Riddim: Nottinghill Carnival forever!

One of the things I love about the Big Smoke is it’s eclectic mix of people: There are around 300 different languages spoken on the streets of London and you can bump into people from all over the world at every street corner. That’s why this whole Brexit thing feels so silly and weird to me.

For me the biggest celebration of diversity has been the annual Notting Hill Carnival where the Caribbean community celebrates its heritage with dance, drink and (steel) drums… and the rest of London joins in!

Although the roots of the NHC go way back to the 1950’s, the carnival first hit the streets in 1966 as a celebration of cultural unity. Around 1970 the Notting Hill Carnival consisted of just a few music bands and 500 dancing spectators. But things started to get bigger around 1973 with more sponsorship, the recruiting of more steel bands, reggae groups and sound systems and extending the route. Today NHC is Europe’s biggest Street Party with around 2 Million people attending each year and the second biggest carnival just behind Rio! More exciting facts about the carnival here…

This might be why Londoners either love or decidingly avoid the carnival: Because if you can’t brave large crowds pushing you one direction, then maybe this celebration is not for you.

I personally love the NHC. Not only because I believe that the world needs more amazing street parties, but because it’s great to see some sparkles and feathers brightening up grey and brutalist London!

Still, after nearly being pushed onto a Jerk Chicken grill last year by a tidal wave of people trapped in a tight spot I had reservations attending this year. But with the sun out I had to grab my camera and at least take some pictures! Arriving late on the Monday helped me to avoid the busiest areas and I stayed away from the inner circle of the festival in central Notting Hill.

So easy vibes and still loads of sparkles and feathers all around!

Apart from the amazing floats with it’s gorgeous dancers, the sound system culture is one of the biggest draws of the carnival: Legendary sound systems like Aba Shanti, Channel One and Norman Jay’s Good Times draw huge crowds, so trying to have a dance can be of an issue. That’s why I personally prefer to just float around and let the vibe carry me, instead of having a rigid plan. Because NHC can be really chaotic, packed and too much if you don’t go with the flow!

I really must give the utmost respect to all the planners, volunteers and police men and women who still manage to keep the NHC safe and manageable. Big up yourselves!

Seeing all these massive bass bins really makes my fingers itch every time I am at the carnival: It’s surely is every DJs dream to be able to blast tunes on a system connected to these bad bwoys…  

The 7PM curfew reminded me that Tuesday unfortunately is excluded from the official Bank Holiday so I managed to be a responsible person and hit the train home to lovely East London. Still the excitement of the carnival kept me buzzing!

So if you just moved to London or plan to visit next year: Grab your whistle, get some face paint on and an ice cold Red Stripe and check out the carnival! Irie?

My official Top 5 tunes I would play at the carnival

1) “Nice Up” – Black Grass

Straight off the Document 3 compilation by Dj Andy Smith, if this tune is not making you shake your hips you might have to lubricate them with a little bit more Wray and Nephew!

2) “Anthem” – Black Rose

A nice reggae infused House banger that builds nice and slowly. But once that chorus hits…

3) “Push Push” – Rockers Hifi

A stone cold classic from 1991. Yes, I am old.

4) “Kitachi In Dub Rmx” – Kitachi

I was always a big fan of the Dope on Plastic compilation series and record label. And I really like Digi Dub too! So this is a nice rowdy track to get the crowd moving…

5) “Original Nuttha” – Shy FX

Certified London anthem from 1995. Plus I used to live in the same apartment block as Shy FX. True story!

C’est ne pas un SUPREME

  Illustration by Tomii Studio
Illustration by Tomii Studio

I don’t know if it’s my age creeping up to me, but the whole current Streetwear game leaves me pretty cold these days: There is just nothing out there that excites me! But maybe that’s because I spend already half my life obsessing about brands and woke up to the fact that it’s a never stopping hamster wheel of craving the next hype item… and then what? 

Once acquired, the magic quickly fades and you have another overpriced piece of stuff gathering dust on your shelf. True story.

Still, me slagging off brands would be a massive hypocrisy: I love brands and their beautifully designed logos that trigger a pavlovian reaction whenever I come across them. Those little condensed nuggets of meaning and belonging that are universally understood and instantly get my excitement levels up with their promise of worth and desirability!

They are a bit like Jellybeans: Devoid of any real nutrition, but packed with artificially heightened flavor that keeps you hooked and come back for more!

So although I try to stick to more accessible and neutral brands like Uniqlo these days I still love a well branded item. And actually, the sillier the item the better! And who is the KING of silly branded items? Oh yes, that must be Supreme…

With it’s bold branding ripped off ehhh INSPIRED by the collage art of Barbara Krüger, Supreme has the perfect identity to splash over basically any item they goddamn want to! 

The Supreme hype is so strong that it even corrupts the minds of vegan saints like Morrissey: How shocking to see him switch to the dark side of shameless brand advertising! I understand Moz though… everybody just loves a crisp box logo tee. Especially when you don’t have to queue for it!

Supreme’s accessoires game really leaves me flabbergasted season after season: Do they have a designated dude who is just employed to smoke a lot of weed and dreams up all these weird items? Toothpicks, Post-It Notes, Fire Extinguishers… BRICKS?!

This randomness sometimes propels the company for me from mundane brand expression to, dare I say it, art. Maybe head honcho James Jebbia is really more of a fine artist embracing Dadaism instead of being the boss of a fashion retail empire?

Who knows such things. All I know is that the following items are all legit and got released by Supreme at some point in time. Crazy! Especially the latest collection has some real winners: That Supreme brick is just fantastic as a bold exercise in showcasing the power of logos and branding.

Now as fun as the above items are, I feel Supreme should stop holding back and go a bit further! I have my own wishlist of household Supreme items I personally want to see on the shelves…

Here are my Top 5 items I still want to see released:

1. Supreme Bucket™ – Mundane yet essential in any flat or house. Instant CLASSIC! 

2. Supreme Teabags™ – Getting teabagged was never so HYPE!

3. Supreme Toaster™ – Seriously Supreme… why is this not existing already?

4. Braun x Supreme Heater™ – Supreme brings some heat… again!

5. Dunhill x Supreme Tie™ – Because everybody needs a day job to afford all this stuff!

More Streetwear FYAH! can be spotted here: http://www.supremenewyork.com

Shoutout to www.tomiistudio.com for creating amazing streetwear based illustrations!

Funny how? My love affair with stand up comedy

With one of my favorite comedian riding to town this month, I thought I reflect a little bit about my love for stand up comedy. As you, my dear reader, might have already figured out, I am quite into things: I can obsess about records, toys, street wear, urban art and cinema… hell, pop culture in general! But somehow stand up comedy never made my list of obvious obsessions. 

I rarely go to gigs and don’t really catch up with what’s out there at the moment. Yet again, stand up has fascinated and entertained me since I was a little boy back in Germany and I think nobody comments as poignantly on the weird spectacle of human existence than Stand Up Comedians!

I feel they fill the role of the court jester, who was the only person allowed to mock the king and therefor had the power to touch on some uncomfortable truths without ( literally ) risking his neck.

When Philosophers and Politicians debate, things can get very emotional and heated. One feels compelled to take a stand, argue for or against and feel either insulted or vindicated.

As comedians are meant to be funny, we are not so pressured to take their rants as serious personal attacks, but rather chuckle along as we can relate to the stories about the trials and tribulations of modern life.

Of cause there are as many types of comedy as there are pebbles on a beach, but personally I always enjoyed most humor that touches on real issues and moral dilemmas.

But let’s rewind the clock and talk a little about the comedians that I love…

It all started for me with this guy! I won’t bore you with elaborate ramblings about German comedy, but OTTO has to be name dropped because I listened to this specific record over and over all the way back in 1981! 

One can compare him to a thin Bill Bailey: Surreal humor fused with great musical craftsmanship and physical slapstick. Very silly but very funny! 

There are so many great comedians out there that I love, for example the whole Monty Python crew, but in order to keep this blog post snappy let me just ramble about some stone cold classics and some more recent discoveries…

When I moved to London I ended up in a flatshare with my friend Mark Ward who at this time shared the flat already with another dude who came straight from NZ and wore big glasses and mighty sideburns: Turns out Jarred was a budding stand up comedian and always had some stand up specials on rotation in our communal VHS player. 

Through him I got to discover Eddie Murphy as a stand up comedian and not as the Hollywood star I was used to seeing in flicks like Beverly Hills Cop or Search for the golden Child.

Eddie just KILLS it in his flamboyant leather outfits doing impersonations, songs and just hilarious routines. Both of his specials from the 80ties are absolutely amazing and I can watch them on repeat. Thanks Jarred! 

Next up is every Lefties favorite comedian: Bill Hicks. In his short career he left a distinctive impact with many classic routines. I just love his delivery and clever philosophic observations, peppered with a lot of sex, drugs and Rock’n’Roll. He died of cancer in 1994 way too early at the age of 32. 

His legacy can still be felt today and I can really recommend the documentary film about his life from 2009 also.

From Bill Hicks to one of the longest serving comedians ever, George Carlin. I must have come across his comedy specials when I searched for more Bill Hicks material. This guy is insanely talented and has been called  “the dean of counterculture comedians” for a reason: Starting out in 1960 he kept working all the way up  2008, recording his last comedy special for HBO the same year he passed on.

What makes Carlin for me so endearing is his razor sharp intellect and his mediations on the power of language. Being able to switch from clever satire to full on ranting, George Carlin is still the gold standard when it comes to the thinking mans and womans comedy.

Onwards and upwards: Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle. Two absolute heavyweights of stand up comedy. Chris Rock comes out on top for me though: I just love all his specials and can listen to his rants and observations any time. Especially when it comes to call out issues of race in America, few comedians are as fearless as him.

I find it interesting that I never found Chris Rock funny in any of the films he was acting in though: Grown Ups 2 anyone? But when it comes to stand up he’s a beast with his powerful delivery he apparently modelled on Baptist preachers delivering a sermon. Truly never scared…

You really have to be fearless to go out there, and these two ladies have bigger balls than most men: Joan Rivers and Margarete Cho never shied away from talking about their own demons, being it extensive cosmetic surgery or drug addiction.

Especially Joan Rivers is an absolute legend! Starting out in 1965 she became first woman to host a late night network television talk show and her raunchy self deprecating comedy was very unusual to be delivered by a woman back in the Sixties. All the way up until her death in 2014 she was working and nobody did bitchy celebrity comedy just like her. RIP!

Now, as you might have noticed dear reader, my earlier stand up crushes are all American. So let’s give the Brits a little love! This island has so many talented comedians, you wouldn’t know where to start! I do love how many different flavours of comedy can be successful at the same time and co-exist next to each other: Bill Bailey, Ricky Gervais, Jimmy Carr, Sarah Millican, Frankie Boyle, Michael McIntyre… 

The British exceed in is dwelling in the melancholy of human existence: Steward Lee and Simon Amstell always bring the goods when I feel ready for a slice of poetic depression and woe! And I think I don’t know any comedian who is as constantly every so slightly disappointed with humanity than Steward Lee…

Now a bit of a controversial pick near the end of my list: Everybody’s favourite debonaire dandy / egomaniacal serial shagger Russell Brand! Whilst there are many many occasions where it’s competely understandable to hate Russell Brand, you can’t take away from the man his total commitment to his own vanity. And it does take some vanity and obsession to go out on a stage to stand in front of a group of strangers and go: Look at me! I am funny!

Clever enough to know about his addictions and desires, Russell manages to never completely disappear up his own bum so let’s not be too hard on him. Really enjoyed his last Comedy Special, give it a try!

 Now to the big guy who inspired me to count down my favourite comedians, Mr Bill Burr. 

Nobody does a good rant like good old Billy Freckles and I can’t wait seeing him this week performing at the Apollo in London. Apart from great rants, a killer delivery and a fearlessness to really lean into controversial topics, it’s his down to earth approachability and heart in the right place that I really rate.

He is just a very funny guy and I love listening to him. Plus his advice on life he gives out on his weekly podcast is damn PRICELESS!

So I hope you enjoyed my little excursion into my fave funny people and maybe see you at the Bill Burr show this weekend!