Things have changed lately for Kevin Vincent, a 25-year-old resident of Montréal’s Laval neighbourhood, who goes by the name High Klassified since he began producing in 2011.
Highly aware of the impact of “Comin Out Strong,” the huge hit by American rapper Future and Canadian pop star The Weeknd, which he co-wrote, the producer has now understood the importance of voices and lyrics. “I suddenly got a lot more public attention,” he says. “The thing is, a lot of people liked this collab, but didn’t necessarily like the rest of my repertoire, which is mostly instrumental. To them, the absence of lyrics is a damper.”
Far from thinking of himself as an avid music lover, High Klassified still wanted to pursue his own musical curiosity, if only to make his music catchier. Without wanting to please the Top 40 crowd at all costs, he nevertheless opened his musical horizons to the likes of Drake, Migos, and other heavy hitters of the genre. That appealed to him motre than diving blindly ahead into songwriting sessions sandwiched in between gaming, his favourite hobby.
“It’s mostly thanks to my friends and my girlfriend that I discovered a lot of new music,” says High Klassified. “I’m on the road a lot lately, so I like listening to other people’s Spotify playlists. I wanted my music to be featured on playlists, and shared by word of mouth, things like that.”
Hence the idea of asking New York-based singer and Fool’s Gold label-mate Leaf, and Montréal-based rapper Zach Zoya, to collaborate on two of Kanvaz’s songs. “Initially, I wanted to work with big names, but it’s just too much work chasing them. I didn’t want to wait three months for a single verse that I might end up finding so-so,” says High Klassified. Prior to this EP, he’d only once collaborated with a rapper (Mick Jenkins) on one of his solo projects. “I chose to work with people closer to me, and have more control over the creative process. My goal was to make the best possible music with what I have. But I mostly wanted to surf on the success of ‘Comin Out Strong’ as soon as I could.”
He gave himself a little over a year to come up with what he felt was his best material to date. Initially known for the dark, bass-heavy trap aesthetics of his first EP, Flexury (2012), High Klassified later demonstrated that he’s also a master of ethereal-yet-danceable atmospheres on his subsequent projects, notably on Kronostasis, which earned him the Electronic Music SOCAN Award in 2016. Therein lies the diversity of musical directions he wanted to explore on his fifth release. “Kanvaz is a painting, a representation of all the canvasses I can paint on,” he says. “It’s 100% my art. I wanted to show I can adapt to a whole range of BPMs, from trap to house.”
Despite a hard drive theft that hindered the pace of his work in early 2017, High Klassified clearly enjoyed going back to this a more intimate method of songwriting. Especially after 2016, where he put his art to the service of others, frequently travelling to Toronto to build a relationship with The Weeknd, whom he now sends tracks to directly via SMS.
“I much prefer working on personal projects, because all the credit is mine,” he says. “[Collaborations with big-name artists] is mostly good for my portfolio. It also boosts my credibility in the biz,” says the producer, who’s also created tracks for esteemed France-based rappers such as Nekfeu and Joke.
Of course, this acquired credibility comes with a certain amount of pressure, and High Klassifed feels it more and more. “As soon as you do a music placement with a big name, all eyes are on you, so you need to feed that hype,” he says. “I’m constantly stressed out about sending beats to people, not knowing if they’ll use them or not. But you know what? I won’t get into that too much, because the more I talk about it, the less it happens…”
Highly secretive about his upcoming projects, he’s currently planning his next tour, which hits Europe for a few weeks at the end of the summer. But more often than not, this proud Laval homeboy ends up homesick. “After three weeks of touring Asia, recently, I just couldn’t take it anymore,” he says. “All I wanted to do was come home!” laughs the young man, who still lives with his mom, and has built a professional studio in the basement of their house.
Yet High Klassified wants to spend a few months in Los Angeles, soon, to participate in some recording sessions. He doesn’t close any doors, except those of Montréal. “My girlfriend lives in the Canadiens tower, and that’s a real headache to me,” he says. “All that noise and entertainment bothers me. In Laval, I can concentrate on music and think about nothing else. That’s how I manage to create.”