As Maestro Fresh Wes plans to celebrate his 30th anniversary by releasing a new album `Champagne Campaign’ the Toronto native is humbled by how much progress Canadian Rap/Hip-Hop artists have achieved over the past three decades.
Known as `The Godfather of Canadian Rap’, it was Maestro Fresh Wes who got the domestic scene rolling back in 1989, when “Let Your Backbone Slide” off his debut album release `Symphony In Effect’ charted on both sides of the border.
Now an accomplished television and movie actor (yes that is him starring with Gerry Dee in the Mr. D television series), the Maestro is back in business with two albums in just over two years (`Coach Fresh’ was released in 2017) which also fuelled a major small venue concert tour with Nova Scotia’s Classified and fellow Torontonian Saukrates.
“This is the best record I have ever put out,” enthused Maestro Fresh Wes. “I wanted to celebrate three decades in this business by promoting my own evolution and I think I’ve achieved that with the 11 tracks on this album. I’ve fused interludes, intertwined different genres of music, I think I have achieved something noteworthy.”
The likes of Drake, Weeknd and even Justin Bieber may have dominated recent US Rap charts but anyone familiar with the domestic rap scene will acknowledge that Maestro Fresh Wes was instrumental in giving this scene a foundation.
“I think I have inspired my community and my community has inspired me,” Maestro explained. “When I started working with (producer) Farley Flex there wasn’t much of a domestic scene. There were people like Michie Mee and The Dream Warriors who inspired me but I really didn’t comprehend the impact “Let Your Backbone Slide” would have until it started getting airplay south of the border.”
Yet even with that initial success and a 1991 follow up release` Black Tie Affair’, Maestro Fresh Wes struggled to establish himself and although he teamed up with Kardinal Offishall for one stand out track “Bustin Loose” of his 2000 album titled `Ever Since’ and even recorded a rap cover of Lawrence Gowan’s “A Criminal Mind” with Infinite in 2005, he chose to work behind the scenes working with the likes of Kardinall Offishall, Saukrates, Classified and Choclair.
And as this talent base began to evolve into the likes of Drake and Weeknd, Maestro Fresh Wes finds himself front and centre of a music genre that has become the dominant force in contemporary music.
“I am inspired by the fresh new talent that this country is currently producing,” Maestro notes. “It was my pleasure to introduce Nav at this year’s Juno Awards and there are performers like Tory Lanez, Party Next Door and Classified who are establishing themselves.”
At a time when social and political violence continues to cast a dark, global shadow, Maestro Fresh Wes notes that Canada and Toronto, in particular, provide a beacon of hope because of the diversity of a population.
“I grew up in a city that is so diverse, we have Italian areas, Polish areas, Greek areas, Portuguese areas etc, which create so many points of respect.”
“And what’s great about rap music is that everyone collaborates together,” Maestro continued. “I doubt if you find that with any other genre of music. On my new album, I collaborate with other artists on at least eight of my songs. Saukrates is on three tracks (“You Don’t Know Me”, “Renovations” and “Gravity”,) Rich Kidd and Sadat X are on the title track, Planet Asia is on “Minor Chords” you just don’t see that kind of support anywhere else. With Rap artists, there’s always that kind of collaboration to record a bigger song.”