A couple of nights ago I went to a launch party for Wes “Maestro” Williams book “Stick To Your Vision.” I wanted to celebrate the achievement for a man I consider both a mentor and friend – but aside from that, I was and am a fan – for more than 20 years now!
When you think Canadian Hip-Hop history you think Maestro. His “Symphony In Full Effect” is one of the first tapes I ever purchased. He was on the same level as any other popular rapper of the day – whether LL or Run DMC. This is crucial because for 15-20 years, we battled the “Canadian rapper” stigma. Sounding “Canadian” meant second rate – we didn’t have the same quality production or beats and our videos paled in comparison to what we’d see coming from the states. But when “Let Your Backbone Slide” came out it wasn’t just as good – it was better than anything else out. It was and still is the biggest single from a Canadian rapper.
Walking through the crowd at the party I see countless faces that have been in the game for a long time… From Dan-E-O to Choclair to Mindbender – we all look up to the man known as Poppa Stro. As Canadian MC’s we are no stranger to struggle and we can all relate to the books’ title “Stick To Your Vision”. I even run into a few rappers who put the mic down and are now doing the 9 to 5 grind. Yes there is Drake, but beyond that, “making it” as a rapper hasn’t gotten easier.
That’s why seeing Maestro hit the stage is inspiring. He’s in his forties now, but you wouldn’t know it. He’s got the same charisma and stamina to rock a two hour set if he had to. But tonight he’s just doing a few of the classics. It’s a packed crowd and everyone has their hands in the air.
Being at the party made me think about the classic KRS track “Outta Here”
The track is all about what happens to a rapper when their career is over… usually they don’t even see it coming.
“I used to wonder about crews that used to rock, they were large, but none of them could manage to stay on top…
Do you ever think about when you’re Outta Here?”
Few rappers are fortunate enough to be in the position Maestro is in. He was never “Outta Here”. He’s still going. Just a couple of years ago he had another big hit with “Hard to be Hip-Hop” with Classified. 20+ years in the game and still relevant. While alot of rappers turn out like Mickey Rourke in the Wrestler, Wes is more like a young Ric Flair when it comes to longevity.
His book is inspiring because he talks about those valleys and challenging times… One thing that’s difficult for an artist is when they come out with their biggest hit first. Most end up a one hit wonder. It’s even more challenging when you add the Canadian MC factor. I myself been frustrated by the lack of infrastructure in the Urban game, but when Stro was doing it in the early 90’s there was NO infrastructure. From hitting the “glass ceiling” in Canada and moving to the states, Wes hooked up with one of the most respected crews in Hip-Hop (Diggin In the Crates) and rocked free beats from a top producer (Showbiz). When he released “Nah This Kid Can’t Be From Canada” I thought it was a dope record. I didn’t know the criticism he was taking for the album title – as if he wasn’t proud to be Canadian. Didn’t they watch the videos and see Wes repping the Argos and the Blue Jays? This is the same MC who said on Backbone
“Like I said before, I’m not American!”
That’s still got to be one of the illest lines ever from up North. When he hit that part at the show you could see the line resonate. It was one of the moments when you are proud to be part of Canadian Hip-Hop. Even back in 89 Maestro was bigging up his country!
Of all the MC’s I’ve met, I’ve had the strongest connection with Maestro. I remember how he spotted me at Caribana a night after I met him and quoted a couple of MY rhymes. I couldn’t believe it. I had given him the CD the day before, but didn’t expect him to listen to it.
Maybe the craziest stat of all is that Maestro is someone that can now claim four decades of relevance. From the 80’s to 2010’s, from rap to acting and now to writing a book, Maestro has made the transitions in his career that have only strengthened his legacy.
Check for the book here: