Published Dec 08, 2017Nearly 30 years on from hitting the scene with "Let Your Backbone Slide," Maestro Fresh Wes's status as the Godfather of Canadian hip-hop is indisputable. That said, he isn't one to rest on his laurels. "When I see artists like Kool G Rap drop his new album, and then he's got MoSS from Toronto producing it, that reinforces the excitement for me to continue doing my thing," Wes says. "The city's really on, it's inspiring."
No longer simply a student of the game, Maestro most recently delivered his seventh studio album Coach Fresh, his first since 2013's Orchestrated Noise. Across 13 tracks, Wes takes his lyrical pen to subjects including racism, fatherhood, leadership, the Toronto Raptors and his own legacy. As he raps on opener "Put Ya Guard Up," as a reminder for hip-hop's younger competitors, "We all know Canada's dope, but I made Canada fresher / That's why Canada calls me Canada's national treasure."
What are you up to?
I just did a TED Talk in Vancouver, which was awesome. I also just wrapped up season seven of Mr. D on CBC, and now I'm just off a plane in New York.
What are your current fixations?
I really love my album. [Laughs] I'm glad I'm finished with it. I don't know if fixation is the right term to use, but Coach Fresh is dope. That's the dope right there, my man.
Why do you live where you do?
Born in Toronto, raised in Toronto. I love my city. I travel, go to different spots, but Toronto's dope.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Public Enemy's second album. Released 1988.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
I did a show with the Tragically Hip in Winnipeg, in front of 100,000 people. That was pretty epic to me.
What have been your career highs and lows?
I don't even know if I've reached the highs yet, you know? In terms of lows, you know, when albums don't go the way you'd like them to, or I audition for a part that I want and I don't get it. I look at those as growing pains.
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I've got a pretty good work ethic. Sometimes though, I don't like to network as much as I should, I just get a little tired from it, you know? But I should try and do that.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
Watching the ball game or something, relaxing at home. Hanging out with my son.
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
Maybe to make more time with friends, since I spent a lot of time in the studio. Just make more time for your peoples. That's what I'd do differently and I'm doing that now.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight-track you ever bought with your own money?
Michael Jackson's Thriller.
What was your most memorable day job?
Probably working at Wizard's, a sports bar.
How do you spoil yourself?
I don't really spoil myself, only my son.
If I wasn't playing music I would be…
What do you fear most?
Probably not getting everything done in life that I'd like to.
What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
I have absolutely… I don't… next question, homie. [Laughs]
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
I told Alice Cooper I'd bite his face off! He was scared. That's what I said in my song, "Last Waltz." [Cooper] has a song called "I'll Bite Your Face Off," so I told him I'd heard that one. He was shocked that I knew it.
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
Probably tap dancing!
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
"Ooh Child" by the [Five] Stairsteps.