Rap Prime Minister: Maestro Fresh Wes delivers keynote speech to new Canadians [Article]
Toronto, ON – The Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) recently announced their designation of Maestro Fresh Wes as the keynote speaker at the community citizenship ceremony at TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King St W) on Mar. 21. The ceremony is a partnership between the ICC and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). These ceremonies take place in communities all over Canada, and give new citizens a chance to connect with some of the most engaged Canadians in the community – engaged citizens like Maestro Fresh Wes.
The citizenship ceremony is the final step in the process to becoming a Canadian citizen. And it’s a defining moment in becoming a part of the collective Canadian identity.
“Once you think about the life-altering transitions these people have made, to be here – to reach this specific destination [and] the things that had to come into fruition to make this happen – that’s incredible,” said Maestro.
“I’m humbled to be a part of that; to be able to say a congratulatory word to these new citizens is a blessing.” – Maestro Fresh Wes
HipHopCanada caught up Jess Duerden from the Institute for Canadian Citizenship to find out more about the designation of Maestro as the ceremony’s keynote speaker. Duerden explained the three main reasons behind the committee’s decision to ask Maestro to deliver the speech:
“1. Citizenship ceremonies represent a new chapter for new citizens. Inviting such an influential (and notable) Canadian makes the day a true celebration and shows them that we recognize how big this day really is.
2. He represents what it means to be an active and engaged citizen. His passion with stick to your vision not only resonates with new citizens’ path (and for many, the struggles and sacrifices) that have led to this day, but we believe it will empower them to make the most of their new home.
3. He grew-up in Flemingdon Park. What better way to help our country’s newest citizens feel welcome than by connecting them to people from the communities they call home?”
It’s funny, because Maestro blew back on to the scene last year with his Orchestrated Noise album, along with the project’s leading “Black Trudeau” single: “The Prime Minister/ The rap Prime Minister.” Remember those lyrics? They’ve come full-circle, now. Because Wes has been chosen to represent our country on a level beyond hip-hop; he’s an exemplary Canadian. He’s the Rap Prime Minister.
Think about it for a second: He’s the godfather of Canadian hip-hop. He’s an actor. He’s written one of the most inspirational good-feelers-inducing books around (Stick To Your Vision). He’s a motivational speaker. He’s a father (who admittedly just spent a full day with his son at the Legoland Discovery Centre). Oh, and did I mention he’s a first-generation Canadian, too?
“I’m humbled to be a part of that; to be able to say a congratulatory word to these new citizens is a blessing,” said Maestro.
Maestro pauses to share a personal anecdote: a time when he was approached at a show by a fan who wanted to give him a hug. That’s probably not that uncommon of an occurrence for the Freshter Wester. But this particular fan was a Somalian immigrant who had taught herself English when she was eight years old by listening to “Let Your Backbone Slide.”
After I got off the phone with Maestro, I remembered a recent conversation I had with up-and-coming Edmontonian rapper, Muta Mouraine. Muta is a Sudanese immigrant. He taught himself English by listening to hip-hop, as well. And now he’s pursuing it as a career. But that’s the beauty of hip-hop. It’s more than just a genre of music – it’s an entity unto itself. Hip-hop is growth. Hip-hop is acceptance. And hip-hop is reaching for the sky (that was a reference to Maestro and Classified’s monstrous “Reach For The Sky” single, by the way). And to be able to lay claim to being part of a such a movement is something every hip-hop fan should be proud of. Regardless of gender, race, age, language– or even country of origin.
For more information on community citizenship ceremonies, check out the Institute for Canadian Citizenship’s official website at www.icc-icc.ca.
Written by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada
Photography by Peter Grimaldi