#22: Let Your Backbone Slide by Maestro Fresh Wes

Peak Month: March 1990
Peak Position #1
16 weeks on Vancouver’s CKLG chart
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #14
YouTube.com: “Let Your Backbone Slide
Lyrics: “Let Your Backbone Slide

Wesley Williams was born in 1968 in Toronto. He grew up in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough. His parents were Guyanese immigrants. From the moment he entered public school, young Wes Williams was very conscious of how exotic he was as the only black child in his classroom. This was, after all, the 1970s. At the age of six, a little girl who was a next door neighbor asked him, “Wes, when are you going to turn white?” Wes Williams was curious about the question. He noticed he was growing taller. So, considering his skin might change, he  asked his dad the question. Williams remembers, “My dad just said, ‘I’m still waiting, boy!'” When he was twelve years old, young Wes Williams heard “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang in 1979. From that day forward Williams had a sense of purpose and vision for himself. Even though there was no such thing at that time as a black rapper in Canada.

Williams went by the stage name of Maestro Fresh Wes. In 1989 he released his debut single “Let Your Backbone Slide.” It was the first single from his debut album, Symphony in Effect.

Let Your Backbone Slide by Maestro Fresh Wes

“Let Your Backbone Slide” is a hip-hop/rap song. Maestro Fresh Wes is confident he can dazzle people in the club (and listening to his recordings) with his amazing lyrics. His beats are contagious, and as it’s ’89, he invites listeners to wake up to this new sound. After all, we’re not living in the time of Beethoven anymore. The song contains samples of “The Champ” by The Mohawks, “Funky Drummer” by James Brown, “Set It Off” by Strafe, “La Di Da Di” by Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick, “One, Two, Three” by The B-Boys and “Rebel Without a Pause” by Public Enemy.

“Let Your Backbone Slide” peaked at #1 in Vancouver (BC) and Hamilton (ON).

His second single was “Drop the Needle“. Another track from Symphony in Effect was “Private Symphony,” produced by Maximum 60. The album peaked at #4 on the Canadian RPM Albums Chart. Symphony in Effect won a Juno Award for Rap Recording of the Year in 1991. “Private Symphony” was a local hit on the Vancouver pop charts peaking at #9. It did not chart on the Canadian RPM singles chart. A remixed version of the song was also a track on his second album, The Black Tie Affair, was released in 1991.

Maestro Fresh Wes has released eight albums, his most recent, Coach Fresh, was released in 2017. Willians has starred in five mini-series and four feature films. He also has appeared in four seasons of the CBC program, Mr. D, as the character Paul Dwyer.

In 2010, Wes Williams authored a book titled Stick To Your Vision: How to Get Past the Hurdles & Haters to Get Where You Want to Be. In his memoir Williams shares his motivating philosophies. He also reveals his personal challenges in dealing with racial, cultural and professional adversity. Williams writes the challenges he has faced in overcoming complacency and mediocrity. He is a big believer in the importance of humility and perseverance, of taking risks, defying expectations and adopting a mantra to move your life toward a better horizon. Wes Williams has been a promotional speaker for the Toronto School Board and shared the stage telling his story with Ruben “Hurricane” Carter.

Wes Williams has been an inspiration to other black Canadian recording artists, including Drake.

May 18, 2023
Ray McGinnis

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.comDecember 1, 2017.
CKLG Top 40,” CKLG 730 AM, Vancouver, BC, March 26, 1990.

For more song reviews visit the Countdown.

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