Nigel Sylvester Pharrell Williams

Pushing the limits

Words: Andreas Tzortzis

Anyone can ride a bicycle, but how many people create art with it? When Nigel Sylvester leaps into the air with his BMX bike, it’s beyond just entertainment. He approaches his craft like a mad scientist who pushes the limits of what’s humanly possible. He has impressed many, including superstar Pharrell Williams, who proudly takes inspiration from him. 

New York City is my canvas

Down Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica, in the Queens borough of New York, weaving in and out of traffic on his BMX bike, Nigel Sylvester wasn’t earning much street cred. “People called me a white boy and made fun of me,” he says. “They didn’t understand the culture.” I remember seeing Pharrel ride bikes in the Provider video when I was young and that’s another reason I stuck with BMX, because I saw someone like him doing it as well. I saw someone who looked like me, doing it.

Getting famous

The traditional way is you work hard to get sponsored and you ride contests and the more you win the bigger star you are. For me growing up, I didn’t have access to contests and I didn’t have access to the skateparks that these contests were based on. I had to figure out another way to get myself out there. Luckily enough, street riding was becoming very popular, where you rode rails and used what was provided to you. I was using my neighbourhood to ride and express myself. It was like NYC was the canvas and I painted my picture on whatever it offered me. I was able to mix riding with the lifestyle I was living – into music, into art, into fashion. Whenever I put a video out I made sure to include that. Big companies saw it and they were like, “Wow, this kid is different.” 

Working with Pharrell Williams

I want to give kids an opportunity to aspire to be part of that brand and just do good by the industry. I’m hoping that teaming up with someone like Pharrell, we can get it out to the masses and show the world what this BMX culture is about. People have this one image of it. There’s one type of person you think that rides BMX bicycles, but it’s not true.  It started with skateboarding. Seeing someone like him embrace that, it automatically made it cool and acceptable. Kids in the hood start to ride skateboards and you’d never, ever seen that before. He’s just that influential in culture. He’s a producer and music drives culture so much. I hope the same happens for BMX culture.     

05/2014 The Red Bulletin

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