Reggae-come-dancehall star Mr. Williamz has serious Notting Hill Carnival credentials. A resident of west London – whose sound system education started with his first clash in Jamaica at the age of 8 – and one-time D Double E, Major Lazer and Sjy FX collaborator has been attending the largest street festival in Europe since the ’90s, and intimately understands its musical and cultural history.
The biggest street party in London kicked off in 1966 – then dubbed the Notting Hill Fayre. Its beginning wasn’t, however, straightforward. The 1959 Notting Hill race riots, when properties housing West Indians were targeted by firebombs, preceded the formations of the annual party that, for many, is a standout note on their musical calendar.
Five decades on and Notting Hill carnival now represents the steadfastness and togetherness of the capital’s Caribbean community. With a reported rise in racially-motivated attacks since 2016, not forgetting the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire which exposed underfunding and regulatory failures that many in the community bore the brunt of, Mr Williamz believes that carnival can showcase the “good stuff from [the community] with creativity and cultural aspects”.
Here he explains the best way to have the best time of all time, celebrate the event’s Caribbean heritage, and stay out of trouble…
Be drawn into aaaaaall the vibes
“For me every year the vibes is what gets me excited. People partying out in the street, the sound system out in the street, reggae music playing, people enjoying themselves with that energy and electricity.”
It’s not just about the music, it’s about sound system culture too
“The songs you want to hear a lot of the time are the songs you want to hear on a big sound system. One of the sounds systems that I really like is called Gladdy Wax. A huge system that should be on the Portobello Rd. I like the sound of the sound system. I’m not just into the music; I’m into the sound system. The quality of the sound, the way it plays, the way the record sounds. It’s like a big food market when you’re walking around and you’re just tasting different spice. Its about walking round and checking out the systems.”
Embrace the history
“For me, it’s about tunes I wouldn’t even really hear necessarily in the party. If it’s about the freshest tune, you’re going to hear those tunes naturally because everyone is going to be playing the freshest tune from this summer and the freshest tune from last year. So, personally, I wanna’ hear Hugh Mundell, ‘Tell I A Lie’. To hear some sounds that you don’t really hear when you go out because there are so many sound systems, so many tastes, to hear sounds that you wouldn’t really hear in a party these days.”
Take essentials. but don’t overpack
“You’ve got to take your herb, your drink. Have your water, have your money. Have your things that you like but don’t bring too much stuff as you’ll be losing stuff in the crowd. Just the essentials. Just be careful like normal.”
Carnival is best when unrestricted by the authorities
“I’ve been going to carnival since the ’90s and the [bad] headlines were starting in the late ’90s, early ’00s, and they started closing down the carnival much earlier – that’s a problem. [When it was closed early] there was a lot of fighting and stuff. Closing it early means a lot of people just end up walking around, hanging out, watching the floats but before there were more parties to go to, after parties and stuff, in the locality. It has become a different vibe in that sense, it was more free. There’s a lot more restriction now.”
Enjoy carnival for what it is
“The media are always selling stories or whatever – whatever topic is gonna’ be looking towards the negative side. There’s a lot of good stuff from carnival, creativity, cultural aspect that they can focus on and promote and support more.”
Go to enjoy yourself, or don’t go
“Go with a positive attitude, and a positive energy.”
‘More Weed’ by Mr. Williamz feat. Big Zeeks is out now. Catch him performing at Notting Hill Carnival with Shy FX on Monday August 26 at the Sir Lloyd Soundsystem.