“Black lives matter. No, they really do. I hear the preaching, but I see no change.” This is the first line of a timely, social commentary by Maestro Fresh Wes, the Godfather of Canadian Hip Hop, in his newest single, I Can’t Breathe.
Produced by Tone Mason, the single features Toronto’s King Reign on the hook. Strongly inspired by the Eric Garner story, and motivated to be released immediately after hearing of the New Year’s Eve shooting of Director X, who directed his 1998 video for Stick To Your Vision, I Can’t Breathe speaks of how both external and internal forces are stifling the Black community; so that members of the community are part of the problem and part of the solution.
As one of Canada’s most successful and influential Hip Hop artists, Wes “Maestro” Williams was selected to be the guest speaker for Michaëlle Jean, Canada’s former Governor General, at the Summit on Urban Arts when Her Excellency visited Vancouver, BC.
Williams has received two Juno Awards and his albums have reached gold and platinum status. His signature song, Let Your Backbone Slide, was the first Canadian Hip Hop single to ever go gold.
In 2014, an Olympic-inspired version of his hit song, Reach for the Sky, was included in Road to the Olympics. Originally released on Maestro’s album, Orchestrated Noise, the song was re-recorded with lyrics inspired by the athletes’ journey and their perseverance and dedication to their sport.
Performed by Maestro Fresh Wes, and featuring Blue Rodeo and Classified, it debuted in the one-hour special and was heard during coverage of Sochi 2014, as the soundtrack of a montage on CBC’s Olympic Primetime with host, Ron MacLean.
A Gemini Award-nominated actor, Williams is also the author of the critically-acclaimed book, Stick To Your Vision: How to Get Past the Hurdles and Haters to Get Where You Want to Be. Endorsed by Her Excellency Michaëlle Jean, as a “plan for action”, the book shows individuals how to define their vision, how to achieve it, and what to do once they are there.
The book was shortlisted for the Forest of Reading – White Pine Award; an annual literature award, sponsored by the Ontario Library Association (OLA) that has awarded Canadian young adult books since 2002.
His desire is to empower his community because his community has empowered him in many different ways.
Always community-oriented, Williams has made a serious impact on the country in many different capacities. He continues to support several charitable organizations, such as War Child, Save The Children, Covenant House, Special Olympics, Battered Women’s Support Services (BWSS), and The African AIDS Society.
Maestro Fresh Wes’ inspirations include athletes; his community; other artists, such as actors and musicians; and anyone who has a vision and the drive to make it manifest. The “Maestro” hopes to be the inspiration for many by expressing himself through his music, acting and speaking.
Lyrics from Williams himself, may shed light on his thinking and the reason for his musical success, accolades and awards: “Hands up—for the descendants of the middle passage, too strong to use the past as a crutch.”