It has always been important to me as an artist and trailblazer for Black music in Canada to symbolize longevity, perseverance and Canadian heritage, and I will continue to tell young upcoming artists, ‘Don't make records, make history.’”

-—Wes “Maestro” Williams

Wes “Maestro” Williams

2024 Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award (Popular Music)

Recording artist, actor, author and motivational speaker

Often regarded as the “godfather of Canadian hip hop,” Wesley (Wes) “Maestro” Williams is the first Canadian rapper to achieve mainstream success. His debut album, Symphony in Effect, was the first album by a Canadian hip hop artist to reach platinum status, and his landmark single “Let Your Backbone Slide” was the first rap recording to go gold and the first rap song inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. Alongside his musical career, Mr. Williams is also a successful film and television actor, author, and motivational speaker.
Born in 1968 in Toronto, Mr. Williams took piano lessons as a child and became interested in rap and hip hop culture at age 11. In 1984, he and fellow rapper Ebony MC formed a group called Vision Crew and began performing locally. He got his first big break when he appeared on the MuchMusic show Electric Circus, and his performing and recording career took off. He has released nine studio albums.
His film and television credits include eight seasons on CBC’s award-winning sitcom Mr. D, playing vice-principal Paul Dwyer. He emceed the 2022 East Coast Music Awards, and currently hosts two shows: the sand sculpting reality series Race Against the Tide and his own cooking show, Maestro Chef Wes, showcasing Maritime cuisine and music.
In 2010, Mr. Williams and his wife co-wrote the motivational self-help book Stick to Your Vision: How to Get Past the Hurdles & Haters to Get Where You Want to Be. It won the 2011 White Pine Literary Award, was added to the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) curriculum, and became mandatory reading for Grade 10 students in Nova Scotia. His children’s book Stick to Your Vision: Young Maestro Goes to School was published in 2021.
He has participated in round-table discussions on Parliament Hill on the topic of race relations, and has given motivational presentations for TEDx, academic institutions and corporate organizations. In 2023, he established NSCC’s Maestro Fresh Wes Scholarship for Black youth interested in the skilled trades.
Among other honours, Wes “Maestro” Williams has won two Juno Awards and the African Canadian Achievement Award. He will be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in March 2024.