Words by: Felicity Martin

The 10 Best Carnival Anthems, according to Jelani Blackman

"One of the maddest things I’ve seen..."

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… for Londoners, anyway. This Bank Holiday weekend will see the biggest street party in Europe, Notting Hill Carnival, flood the streets with floats and street food, and, most importantly, the sound systems that line each leafy street of West London, churning out the best of bashment, soca and UK afrobeats.

A born and bred West Londoner, Jelani Blackman has been attending Carnival since day one, and today – to coincide with the release of his single ‘Cheers’, a track that celebrates the concept of getting together and partying – he guides us through the Carnival bangers that have stuck in his memory.

1. Mr. Vegas – ‘Heads High’

“Classic classic classic. Big Anthem. If you hear this anywhere it can make you feel like you’re back at carnival.”

2. M Beat ft. General Levy – ‘Incredible’

“My first D&B experience was at carnival – I was eleven and walked to the end of my road for one the first times by myself. I came across this sound system and it blew my mind. There were guys actually running on the spot like they needed to win a race and people flying into each other. I rated it and have loved the mosh ever since.”

3. Chaka Demus & Pliers – ‘Murder She Wrote’

“If you can’t tell me about Maxine you need to go to more carnivals.”

4. T-Pain – ‘Buy U A Drank’

“One of the maddest things I’ve seen: Rampage sound system is used to being full of people on beef, everyone just on edge, one time I was there and it was tense and then suddenly this tune came on and the whole crowd just buss into that snap and step move, fully in sync. Everyone was just in the song, not one drop of bad blood for the whole time it played. Actual enemies just happy, gassed up alongside each other.”

5. Burna Boy – ‘Ye’

“I love music cos there’s always gonna be new classics. Like I said, cheers to the old and the new anthems. This is a big new anthem, gassed that Burna has elevated himself to where he’s at as well, did a track with him last year and it’s sick to see the progress.”

6. Drake – ‘Controlla’ / ‘One Dance’

“Not gonna lie, Drake peaked for me with these tunes. The year these both came out was a mmmazzaaa. They were getting played and was just a shutdown straight away. Officially the year of most whines caught.”

7. Lil Wayne – ‘A Milli’

“This tune slaps. The first time I remember a track coming out and then hearing it all over carnival. It’s so weird hearing a track and knowing it’s gonna become a classic, like an instant classic. Very similar to the next track in my list.”

8. J Hus – ‘Did You See’

“It gets too emosh these days when this comes on. Just represents so much, for music and the culture. There have been a good few singalong tracks in the last few years to come out of the UK but in my opinion, nothing else comes close to this. On every level it was perfect and if anyone asked what the new generation of uk music sounds like or comes from, I would play them this. Jae5 and Hus: trailblazers.”

9. Mist ft. Lotto Ash – ‘Different Strokes’

“Been banging this tune out this year so it’s definitely getting played at carnival. 100% my anthem of the year. Kinda takes parts from ‘Ye’ and got a vibe like ‘Did You See’ and then with Mist and Jae5 on it it’s a wrap. Ready to wake up to the sound of carnival this year, put this on then go out and see what adventures I’m gonna have.”

10. Jelani Blackman – ‘Cheers’

“The track is about celebration and good times, that’s carnival 100%. Raising a glass or can or bottle to the things we appreciate and having a drink up, or anything else up. I’ve never missed a carnival in my whole life and they can keep trying to stop it but until they do I’ll be there.”

Jelani Blackman’s ‘Cheers’ is out today.

Reset and Ready: Jelani Blackman is returning to his early independence


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