Anthoney J Hart is a London-based electronic musician. For the last decade, he's been entrenched in London’s underground dance music scene releasing music as Basic Rhythm and Imaginary Forces, two projects that have both drawn heavily on his background in pirate radio. More recently, he has returned to his dancehall roots, finally reconciling the disparate influences that have informed his music over the years to start afresh as East Man with this debut album on Planet Mu.
His unique take on grime reduces the sound to its steely fundamentals, bringing in influences from dancehall, drum & bass, and techno to gird the voices of the London MCs he works with. His own name for this hardcore continuum mongrel is "Hi Tek."
The roots of this album came about after Hart struck up a friendship with the respected theorist Paul Gilroy (known worldwide for books like "The Black Atlantic" and "There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack."). Hart engaged in conversations with Gilroy after starting personal research on representations of working class and mixed-race families in London. He asked Paul for some help after coming across Paul's work via Jamaican-born cultural theorist, political activist, and sociologist Stuart Hall, Paul's mentor. Their discussions evolved into a friendship and it dawned on Anthoney that his research and the East Man album had some synergy, so he asked Paul to write a piece about East Man conveying that. You can read Gilroy's text in full below.
Paul is also featured on the cover alongside Hart and the MCs: Saint P, Darkos Strife, Killa P, Irah, Ekilpse, Lyrical Strally, and Kwam.
London’s young people have been seen as a problem by governments for many generations now. Their distinctive street cultures stretch back into the nineteenth century when, just like today, a stylish public presence signified danger to respectable people. At that time, Britain’s class conflicts were being re-made amidst all the glorious fruits of a global empire. Divisions like class and sex had different shapes and tempos that hardly resemble the machinery of our increasingly networked and unequal world. Religion, racism and nationalism were all important, but work, exploitation and poverty supplied the fiery core of politricks.
These days, Britain’s imperial wealth and prestige are long gone. Today’s young people are excluded and marginalized, confined and criminalized, yet they remain at the heart of the vital, energetic best of our city. Their energy and imagination drive London’s convivial culture. They duck and dive just like their predecessors. They hustle, they suffer and they survive. Even where knives are common, most of the problems that come up get resolved without murderous violence. The defining experience of their precarious situation is more likely to be fear or anxiety than warfare between gangs. Their violence is more likely to turn inwards on to their loved ones and family members. There are many forms of self-harm and self-medication.
Yet the space in which those youthful lives unfold has contracted. The scale on which life is lived has shrunk. Moving around can be expensive. Surveillance is constant. Dignity and certainty are difficult to find and hold on to. It can be hard to feel comfortable outside the spaces and places you know best. Those familiar circuits are marked out by the roadside shrines of dead flowers that show just how vulnerable you can quickly become.
We have been losing London to Babylon but we are busy making a new place. The edges of the city have become fertile. The weeds grow up explosively between palisaded concrete boxes and the litter-strewn greenery. This is not zones 1 and 2 where houses and flats are capital rather than buildings to live in. The music that comes out of that edgy world isn’t what it was a generation ago, but it’s still fundamental--necessary for life.
These shocking sounds can be a part of healing and repair while staying faithful to the pressures that forged them. Musicians can’t make a living from their creativity, but their listeners can’t understand this historical moment unless they get to grips with its local rules, meanings and poetry. This is not America. Even without words, this music speaks for itself and tells a story. It calls out to be understood while seeking ways to escape interpretation.
We are always more than either this or that. We are more than either black or white. — Paul Gilroy, 2017.
Red, White & Zero LP will land tomorrow via Planet Mu, with a full stream below.