‘I take pleasure in being the primary’: Maestro Contemporary Wes doesn’t thoughts breaking hip-hop limitations


Some moments in a profession of “firsts” achieved by rapper Maestro Contemporary Wes appear greater than him, and subsequent Sunday is definitely one among them.

That’s when the Canadian star formally turns into the primary hip-hop artist inducted into the Canadian Music Corridor of Fame on the Juno Awards. His identify will likely be added to a succession of influential homegrown acts resembling okay.d. lang, the Tragically Hip and Deborah Cox.

It’s a second the “Let Your Spine Slide” performer, born Wesley Williams, patiently awaited for years, assured the nation’s music business would finally come round, because it has earlier than.

“I take pleasure in being the primary,” the Toronto native defined throughout a current interview about reaching new heights in Canadian hip-hop.

“I’m a basis of one thing that begins breaking worldwide parameters.”

As one of many nation’s first hip-hop artists, Williams blazed trails for generations of Canadian rappers, notably Kardinal Offishall and Drake, who took the native recreation to international ranges.

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In his early twenties, he gained the inaugural 1991 Juno for rap recording together with his celebration anthem “Let Your Spine Slide,” which broke floor in america for Canadian rap. His 1989 report “Symphony in Impact” grew to become the primary Canadian rap album to obtain platinum certification, that means it offered 100,000 copies.

Extra lately, “Let Your Spine Slide” grew to become the primary rap tune inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Corridor of Fame in 2019. And this 12 months, he’s the first-ever hip-hop recipient on the Governor Basic’s Performing Arts Awards.

In some methods, it appears as if Canada’s establishments are hurriedly catching as much as the affect of Maestro Contemporary Wes. If that’s true, it doesn’t appear to hassle him a lot.

“I received love,” stated Williams, who’s gained three Junos throughout his profession.


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“However there’s all the time a hesitancy to provide me love.”

Whereas Williams by no means expresses it immediately, he holds difficult emotions about being toasted by the gatekeepers. For years, he fought to get respect for Canadian hip-hop music when many within the mainstream wrote the style off as a fad or ignored it totally.

He’s all the time saved an optimistic view, which he continues to carry as he strikes towards his induction.

“It’s not nearly me; it’s a couple of style of music,” he stated. “And I symbolize the style.”

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Williams describes a way of duty going into the ceremony, drawing on a childhood reminiscence for instance its complexity.

When Williams was in highschool, Olympic athlete Ben Johnson visited his class. It was the early Eighties and Johnson was a younger, achieved Black Canadian sprinter with a hopeful future.

Not lengthy after that go to, Johnson gained the 1988 Summer season Olympics gold medal within the 100-metre remaining, making him a hero to the nation. However just a few days later, he was stripped of the honour in a doping scandal that eternally tarnished his fame.

Williams doesn’t get into the specifics of Johnson’s case, however that have reminds him how tenuous being lauded can really feel.

“Laying your laurels is a legal responsibility to your private {and professional} improvement,” he insisted.

It’s one purpose Williams stated he’s all the time waiting for his subsequent endeavour.

Lately, he’s starred on CBC’s “Mr. D” sitcom, hosted the YouTube cooking collection “Maestro Chef Wes,” and based a commerce scholarship for Black youth at Nova Scotia Neighborhood School.

Earlier this month, he issued “Rap Prime Minister,” a 24-track compilation that spans a lot of his profession and reintroduces his model of rousing inspirational rap anthems to a brand new era.

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A number of the standout songs embrace his stirring “Underestimated,” a 2015 jam with JRDN and JD Period; and “Gravity,” an R&B-fused 2019 effort with Saukrates and O-Sound, the place he pulls just a few traces from his Guess Who-sampling 1998 smash “Keep on with Your Imaginative and prescient.”

Williams celebrates his 56th birthday precisely one week after his Corridor of Fame induction. That can make him the identical age as his idol Leonard Cohen when he obtained the honour on the 1991 Juno Awards.

The parallels don’t escape Williams, who typically pulls up this reminiscence as he talks about his ambitions. The identical 12 months Cohen was inducted, Williams gained his first Juno. Watching the Montreal poet laureate on stage left an enormous impression.

“Simply to see the standing ovation he received and the way effectively obtained he was from the nation, I used to be like, ‘Yo, at some point that’s what you’ve received to be,’” Williams stated.

“Who would’ve thought that’s the place I’m now?”

With that in thoughts, Williams has thought-about what his induction by Kardinal Offishall ought to seem like on the Junos broadcast.

When he performs a medley of his previous hits on Sunday, he plans to showcase a number of Halifax-area Black performers in recognition of the Canadians whose ancestors escaped slavery by the Underground Railroad.

They embrace native R&B singers JRDN and Kaleb Simmonds, in addition to musicians Cyndi Cain, Gary Beals and Reeny Smith.

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“What I need to see is my Scotian brothers and sisters feeling represented,” stated Williams, who moved to Saint John, N.B., together with his household throughout the pandemic.

“This is part of not solely my hip-hop historical past however part of Canadian Black music historical past.”



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