Ceri Beavan provides a comprehensive profile of the Bristol crew from their first releases to what they're working on bringing out now. Ride this chronological journey now.
Optimas Prime started their career initially as a four man scratch outfit jamming on the decks at a night put on by the local Drum and Base hero High Contrast.
From this introduction, they quickly secured regular gigs in clubs around Cardiff . "We began by making and selling mix tapes and scratch CD's we'd recorded jammin' at Monkey's studio" Stagga remembers, "but it wasn't long before we established a local reputation for crazy sets of beat juggling and scratchathons on four decks".
At this point the Optimas crew went into the studio to record their (official) debut release, 'VoidVille'. An 11 track vinyl LP bursting with rugged down tempo beats and off-the-wall scratching, along with some mad freestyle flows from MC's Junior Disprol, Ruffstyles and Ed Def, the project received wide critical acclaim and was key to their nomination and success at The Welsh Music Awards 2001 (Best Hip Hop Act). Off the back of this new title, things started to take off. Optimas Prime recruited a new member, Touchy Muff, while at the same time losing some of the founding members, Big Ben, Paul (PR1) and Chris (Finbad), over the water to Bristol. Touchy Monkey recalls to have "brought the crew a new psychedelic sound, layering keyboards and flute over the turntablism".
Stagga and Monkey's relation with Community Music Wales led to them working on projects with the local youth running DJ workshops. The boys were also sent on excursions around Italy and Cuba, but as Stagga points out "there's always a Hiphop scene wherever you go". "Cuba was a particular highlight for us" adds Monkey. "We got to play in the high profile 'Park del Mar' gig out there and featured on some radio and television shows. It was cool". This trip provided them with valuable insight into how the music culture in Cuba thrives, despite limited equipment, money and poor advertising options which they say really helped them get on with doin' their own stuff back home and not waitin' on others.
The Compass Point Festival in Cardiff saw the boys link up with the Low Bap Crew from Greece. "Mean what ya say and say what ya mean is their motto" quotes Touchy "and they mean it too". Through this alliance they were invited to the Low Bap International Hip Hop Festival, where they shared a stage with artists such as Rodney P and DJ Skitz, Killa Kela, Lewis Parker, De La Soul, Mad Proffesor and Birdy Nam Nam.
Now well on the way to unleashing their unique sound onto the hip hop market, Optimas Prime saw the release of their first 12" featuring rapper Junior Disprol (Dead Residents). At first unable to get distribution for the label they had set up, Dial Up Records, they linked up with Nottingham based label 'Sin Nombre' who provided them with national distribution through Cargo. "The 12" 'Pyramoya Anthem' received buzzing reviews" recalls Monkey.
They soon released their second 12 'Slang Shot Gun' which saw features again from Junior Disprol and for the first time saw them working with Blaktrix, now a favourite of the crew. "This release also got the attention of Disorda and enabled us to attain our current Boombox distribution connection". As Disorda predicted, the release was a success, receiving radio coverage and national reviews all liking what they'd heard. Armed with this success and support from Boombox, the boys focused their efforts on establishing Dial Up Records as a truly independent company.
On this mission, the crew upped their game with an Optimas Prime scratch tool and their first independent release, the 'Try Before You Die' EP, an eclectic mix of different rappers and music styles. Blaktrix, MLE, HSG Crew, and the amazing Nobster Nuts from The Head Case Lads all appeared on the album, making it packed full of the best South Wales could offer. 'Try Before You Die' hit the Hiphop scene with force, getting them their first National airing on Radio One's 'In New Music We Trust', along with some wicked reviews and plays on various internet sites.
Their most recent releases have been increasingly successful. Blaktrix's 'Trust' EP, and the 'HSG' EP again saw the boys maintaining and developing their trademark quality music, and saw them getting rave reviews including a five star sure player for the 'HSG' EP as well as being dropped on New York's FutureFlava's Power FM radio show, and 'nuff plays on BBC radio 1. The crew's hard work had definitely paid off for the Optimas crew as they continued to prove themselves as accomplished producers and DJ's and Dial Up Records as an enduring company.
At the moment, the Optimas crew are in the studio working on projects with "Undecorated Veteranz" (Rapper's 4dee and Picton, with Stagga on production). Also a 'Dead Residents' EP, which "has one of my favourite ever tracks to date on" according to Touchy. "We're already getting promising responses from the promo's we've sent out. Both Itch FM and Future Flavas (New York) are already playing preview tracks so listen out for promo's".
The future for Optimas Prime, and Dial Up Records certainly looks bright. With their continued turnout of quality hiphop, they are set to continue their already long standing position. For info on the band see these sites www.optimasprime.com and Myspace.com/Optimasprime