Very much in the vein of the Lifers Group in the USA, Pro-Ject X was started in England in 1994 to allow a musical platform for the inmates of Strangeways prison, Manchester. A soul/hip-hop/reggae collective, the idea was formulated by Headley Aylock, an MA student in pop/jazz and the proprietor of Summit Records, alongside Phil Ellis, who has also worked in prisons in East Anglia. In 1994 he organised the first Pro-Ject X gig alongside the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. The rest of the band were all prisoners and included Andy Miller and Mark Beckett (both serving six years on separate armed robbery offences), Harvey Black (two years for robbery and blackmail) and the two middle-aged front men - Prince Hammer and Prince Marley. Hammer claimed to have preached as a street poet in the Bronx and Jamaica, while Hammer prided himself on being the father of 27 children. With members drawn from tough Manchester areas such as Wythenshawe and Moss Side, the group conveyed their concerns to the outside world with a 1995 single, ‘The Summit’, recorded with A Guy Called Gerald and Justin Robertson, two highly prominent dance artists with strong personal sympathies for the inmates. The future of the project was limited, however, by the impending release dates for several members.
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