about Dean Blunt

Dean Blunt is the most important British artist of the current century because he fundamentally does not care about Britain. His importance makes it shocking that such little critical attention has been paid to his work. His indifference explains it. Dhanveer Singh Brar’s ‘Beefy’s Tune (Dean Blunt Edit)’ looks to initiate a conversation that needs to be had about Dean Blunt, about Britain (through Blunt’s indifference to it), and about Blackness in Britain (through the depth and complexity of Blunt’s feeling for it). Using the 2016 album ‘BBF Hosted By DJ Escrow’ as a means of navigation, Brar hears Blunt in order to access the long contested dream of Britain’s disappearance that was conducted under the name of Black British Arts. Partial (in the sense of his relation to Blunt) and partial (in the sense of unfinished), ‘Beefy’s Tune (Dean Blunt Edit)’ see’s Dhanveer Singh Brar give the dream a grammar, if not a name.

Dhanveer Singh Brar is a theorist and scholar who teaches in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. His is a member of Le Mardi Gras Listening Collective and Lovers Discourse. Brar’s second book ‘Teklife, Ghettoville, Eski: The Sonic Ecologies of Black Music in the Early Twenty-First Century’ will be published by Goldsmiths Press/MIT Press in Spring 2021
“To encounter BBF Hosted by DJ Escrow through Dhanveer Brar’s ears is to see Babylon through his eyes, and to sense Britain—to uncover with ‘accuracy, brutality and beauty’ the complexities of its meaning—through the social music, social vision and social feel of those who refuse the Britishness that is withheld from them. Brar discerns Dean Blunt’s rightful place in a cultural field where critical discourse and sonic dream are fundaments of a dub university curriculum whose various approaches show the absolute necessity and generativity of stealth, flaw and the resistance to category. Blunt’s “love letter to the blackness of Hackney” deserves the most rigorous, gentle, erudite attention. Happily, Dhanveer Brar is here to provide it.” – Fred Moten.

What is the purpose of musical (as a segment of general aesthetic) categorisation? Why does the categorisation of music function so similarly to the modes of categorisation used to racially determine the nation? Why does the free movement of music across the border of genre raise such a violent consternation? In what sense is listening, and its resulting construction of an audience, an activity that can easily lend itself to a xenophobic disposition?

Dhanveer Singh Brar, The 87 Press

DB: That place Alibi used to be called PIER 1. Akon used to come down there a lot, Ja Rule used to go down there, it used to be a proper African hip-hop spot. It used to have a boat sticking out, it was the spot! If it just went through that wave where black music wasn’t being so rinsed round here like it is now, it would have still been a poppin’ club in the area. Because people would have still gone to it. It didn’t survive the wave.

There was a time long ago when I used to put on nights and they’d be like ‘don’t play hip-hop because it brings in the wrong kind of people’. It happened all the time, any time we’d DJ round there the venue owner would come down from the social club upstairs and tell you off for playing hip-hop because it attracted, you know, ‘trouble’. And it’s funny, because that’s all you hear coming out the same clubs now.

I would like another form of popular black music to not be hip-hop, grime or dancehall. Or for there to be more variation of sensibilities. RnB is unfortunately not as popular as it used to be. And there was a time when RnB and hip-hop both co-existed. The fact that we still have black hyper- masculinity as the dominant image in popular black music is just like… I’m done with it man, I’ve been done with it. RnB is not looking like it’s going to have a resurgence in that way because that kind of black communication is just… people don’t really want to hear that.

G: It’s been obscured by capitalism. I’ve kind of moved my own work away from hyper-masculinity.

DB: It’s toxic, because in a short space of time, I mean it’s always been mainstream, but there’s something about it, the performance has become so… normalised. At the same time I don’t think politically about lyrics or whatever, partly cause I think black artists should still have the same freedom as white artists. Warts and all. And they should always exercise that freedom.