East Man (Basic Rhythm) uses dancehall, drum n’ bass, and techno to minister to the London youth on debut LP for Planet Mu

East Man (Basic Rhythm) uses dancehall, drum n' bass, and techno to minister to the London youth on debut LP for Planet Mu

These days, plenty of albums feature guest performers, but…how many releases come to mind in which a world-renowned UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR offers their thematically cohesive thoughts in the liner notes?

If you’re familiar with London-based producer Anthoney Hart’s music up until now, you know that Hart initially started out under the Imaginary Forces moniker; then, more recently, Basic Rhythm was introduced as the dark-side conduit for an appreciated throwback to his old school pirate radio days. Now, Hart’s getting meta with his London connection on his debut album as East Man, entitled Red, White & Zero.

In addition to his friendship with renowned cultural theorist Paul Gilroy serving as an inspiration for the new project, the Red, White & Zero LP features local London MCs on nearly every track. Those MCs serve as a representation of a maligned London youth — a subject that Gilroy has spent a fair amount of his academic career writing about and discussing.

Musically, Red, White & Zero showcases an ostensibly new hybrid genre of “grime, dancehall, drum & bass and techno” that Hart has seen fit to label “Hi Tek.” Hear the track “Look & Listen” below for an audible example of how East Man negotiates all these vaguely-related sub-genres for yourself.

The album is out February 16 on Planet Mu. Pre-order it here; then, take a deep dive with Professor Gilroy in his full statement about the album:

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 tracklisting:

01. East Man - East Man Theme
02. East Man & Saint P - Can’t Tell Me Bout Nothing
03. East Man & Darkos Strife - Cruisin’
04. East Man & Killa P - Mission
05. East Man - Stratford
06. East Man & Irah - War
07. East Man - Drapesing
08. East Man & Eklipse - Safe
09. East Man & Lyrical Strally - Mmm
10. East Man & Kwam - Tear Down
11. East Man & Darkos Strife - Look & Listen
12. East Man - And What? (Blood Klaat Version)

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