Every year, for those two golden days in August, 30-plus soundsystems power up on every spare bit of street across Notting Hill to make the pavements shake with dub, dancehall and grime. For 2020, that sound will be downsized into Mini Rigs and laptop speakers as people tune into live streams on the Notting Hill Carnival online soundsystem channel, and Rampage is one of the best-known names on the roster.
It’s far from the oldest of the lot, but since its DJ founder Mike Anthony first took over Colville Terrace in 1993, it’s grown into Carnival’s largest static soundsystem – and its most talked about. It pulls crowds so huge that certain Rampage moments have become Carnival folk tales. Like the time Ms Dynamite decided to do a drum ’n’ bass version of her biggest tune on its stage, and 15,000 people rushed to get to the front, putting a 45-degree bend in the metal barriers (‘It was like “Indiana Jones” when that big stone ball comes rolling through!’ says Anthony). Or when it played Lethal Bizzle’s ‘Pow!’ in 2004, and ravers got so hypercharged they tried to rip a tree out of the ground like it was King Arthur’s sword, ‘They didn’t succeed, but I’ll never forget the tree waving like a flag,’ remembers Rampage member Treble T, telling the story for what must be the millionth time.
But people don’t just go to Rampage for the mayhem, they go because they don’t want to miss anything or anyone: you could see Shaggy chilling by the generators, or catch the next big thing. The soundsystem has a well-deserved rep for giving a platform to UK talent right before they explode: Dizzee Rascal, Bashy and Stormzy have all hit the Rampage stage. ‘It can be quite a humbling thing,’ says Anthony, ‘Three years later, you can’t even book them.’
That Rampage won’t be on the streets this year is cause for what Treble T describes as ‘a mini depression, a Carnival mourning’, but the crew have already delivered online raves during lockdown and they have two seven-hour streams planned for the August bank holiday weekend that will be part DJ set, part Carnival TV. Maurice Dennemont, who joined Rampage around nine years ago, says one positive of the whole situation is the chance to go global, bringing on acts from Jamaica and South Africa. ‘The world is watching this year,’ he says, ‘and not just at 7pm on the news to see “oh it was Carnival weekend”.’
Rumours that Carnival could be moved, become ticketed or stop altogether have circulated a lot in recent years. Now that we’ve had an actual cancellation forced upon us, we see what the reality of a year without Carnival would look like, and know for sure that we can never be without it. ‘We have to do everything in our power to make sure there is that continuity,’ says Anthony. ‘We want to protect it at all costs.’
Rampage Online Carnival will take place Sun Aug 30-Mon Aug 31, 12pm-7pm. Sign up here.