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Maestro Fresh Wes, Skinny Puppy Albums Honoured With 2023 Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prizes

Maestro Fresh Wes Symphony In Effect and Skinny Puppy Bites are the two newest albums to receive Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize designation.

The Polaris Heritage Prize is a hall of fame-minded critics prize and public support campaign meant to celebrate classic Canadian albums created before Polaris began in 2006. Like the Polaris Music Prize, winners and nominees of the Heritage Prize are albums of the highest artistic distinction, without regard to sales or affiliations. Each year one album is designated by a public vote and one by the Polaris Heritage Prize jury.

Bites, the 1985 debut full-length album from Vancouver, British Columbia’s Skinny Puppy, is considered a foundational work in the industrial-electronic genre, and was this year’s Heritage Prize public vote winner. Toronto, Ontario rapper Maestro Fresh Wes’ 1989 album Symphony In Effect was a groundbreaker for hip-hop music in Canada. It received Heritage designation by the 11-member Polaris Heritage Prize jury.

“I am thrilled to receive this prize,” said Maestro Fresh Wes, in a statement. “Thank you to Polaris and the Slaight Family for thinking of me. I could not have done this album without my producers Peter and Anthony Davis a.k.a. First Offence. Salute S Blank as well as Beat Factory on the additional production. Salute the legendary Stevie B for connecting me to his label LMR in the U.S. and special thank you to Al Mair and Attic/A&M in Canada. Big up to Farley Flex and family as well as DJ LTD and family. Can’t forget Ebony MC. Thanks to Joel Goldberg, MuchMusic and Electric Circus for the game-changing support. Symphony In Effect is the backbone, not only for Canadian Hip-Hop, but for Black music in Canada. It is the first album from a Black Canadian artist to reach gold and platinum status in this country, so it’s a must that I thank all my fans and DJs who supported me. The album is a major part of our legacy here and it’s an absolute honour to be acknowledged. Thanks again. Greatly appreciated.”

“Thank you for noting Skinny Puppy and our album Bites with Polaris’s Heritage Prize,” said Skinny Puppy’s CEvin Key, in a statement. “It’s true that the album was made without considering commercial acceptability. It was a vibrant time in Downtown Vancouver in 1985. I think most of our dreams were to be dancing at the Luv a Fair and hear one of our tracks. That happened! It’s also not common for Skinny Puppy to be noted within the industry through history, except through the support of our devoted fanbase. Thank you for the 40 years to our fans and for your Polaris Heritage Prize.”

There were 12 nominated albums up for Heritage Prize consideration this year:

Beau Dommage — Beau Dommage
The Guess Who — American Woman
k-os — Exit
k.d. lang — Absolute Torch and Twang
Jean Leloup — Le dôme
Maestro Fresh Wes — Symphony In Effect
Sarah McLachlan — Fumbling Towards Ecstasy
Plastikman — Consumed
Rap Essentials Volume One
Robbie Robertson — Robbie Robertson
Skinny Puppy — Bites
Spoons — Arias & Symphonies

Heritage Prize balloting was officially opened on September 19 during the 2023 Polaris Gala, where Debby Friday’s Good Luck album was awarded the 18th annual Polaris Music Prize. Balloting closed on October 13. Music fans were able to vote once per day to support their favourite albums.

This year’s Heritage Prize jury included Rudy Blair, Olivier Boisvert-Magnen, Dany Gallant, Barbi Castelvi, DJ MelBoogie, Phyllis Grant, Sandra Sperounes, Daniel Tate, Coreen Wolanski, Jen Zoratti, and official guest musician juror, Emm Gryner. Polaris thanks the jury for their expertise, passion and dedication to exceptional music.

“I was beyond thrilled to be asked to be a celebrity music juror for this year’s Slaight Family Heritage Prize,” said Gryner. “The process itself was a celebration of so many different genres, eras and lifestyles. My fellow jurors and I debated with respect and admiration for these incredible albums and I am over the moon that the legendary Maestro Fresh Wes’ Symphony In Effect was a winner and I have so much love for Skinny Puppy’s Bites. It was a thrill to see the public chime in on that one to make it the winner. Classics live on!”

Thirty-nine albums have received Heritage Prize designation since its introduction in 2015. Past winning albums include Nomeansno’s Wrong, Lhasa de Sela’s La Llorona, Jean-Pierre Ferland’s Jaune, The Oscar Peterson Trio’s Night Train and Mary Margaret O’Hara’s Miss America.

We acknowledge the financial support of FACTOR, the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage (Canada Music Fund) and of Canada’s Private Radio Broadcasters.

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