Maestro (rapper)

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Birth nameWesley Williams
Also known asMaestro Fresh-Wes
Born (1968-03-31) March 31, 1968 (age 51)
OriginToronto, Ontario, Canada
Occupation(s)Emcee, rapper, producer, actor, author, motivational speaker
Years active1987–Present
LabelsAttic, LMR, Fontana North
Associated actsKardinal Offishall, Percee P, Rich London, Michie Mee, Classified, Choclair, Dream Warriors, The Dope Poet Society, Shad K, Kool G Rap, Sadat X, Ghettosocks, D-Sisive, Adam Bomb, D.O. Gibson

Wesley Williams (born March 31, 1968), better known as Maestro or Maestro Fresh-Wes, is a Canadian rapper, record producer, actor, and author. He has been credited as the "Godfather of Canadian hip hop"[1] because he was one of the earliest Canadian rappers to achieve mainstream success. His debut album, Symphony in Effect (1989), was the first certified platinum album by a Black Canadian artist.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Williams was born on March 31, 1968, in Toronto, Ontario to parents of Afro-Guyanese heritage. He is the oldest of three children[3] and was raised in North York and Scarborough. He attended Senator O'Connor College School before transferring to L'Amoreaux Collegiate Institute for the remainder of his high-school career. He then attended Carleton University in Ottawa studying law and political science[4] for one year.[2]


1979-1989: Early career[edit]

Williams' interest in hip hop music began at age 11. At age 15, in 1983, he met DJ Ron Nelson, who promoted Williams' music under the moniker "Melody MC" on his radio show, 88.1 CKLN-FM. Nearly two years later, Williams met Farley Flex, who he went on to work with in 1988. That same year, he officially adopted Maestro Fresh-Wes and recorded the independent demos, "You Can't Stop Us Now" and "I'm Showin' You". While performing on MuchMusic's Electric Circus, Wes met dance artist Stevie B, who connected him with his NYC-based label, LMR. This changed the climate for hip hop in Canada as Wes performed "Let Your Backbone Slide" for the first time. This song became the first single from a Canadian hip hop artist to go gold, followed by Canada's first platinum-selling hip hop album, Symphony in Effect.

1989-1991: Symphony in Effect and "Can't Repress the Cause"[edit]

In 1989, Maestro released his first album, Symphony in Effect.[5] The following year he became the first Canadian rapper to have a Billboard Top 40 hit, "Let Your Backbone Slide".[6] In 1991, he collaborated on the one-off single "Can't Repress the Cause", a plea for greater inclusion of hip hop music in the Canadian music scene. The collaboration was with Dance Appeal, a supergroup of Toronto-area musicians that included: Devon, Dream Warriors, B-Kool, Michie Mee, Lillian Allen, Eria Fachin, HDV aka "Pimp of The Microphone",[7] Dionne, Thando Hyman, Carla Marshall, Messenjah, Jillian Mendez, Lorraine Scott, Lorraine Segato, Candy Pennella, Self Defense, Leroy Sibbles, Zama and Thyron Lee White.[8]

1991-1992: Entering the U.S market and The Black Tie Affair[edit]

After the success of his 1991 album, The Black Tie Affair, Maestro's career faltered as he attempted to break into the United States market. In 1992, Maestro Fresh-Wes appeared in a video accompanying a rendition of "O Canada" in which he rapped an improvised second-verse lyric, "aw, yeah, from the east coast, of Newfoundland, to the west coast, of B.C.".[9] However, he returned to the Canadian charts in 1998, with the hit singles "Stick to Your Vision" and "416/905 (T.O. Party Anthem)".

2000: Ever Since[edit]

In 2000, his sixth studio album, Ever Since, featured the track "Bustin Loose", in which Maestro Fresh Wes teamed up with Kardinal Offishall.

2005: "A Criminal Mind" cover[edit]

In 2005, Maestro covered Lawrence Gowan's song "A Criminal Mind" (featuring Infinite); Gowan appears in the video and his vocals are sampled on the track. Gowan also performed the song with Maestro at the Canadian Urban Music Awards in 2006.

2006: Midem conference[edit]

In 2006, Maestro and Rochester AKA Juice joined Professor D and The Dope Poet Society on stage in Cannes, France. Together, they become the first Canadian hip hop acts to showcase at Midem, the world's largest annual music industry conference.[10]

2012-2013: Black Tuxedo and Orchestrated Noise[edit]

In 2012, Maestro released his first set of new material in over seven years with the release of an EP entitled Black Tuxedo' which was nominated for Best Rap Recording of the Year at 2012 Juno Awards'.[1] This was followed by an album, Orchestrated Noise in 2013, which features rocker Sam Roberts, opera singer Measha Brueggergosman, Kardinal Offishall, American rap legend Kool G Rap of the Juice Crew, and Brand Nubian veteran Sadat X, among others. Orchestrated Noise was released under the name Maestro Fresh-Wes, reclaiming his original title from the 1980s.


Wes released Compositions Volume 1 which included his personal favourite song he ever wrote, 'I know Your Mom' and the sports classic ' Underestimated ' which was played during the 2015 Pan Am Games as well as featured on Ea Sports NHL17 video game.

2017-2019: Coach Fresh & Champagne Campaign[edit]

His 2017 album, Coach Fresh, included the song "Jurassic Park", a collaboration with Rich Kidd to celebrate the Toronto Raptors. In 2019, the song was released as a single and video to celebrate the Raptors making the 2019 NBA Finals.[11] Coach Fresh was also nominated for Best Rap Recording of the Year but was beaten out by one of Wes' favourite Canadian MC's Tory Lanez. Keeping up the momentum the album Champagne Campaign is released in March 2019. This album featured tracks by Lord Finesse, collaborations with Planet Asia, Sadat X, Dusty Wallace and Naturally Born Strangers. Champagne Campaign also commemorated Wes' 30th Anniversary.On Thursday November 21 2019 Maestro's classic track Let Your Backbone Slide was the first rap song to be inducted in the Canadian Songwriter's Hall Of Fame


Williams was nominated for a Gemini Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Dramatic Role for his performance on the television series The Line on HBO Canada. He has also had acting roles in the series Metropia, Instant Star, Platinum, and Blue Murder, as well as the films Poor Boy's Game, Honey, Four Brothers and Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story alongside Oscar Award winner Jamie Foxx. As an actor, he is credited as Wes Williams.

Williams just finished playing the role of Paul Dwyer on the CBC Television program, Mr. D.


In 2010, co-wrote a self-help motivational book with his wife called Stick to Your Vision: How to Get Past the Hurdles & Haters to Get Where You Want to Be. The foreword of the book was written by Chuck D of the legendary Hiphop group Public Enemy and is a part of the NSCC ( Nova Scotia Community College ) curriculum as well as mandatory ready for high school students in the province of Nova Scotia . In 20016 Wes received an honorary diploma from the NSCC Akerley Campus in Dartmouth NS for his contribution to the community and inspiration to the students.[12]

Charity work[edit]

Over his career, Williams has supported the following charities: War Child, Save the Children, SickKids Hospital, Covenant House, Special Olympics, Battered Women's Support Services (BWSS), and the African AIDS Society.[3]


Studio albums


  • Black Tuxedo EP (2012)
  • Compositions Volume 1 (2015)


  • Urban Landmark 1989–2005 (2005)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Maestro Fresh Wes Gets Classified, the Trews, Rich Kidd for 'Black Tuxedo' EP, Reveals New Album Plans". Exclaim!, September 17, 2012.
  2. ^ a b "Maestro Fresh Wes". The Canadian Encyclopedia. February 2, 2015. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Patrick, Ryan B. (July 2, 2013). "Maestro Fresh Wes Class Act". Exclaim!. Retrieved October 7, 2019.
  4. ^ "Godfather of Canadian Hip Hop Maestro Fresh Wes in the House". Retrieved October 7, 2019.
  5. ^ "25 best Canadian debut albums ever". CBC Music,June 16, 2017.
  6. ^ CBC Radio (July 23, 2019). "Let Your Backbone Slide at 30: Maestro Fresh Wes shares his oral history of Canada's most loved rap song". CBC.
  7. ^ "Rap: Pop music genre, introduced in the mid-1970s in New York". Historic Canada.
  8. ^ "Urban Music" The Canadian Encyclopedia.
  9. ^ O Canada Star Version 1992, retrieved October 4, 2019
  10. ^ "Maestro Fresh-Wes | Wi Canadian". Retrieved October 4, 2019.
  11. ^ "Maestro Fresh Wes and Rich Kidd Celebrate the Raptors with "Jurassic Park" Video". Exclaim!, June 7, 2019.
  12. ^ Nick Patch (August 10, 2010). "Toronto rapper Wes Williams pens self-help book". The Star. Retrieved October 7, 2019.

External links[edit]