We had the good fortune of connecting with Anthony McLean and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Anthony, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I’m originally from Washington DC. My family is from Trinidad and Tobago. Growing up in DC, I had to navigate being a black American with international roots. At home, I would hear Soca and Calypso, but while at school, we would talk about Hip-Hop and Go-Go music ( A music that is local to the Washington DC region). Growing up, I learned how to be attentive to my surroundings. At the time, DC was a pretty dangerous city. I gained an interest in music when I was in elementary school. I used to play drums in the marching band. After I enrolled in Junior High School, I became interested in DJing. I overheard a conversation from one of my friends, mentioning how his uncle was a DJ. He talked about the turntables, the mixer, and blending the songs. It sounded super cool to me. I knew that was something I wanted to pursue.
Around 7th grade, we moved to a neighborhood in NW DC. I was living in a much bigger house in a much safer area. In DC, music was influenced heavily by New York and multiple parts of the south. I started rapping and doing graffiti. My best friend and I used to go on missions to see who could do the most outlandish tags. When I graduated from high school, I explored more of the city. The city still was pretty rough to navigate, but it was also super fun! My friends and I would attend go-go’s (parties), hang with girls from other schools, and try to make as much money as possible. When I turned 17, I could finally get my first pair of turntables. Back then, a DJ setup would cost around 4 to 5 grand. I practiced for about a month before I received my first booking. After that, I landed several more. Then I started DJing in the strip club until I graduated high school and left for college. My experience in DC helped me become the self-aware person that I am. It showed me how to do business and how to navigate risky situations. It also provided a foundation that empowered me as a black man.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I would say my art is an amalgamation of cultural music. When I DJ, I love spinning music from around the diaspora—Soca, Afrobeats, Dancehall, Reggaeton, Hip-Hop, and many more. I took my exposure of various genres of music and applied the styles of music to my DJ sets. When you hear me DJ, you’re going to listen to a plethora of tunes. When I produce music, It’s the same thing. I create based on how I feel and what sound I’m most in tune with at that moment. I got to where I am by not giving up. As simple as it sounds, I know many artists and DJs who stop. I understand that life can get in the way of things. I think the biggest thing is to keep going until something that aligns with your dream happens. This journey has not been easy and doesn’t seem like it’s letting up. The older I get, the more challenges I face. I think the more significant the success, the greater the journey. I utilize my family and friends as support systems. I attend therapy regularly, and I constantly learn from my past mistakes. All of these methods have helped me keep moving forward.
A few lessons I learned along the way is to put out what you want to get back. If I want someone to listen to my music, I’m going to listen to someone else’s first. If I want people to come see me DJ, I’m going to go to the club and see other DJs spin. The universe is like a boomerang. If you put all of your energy in the wrong direction, it will come back and hit you in the face. Lean into those who genuinely support you. For the people who pretend that they support you but really don’t, never take it personally. It’s part of the game.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would first take them to the dispensary to provide them with a care package. Then I would take them to check out beautiful views of the city. If we are talking precovid times, Library bar for the night life, bomb vegan food at the vegan food fest, hear some dope music at the continental and probably catch a vibe at the soho house. Beach vibes, private house parties and beautiful people.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to give a shoutout to God first. Without the most high, I wouldn’t be where I am and let alone alive. My second shoutout is to my family and my God family. Without them, I wouldn’t have developed the creativity that I have. No matter how big or small I dreamt, they always supported me. I would like to thank my brother Big Shot. He was my first DJ partner. To this day, he is still fighting for his life from a brain aneurysm he experienced back when we were in college. Next up is my brother DJ Venom. That’s my brother from another. He was the person who I experienced my young adult years with. We have each others back to this day. I also want to give another shoutout to my homies Ipod, T miller, Marklin and my best friend John. We are all from the same city and all come from the same struggle. I definitely owe a shoutout to Mr Muhammad. He’s been a mentor, brother and father figure to me while I was living in New York. His advice is invaluable. I consider him a modern day sage. I will always give a shoutout to the whole Island of Trinidad & Tobago. That is my culture, my people and where my heart lies. A big shoutout to the city that raised me, Washington DC. Shoutout to all of the black women that supported me throughout my life. Women are the medium to manifestation. Honor them, protect them and support them. Shoutout my bro Tahir Moore, Brashaad, MJ and The whole Violator DJ crew. Shout out to my brother DJ All en 1. We’ve been holding each other down since NYC. Shout out to Tiph. She’s a dope ass DJ. Shoutout out to Tavis and Ayo. That’s are my family right there. He’s an amazing photographer and she is an amazing chef. Shoutout to Madone. He’s a dope DJ and turntablest. Shoutout to Corece, Dave, Cee, Oddisee, Sean Mitchell, Kevin and Kim, and many many more. Also shoutout to FAMU.
Photos by Trivell Miller @tmillerfilms