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To mark the Juno Awards' 50-year milestone, Maestro looks back on his inaugural rap recording win

Symphony in Effect won the Juno Award for rap recording of the year in 1991.

Symphony in Effect won the Juno Award for rap recording of the year in 1991

'I was representing Black music in Canada. I knew it was bigger than hip hop.' — Maestro Fresh Wes on winning the 1st Juno Award for rap. (CBC Music)

On Feb. 23, 1970, the inaugural Gold Leaf Awards were handed out at a ceremony at Toronto's St. Lawrence Hall.

Founded by RPM Magazine to honour Canadian music industry achievements, the Gold Leaf Awards would become the Juno Awards the following year and evolve over the ensuing five decades into the now familiar "biggest night in Canadian music" — an annual gala celebration administered by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

A lot has changed since 1970. Those inaugural Gold Leaf Awards comprised only 13 categories, including the tellingly maladroit award for music industry man of the year. Today there are 44 categories, honouring a wide range of Canadian music, from roots to reggae, country to classical.

One of the most important moments in its 50-year history came in 1991, when the Juno Awards instituted its rap recording of the year category. That award went to Maestro Fresh Wes for his album Symphony in Effect.

"I've got a slogan: don't make records, make history," Maestro told CBC Music recently, reflecting on that momentous Juno win. "This day right here was history in the making. I was representing Black music in Canada. I knew it was bigger than hip hop."

In this episode of My Junos Moment, Maestro gives a shout out to his fellow nominees — Dream Warriors, MCJ & Cool G, Simply Majestic featuring B. Kool, and Spunkadelic — and admits his heart was pounding as their names were being read out.

Watch the full episode below.

My Junos Moment: Maestro Fresh Wes

Music

5 months ago
4:09
Maestro Fresh Wes reflects on winning the first Juno for rap recording of the year in 1991. 4:09

Wherever you are in the world, you can watch the 2021 Juno Awards on Sunday, June 6. You can watch live on CBC TV and CBC Gem, listen on CBC Radio One and CBC Music and stream globally at CBCMusic.ca/junos.

(CBC Music)

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