five, if you ask me.

  • casper21

    great record, listened to it twice over, gonna buy a copy. Solid production, love the limited but very solid guest features.

  • Jah

    Loved the album like always. Class brings it every time. Every album of his has been a classic.

  • Anonymous

    I've been listening to Class since "Hitch Hikin Music" dude just has sick flow. Like the article says, people can relate to him. Not everyone makes millions of dollars and is pouring bottles of Merlot on bitches at the club every night. Classified "keeps it classy" and is consistently fire. Canada hip-hop might not be quite on point with American hip-hop, but people like Kardinal Offishall, K'naan, k-os, and Classified let you know their shit is alive and well; and even though I'm not a fan of "Drizzy Drake" or even Young Money for that matter, Drake's probably had the most breakthrough success with the American mainstream. In my opinion that's a shame since the aforementioned people make Drake seem like a toddler lyrically, but whatever. That's my 2 cents, take it, hate it, or leave it.

  • Caption

    Normally canadian rap sort of struggles, but Classified (produces everything himself) is the only consistant thing. Very solid album. Like the review says you can keep listening to it. I'm Canadian and think this actually stacks up there with the big boys.

  • Ralph Rotten

    I stumbled upon this release and I am impressed. Canadian hip-hop has that 90's classic feel I love. Classified is a gifted lyricist and the production on this release is top notch.

  • j2dar0c

    great album! 5/5 all aroundd bout time canadian hip hop gets some serious recognition! it aint dead it lives in the north!

  • ps

    we have too accept new HHDX rating system all mediocre albums like Brotha Lynch, Atmosphere, Blueprint, Serge Severe and many more has instant 4 stars... Absollutely brillaint LPs like Oneirology and Handshake and Middle fingers, Bad Time zoo has instant 3,5 stars just deal with it guys

    • Mike Meraz

      Blueprint's album is a classic. And you should listen to Atmosphere's album one more time. Shyt is amazing. Classic. Just like their last album.

    • gmiller

      @The.Watcher obviously he knows what hes talking about as hes referring to slug, who is the rapper of the 'group'. i felt their last album was below par. handshakes and middle fingers was amazing.

    • buckeyewu

      IF you're as old enough as me, you are old enough to remember the "mic" ratings in the Source magazine in the 90s. At least DX doesnt seem to be biased by region. I swear, the Source used to give cats an extra mic just for being from NY. I love NY till i die but I cant stand any ratings that are biased towards a region or style of music.

    • Ralph Rotten

      I agree with you completely. Most albums on here are over rated when it comes to the user rankings. I do disagree with you however in regards to Atmosphere's new album as that is the album of the year so far IMO.Props to the editor, who does a nice job with those reviews and ratings.

    • The.Watcher

      While I agree that Family Sign was a bit blah, it's still not a mediocre effort in the least. Blueprint is awesome and so is Brotha Lynch. Classified is pretty dope but I don't feel that Oneirology was that good of an album. PS Atmos is not a "he", it's a "they". Shows how much you know.

    • ps

      Natti and Deacon are Black .... and I from Czech Republic i dont care about if someone is white or black...dont have that "USA people" issues. If White rapper made great album i love it same from black rappers... p.s. Atmosphere is white ... dont really feel his last record

    • rodney

      sounds like you've got a raging boner for white rappers.

    • McNulty

      Seems like every Hip-Hop site gives mediocre albums 4/5 these days, like 4/5 is the new benchmark. Just sayin

  • Jasper Van 't Hoff

    Def worth better than 3.5! Love the song 'Unusual'!

  • canadiankid

    Class is amazing, its too bad he doesn't get more plays in the states. Really just seems like an all around, classy, nice guy. Raps about things that matter in society.