After performing at two of the last four Juno Awards, East Coast rapper Classified was pretty sure he was going to have to take this year off.
The 36-year-old has a lengthy Canadian tour on both sides of this year’s gala, to be held at Winnipeg’s MTS Centre. Sure, he fortuitously has one night off and it’s the same evening as the March 30 gala, but when Juno organizers reached out to him roughly two weeks ago about co-hosting the show with fellow nominees Serena Ryder and Johnny Reid, he was nearly certain he wasn’t going to be able to do it.
Rapper Classified will co-host the Junos this year in Winnpeg. — Photo by The Canadian Press
But organizers “really wanted to make it happen,” he said. So it’s happening, though with scant time for preparation or rehearsal, the “Inner Ninja” rapper will indeed have to be quick and nimble on his feet.
“I’ve seen what these Juno hosts go through — they’re usually there at least Thursday or Friday, rehearsing, going through all this stuff,” the affable MC said down the line from Enfield, N.S., on Wednesday morning.
“I’m flying in either Saturday night or Sunday morning and we’ll figure it out the day before and go for it.”
The rushed nature of the gig, he muses, might actually settle his nerves.
“(It) might be better for me,” he said. “Because I don’t know about this hosting stuff. I don’t know how good I am at hosting. I make music.
“But I think it’ll be fun.”
He’ll have help, of course. And it’s the first time in recent memory the Junos have opted for a host-by-committee approach.
The event has recently been led by such hosts as crooner Michael Buble, Toronto rap royalty Drake and hammy “Star Trek” alumnus William Shatner, while starry hosts of Junos past include Shania Twain, Nelly Furtado and Alanis Morissette.
For their part, Reid, Ryder and Classified have carved out significant Juno success in recent years. The trio of platinum-selling artists has collected 35 career Juno nominations and eight wins, while Ryder is one of this year’s marquee nominees with five nods. Montreal’s Arcade Fire leads with six nominations.
Classified is a two-time nominee this year after securing his first win last year, for rap recording of the year for his aforementioned multi-platinum David Myles collaboration “Inner Ninja.” They even performed the tune at last year’s ceremony.
Oddly, the same song is nominated again this time out, but for single of the year. Double-dips like that are possible because there’s always a small overlap between Junos eligibility periods, and “Inner Ninja” was serendipitously released during that grey area.
Still, even Classified — whose real name is Luke Boyd — admits he was a little mystified at first.
“It’s kind of weird. Even when I found out, I was like, ‘How the hell did that happen?’” he said with a laugh. “Basically, ‘Inner Ninja’ was only out for a month or two last year when the Junos happened, so it did a little bit, but it didn’t do half of what it’s done over the year.
“It went on to sell a half a million copies and they just couldn’t ignore that. ‘OK, this is the biggest-selling Canadian song last year, and we have to nominate it in more than just the rap categories.’ ... (But) it kind of threw me off guard too.”
He’ll open the show with a joint performance with Serena Ryder combining two of their songs — the two artists were scheduled to discuss those plans in a conference call later Wednesday — and he says they’d actually bandied about ideas for a collaboration even before the Junos co-hosting gig came up.
Otherwise, what can viewers expect to see from Classified as Junos host?
“I have no idea,” he said, again laughing. “I don’t know anything. That’s the crazy thing about it. I figure they’re going to start sending over some ideas of what we want to do.
“This stuff is fun for me,” he added. “This shouldn’t be work. ... This is going out to celebrate Canada’s music and the year. Just go out and have fun doing it.”
—By Nick Patch