#1166: Drop the Needle by Maestro Fresh Wes
Wes Williams was born in Toronto in 1968. In the mid-80s he attended Carleton University in Ottawa and studied Political Science and Law. Deciding to focus on music, Maestro Fresh Wes released the first Canadian hip-hop single to break into the Top 40 in Canada and the USA with “Let Your Backbone Slide”. Williams’ first show in Ottawa affirmed his decision to pursue music full time. About 2,000 people showed up to watch him open for Public Enemy at Astralite, a now-defunct club on St. Laurent Boulevard. For a hip-hop show, it was a huge crowd by Ottawa standards in the late 80s.
“Drop the Needle” is Maestro Fresh Wes’ second single from his Juno Award winning debut album Symphony in Effect.
Here is a biographical song about this performing artists expanding fortune and fame. From stage to stage across provinces and states, crowds wave and rave to the sounds of Maestro Fresh Wes’ chanted, and spoken, rhyming poetic lyrics. Dropping the needle is a reference to the hip-hop art of manipulating sounds and creating music using turntables and a DJ mixer. As the MC of his song, Maestro Fresh Wes has the crowds going wild as he wears his black tuxedo and gets his dance moves in synch with his spoken word hip-hop poetry. He pulls off his stage performance with the calm of martial arts kick-boxer, and action movie star, Jean Claude Van Damme. Wes’ poetry aims for the highest mind and describes himself as a goliath of hip-hop. While some might have suggested he was full of himself, Maestro Fresh Wes is now considered the “godfather of Canadian hip-hop,” so he was bang on. As for the hip-hop scene in 1989, Wes concludes “eighty-nine is mine.” And the rest was history.
His debut album, Symphony in Effect, won the 1991 Juno Award for Rap Recording of the Year.
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, with Dance Appeal, a supergroup of Toronto-area musicians that included Devon, Dream Warriors, B-Kool, Michie Mee, Lillian Allen, Eria Fachin, HDV, Dionne, Thando Hyman, Carla Marshall, Messenjah, Jillian Mendez, Lorraine Scott, Lorraine Segato, Self Defense, Leroy Sibbles, Zama and Thyron Lee White. In 1991, Black Tie Affair was released and nominated for Best Rap Recording at the 1992 Juno Awards. In 1992 the studio album, Maestro Zone, was released earning him a nomination for Best Rap Recording at the 1993 Juno Awards. Two years later Maestro Fresh Wes released his fourth studio album, Naaah, Dis Kid Can’t Be from Canada?!! Though it was a commercial failure, the album won a nomination as Best Rap Recording at the 1995 Juno Awards. His fifth studio album in 1998, Built to Last, earned him his fifth nomination for Best Rap Recording at the Juno’s in 1999. His sixth studio album, Ever Since, was released in 2000. His seventh studio album, Orchestrated Noise, was released in 2013.
In 1997 University of Toronto Professor Renaldo Walcott published a book called Black Like Who? It featured commentary about rap and hip-hop lyrics of Afro-Canadian performing artists the Dream Warriors and Maestro Fresh Wes, within the context of being “Black” in Canada.
In 2003 Wes Williams starred in an American TV series called Platinum. Set in New York City, the TV series was about two brothers who own and operate a record company. In 2004, Wes Williams got a cameo in the dance film Honey. In 2004, Williams starred for two years in a TV drama set in Toronto called Metropia. He also began starring in Instant Star, a TV show that ran for four years about a music competition winners experience inside the recording industry. In 2005, Williams starred in two films. The first, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, is a hip-hop biopic crime film featuring Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson III. Williams other film that year was Four Brothers, where he starred alongside Mark Wahlberg and Tyrese Gibson in a plot about an adoptive mother of four sons who gets murdered when a hit is put out on her. In 2007 Williams appeared in the Canadian film Poor Boy’s Game, alongside Danny Glover, in a plot about race, revenge and forgiveness. Williams has also been featured in the 2001 Canadian urban crime TV series Blue Murder, and in the 2009-2011 TV series, The Line, as a drug dealer with anger management issues. Since 2012 Williams has played in role of Paul Dwyer in the Canadian TV sitcom Mr. D.
In 2010 Maestro Fresh Wes published a book, Stick to Your Vision: How to Get Past the Hurdles and Haters to Get Where You Want to Be. In the book he discusses how to make a vision a reality: expectation, operation and destination. Chuck D of American hip hop heavyweights Public Enemy wrote the foreword, and Toronto-based international rap superstar Drake provided a blurb: “[Maestro Fresh Wes] let me know that it was possible to make a city so far removed feel like it was a part of it all. Now every song and move I make I think about my people back home and how proud I am of them and they are of me. I owe a part of my confidence as a rapper to Maestro.”
February 27, 2017
Maestro Fresh Wes bio, Maestro Fresh Wes.net
Ryan B. Patrick, Maestro Fresh Wes Class Act, Exclaim!*’#, July 2, 2013.
Olivia Stren, Still Keeping It Fresh, Globe and Mail, August 16, 2010.
Williams, Maestro Wes. Stick To Your Vision: How to Get Past the Hurdles & Haters to Get Where You Want to Be. McClelland & Stewart, Toronto. 2010.
Asia Smith, Canadian hip-hop artist Maestro Fresh Wes inspired by Drake, Tupac RollingOut.com, December 1, 2017.
“CKLG Top 40,” CKLG 730 AM, Vancouver, BC, June 11, 1990.
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