I was at a boat fete over this year’s Notting Hill carnival season (Duck Wuk or Ruk A Tuk, I can’t remember) and my friend and I were having a conversation with a random guy who very confidently stated that MX Prime and Ultimate Rejects were ‘One Hit Wonders’. My friend and I looked at each other in utter disbelief. We started to argue that this was far from the truth but the guy was adamant. We gave up. It’s either the guy is new to soca or lacked a depth of knowledge about the genre. Either way, that encounter left me shaking my head and muttering about people who only know about this year’s soca.
For those who don’t know about MX Prime, here are the most salient facts. He is the vocalist for the Trinidadian band Ultimate Rejects. He has been on the music scene long long lonnnggg before their hit song ‘Full Extreme’. Before MX Prime, he was known as Maximus Dan. Before that, Maga Dan. And before that, known by his given birth name Edghill Thomas. His hit single ‘Fighter’ was made for Soca Warriors (The Trinidad and Tobago national Football Team) in 2006 when they made their first ever appearance in the FIFA World Cup Finals in Germany. Prior to that, there was ‘Soca Train’ in 2004 and ‘Be Humble’ in 2003. He is a producer and radio presenter for Trinidad’s very popular radio station Boom Champions 94.1. I had ten minutes to interview MX Prime of Ultimate Rejects individually whilst he was in London, UK for the Buss head concert last month and I am so glad I had the opportunity to do so! This man is a wealth and depth of knowledge and experience.
Welcome back to London, you haven’t been here in a while. I came here regularly until 2005, and then I went into a 10 year hiatus according to people. We can get into that if you want to.
Was it hard coming back into all of this? The singing, performing on stage? Not at all. I will say something that people will be shocked about but I wasn’t really missing anything. I am the type of person that compartmentalizes very well. Three years ago when I went into an interview at Trinidad and Tobago’s radio station Boom Champions 94.1 FM. I went there as a music producer to talk about what I have been doing over the years. That year I did ‘Welcome to the Carnival’ with Kerwin Du Bois which I produced and wrote. And it is only in that situation when I was asked to read a script just for the fun of it, the manager came downstairs and offered me a job and the rest is history. I didn’t have to go for interview or beg for a job. God said that this was for me to do.
I was not missing anything, I was always out there carnival Monday and Tuesday. And people would ask me ‘When you coming back?’ And I’d say that I do not need to come back. I was always there just not in the way that you are accustomed to. I have always been comfortable being uncomfortable. That is what makes me me. And that is what wakes me up every morning and deal with the challenges that rise ahead. So I wasn’t missing anything.
You’ve talked about the music, the production, being on stage, which one do you enjoy the most? I always enjoy behind the scenes. I always enjoy the production aspect because it is a massive undertaking. In meaning that you have to start with what is the melody, what kind of music are we going to use? What kind of drums? What is the texture of the drums? The pre chorus, the post chorus, all the different things. Does it need brass? I just like the challenge of starting something from scratch. And enjoying the process. Because winning is not only the high part. It is about starting something and having challenges and surpassing them.
I was saying ‘Ok you’re doing music production that is a skill, You’re on the radio that is an opportunity now to engage your fans and supporters and new fans’. Because radio is a totally different aspect. You know that there are people who don’t know me as Maximus; they know me as MX Prime. And I am talking about kids 5 and 6 years old. This career of mine has span generations and people have witnessed the metamorphosis, the evolution that is MX Prime. I was always thinking about what is coming next.
And let’s think about what is coming next. Cause some people might say, ok you’re back now, you’ve had a massive hit. Do you feel under pressure to continue this path that people want you to follow? Not at all, not at all. To me I try to steady myself as a man as opposed to as an artist. I wasn’t born an artist. I was born a human being and I try my very best to be the best human being that I can be. People talk about the success of ‘Full Extreme’ and they say ‘I hope you guys ready for next year’. And I always tell my team, ‘Hey we have to embrace the challenge, let’s not go at it as if we under any pressure to surpass ‘Full Extreme’. Let’s compliment it with good music and let’s keep the youngsters engaged into the culture.’ Cause they have found a way to accept what is happening on the local scene and let’s try to give something to the senior citizens so all can enjoy the music.
Do you still want to stay primarily within soca? Well I was never really a guy that subscribe to just being genre specific. With Ultimate Rejects, we have done a lot of music within the electronic aspect which we call CDM Caribbean dance music. Back in the day, about 8, 9 years ago, that was after FIFA 2006, I fell in love with the whole EDM thing. And when I saw what they do in their live shows and how the crowd is energised I thought ‘Hey, this is the future of live entertainment’. So we have to embrace that you are not jumping on something but want to put your twist on it but not lose your identity.
I’ve been to a few carnivals in places where the Caribbean culture is not culturally indigenous to the country. And whilst most of us feel that it is fantastic that people are loving and embracing our culture, a minority think it is cultural appropriation. What are your thoughts on this? Alright, this is Adidas I am wearing here. If the people who created Adidas only made it for their people, where would Adidas be? If Bob Marley didn’t put it on back in the 70’s and run around with it and a person took a photo of it, a lot of people would not be wearing Adidas. So when you put a brand or put out music to be specific, you are putting it out for the world consumption. You are not just putting it out for your diaspora or your country. If that is not the case then all of us have to stop travelling and embracing new things. And that would be a flaw, we would not learn anything. Might as well wipe out the internet. But there is a line, if you are taking something that you know is this and you are not giving credit for it, that’s another story. So people will come out and say ‘Yo you have to give credit where credit is due’ and I have no problems with that.
You’ve have had a long career. Do you still find joy in what you are doing? Yeah, with a long career you must find joy, something to keep you going.
And what keeps you going? What keeps me going is knowing that I have people that support me, you know. You may go through stuff that may make you want to hang up your boots so to speak and say ‘Ok let’s call time’. Cause I do music production and I am also a radio presenter in Trinidad and Tobago. So I have a lot of things that I can do other than go on top of a stage and sing for people. So what keeps me going is knowing 1. I have a four year old son who looks up to me and sees me as his hero for the time being until he becomes a man and judges me as a man. 2. Also knowing that we have supporters through thick and thin, even if they question you, ‘What type of music are you doing? I’m not hearing anything from you’. It’s because that they are concerned. They want to see you at the top. They want to jump up to your music. Cause let’s make no mistake, without the supporters and the fans and the consumers, we would be nowhere.
What does carnival mean to you? Carnival? Well I was born in carnival, 30th January. So I am smack bang in carnival. I can’t put it one word. If my mum did not carry us out as a family on carnival Monday to see Peter Minshall pass with his band in down town Port of Spain and see David Rudder and one of my favourite duos of all time Carl and Carol Jacobs, then I would not have appreciated what carnival was. For me I always look at it from the musician’s perspective. As well as the mass but the musical side always connected me to it. And since then till now I always look forward to the season, whether I have a song or not. Just to be a part of it and appreciate what it has done for me coming up as an individual in Trinidad and Tobago.
So. Father, musician, producer, writer, radio presenter, man. And a bit of a sage to be honest. MX Prime has that wise man aura about him when in conversation with him. What’s to come next from MX Prime and Ultimate Rejects? Who knows? But I won’t be surprised about anything that comes round. One hit wonders? Hell no! Those are Longevitors!!
All images were taken by Trinis in London.