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Classified 

Self Explanatory

Classified's first major-label album certainly looks the part. The beautiful cover artwork by Justin Broadbent features a torn poster motif with the Enfield rapper staring defiantly outward. It's a striking image that promises big things. And for the most part, Self Explanatory delivers. The album features a narrative thread modelled after the Choose Your Own Adventure books; on certain numbered tracks titled "CYOA," the listener has a chance to maneuver Classified and pals through an average day. The gimmick works well the first few times ("CYOA2" depicts what might possibly be the most awesome stoned bike ride ever), but eventually you'll just get lazy and listen straight through. Luckily, the non-CYOA tracks hold up equally well. Classified continues to be an almost ridiculously likeable presence, shifting from fierce to self-deprecating to goofy on a dime. He brings surprising emotional heft to songs like "Inspiration," intoned over the beats of a fan who died in a car accident. The album also boasts the usual failsafe roster of guest artists---everyone from J Bru to Joel Plaskett to Royce Da 5'9" and Moka Only---and beats so clean they nearly sparkle. This is one album that doesn't need any stylistic quirks or fancy art to pass muster---it does the job on its own.

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