The Coolest City in America | A Dedication to the District (Part 3)

Beginning with film, photography, lifestyle, and music, I now wrap up my Dedication to DC series with four more slices of Washington metro's culture: apparel, nightlife, art, and cuisine. The variety that I've barely scratched the surface on here speaks to the vast array of creative finds in DC, which have brought endless color to the historically bland political town. Individuals like the ones introduced below are all boosting the reasons why DC is being repainted into a portrait of pure cool.  

Without further ado...


Idris Shinaba and Tobi Bello, 1/2 of Upper Thinking's team of visionaries 

Apparel: Idris and Tobi // Upperthinking

Idris and Tobi are two members of the entrepreneurial group that created Upper Thinking, a lifestyle clothing brand four childhood friends envisioned while attending separate colleges. They’d identified a void in casual mens apparel -- there weren’t any apparent brands being worn that communicated a meaningful message of advancement. They realized DC, Maryland, and Virginia was home to a very special population of young dreamers and doers, so they created a brand that would reflect the experiences that living in the area has shaped.

Upperthinking aims to spark a higher level of consciousness and a more driving motivation to put actions to goals among its wearers.

According to Idris and Tobi: “Upperthinking is all about ‘inspiring greatness’ being ahead of the curve, creating something both new and refreshing, simple yet cool. We take traditional fundamental values and use them to create a contemporary and modern piece. Upperthinking is a melting pot of ideologies; if you take a careful look at the brand it offers so much to so many different people. And that's what the DMV is all about, that's why the city of DC was voted as THE coolest city in America by Forbes this year. DC is a melting pot, just look to the political landscape of Democrats and Republicans. Look at the socio-cultural landscape. I walked past a luxury condo on P street a few days ago and thought to myself, ‘you gotta be extremely rich to grab a piece of real estate here.’ And as I thought that, I saw a homeless with a tent setup right around the corner, slinging back a brew with his shades on. I smiled. ‘I guess you don't have to be that rich huh.’ The point is there is something for everyone in the DMV, and because of that, there can be no lack of creativity or inspiration.”

After Upperthinking was featured by the University of Maryland’s school newspaper the same year the line debuted, it began to pop up more and more around the campus Tobi & I called home. Now, the brand’s reach has expanded considerably, as an increasing number of young men and women alike seek to bring context to their clothing. With the help of continuous new product development, strategic business planning, and pop-up shops that give in-person exposure, Upperthinking is working to become a nationwide and even worldwide brand -- staying true to its mission to inspire greatness.

Chris 'Sakyi' and Alex 'Fletch' Fletcher, The Social Group DC event coordinators

Nightlife: Sakyi and Fletch // The Social Group

DC & its surrounding metropolis is brimming with young professionals on the rise who put in work day in and day out. Many of these workplaces we spend so much time in lack dimension among the work responsibilities and youth among the employees. There’s no oomph -- just places we temporarily dedicate our lives to to fund our existence.

Sakyi, Fletch, and the rest of the Social Group team that they are key members of, are passionate about bringing that oomph to DMV urbanites with their vivid evening and weekend happy hours, signature club nights, as well as food- and drink-centered meetups.   

The Social Group DC (TSG for short) helps you kick back at the end of a long day or week, offering like minded millennials within the same demographic the opportunity to connect. By making us laugh, giving us reasons to jazz it up and smile for the camera, and bringing high energy Friday & Saturday evenings to DC, as well as diverse social environments outside of the club, these guys remind us that life should be an enjoyable balance of both work and play. Sakyi and Fletch both work closely with clients to plan birthdays and specialty networking events, remaining professional throughout but also letting their outgoing personalities shine, to make sure their clients’ requests are thoroughly accommodated so that they are left with the best possible memories (assuming they do remember their night).

Many in the area recognize TSG as the go-to planners for nightlife. The group’s events attract packed houses, and it stands out from other promotional entities in many ways. They run a regularly updated blog that sheds light on noteworthy local DMV talent, profiles of the faces behind TSG, and motivational messages. They make it their mission to think of and execute innovative events, such as comedy socials, school supply drive happy hours, movie themed nights hosted by various celebrities, and “retox” Sunday brunches.  “It's safe to say The Social Groups approach is different than your normal promotional company,” Sakyi and Fletch reflect. “We view ourselves as a entertainment company in which we put ourselves in our clientele's shoes to leave them with experiences to remember.

Whether it's through our monthly dinner socials, food crawls, happy hours, brunches, or late night events. TSG caters to all!”


Erik, bka Rikasso, DMV artist 

Art: Rikasso // Thoughts On Canvas

From the moment his brush begins to glide across a fresh, blank canvas, he’s known as Rikasso. An artist who gives life to his imagination through oil, acrylic, watercolor, spray paint and more, Rikasso is beginning to leave a remarkable impression on the DMV’s art scene with the limitless nature of his compositions.  Using these various mediums, he conveys thought-provoking messages, by creating striking, and sometimes risqué, pieces of art that magnetically draw your attention. His draws inspiration from legendary artists such as Picasso and Basquiat, whose art ignites profound interpretations, but his unique style has the ability to eventually identify him as iconic in his own right.

Even more impressive, Rikasso has only begun painting early in 2013, having never before received any training or taken classes. After experimenting with acrylics for the first time, he realized he had a gift; with practice and glowing feedback from friends, this gift bloomed into a full-grown passion that he now chases with fervor. Earlier this month, he debuted his first solo showcase at a bustling DC art gallery.

“People come and people go. I just want my art to remind people that I was once here.”

Within the short time span of his art career, he’s left his mark -- or his masterpieces, rather -- throughout the city, selling custom pieces, original paintings, as well as prints of his work.

He’s collaborated with entertainers, chefs, charity organizations, and various other event planners for several live paintings, which have all helped lead up to his successful, self-curated event.  If this is only the beginning for Rikasso, the art world should definitely be ready for what the future holds.


See more: Rikasso's IG || (re-launching soon!) || Art inquiries:

JB, DC based chef

Cuisine: Jabari Butler (JB) // Eat With JB

While the previous 7 creatives are all MD or DC born and raised individuals who I’ve either known since high school or college, the last of the bunch is a Florida-native young chef who Dri befriended at Howard. ‘Chef,’ however, is what I call myself when I whip up a well seasoned salmon fillet with steamed broccoli and jasmine rice in 30 minutes flat. Jabari -- with his skilled recipe creations -- would probably wish to separate himself from kitchen frauds like me, which is why I’d say “culinary extraordinaire to be” is a much more fitting title.

JB demonstrates how the eating experience ought to be done, using his flavor know-how and careful eye for presentation to engage the senses with each dish. Working in various well known restaurants in DC, he feeds his desire to be a top culinarian by constantly learning new cutting-edge cooking techniques and practicing his craft daily.

Outside of these established kitchens, JB also hosts intimate dinner parties that aim to bring his friends together for an evening of gusto while appeasing their palates with special menus arranged for the occasion. Having held five so far within just a couple of years, these food events “with JB” each have a different theme, including brunch, tapas, and soul food. As he expands his cookery, JB plans to hold plenty more savory Eat With JB feasts. His clear purpose for cooking, attention to detail, and knack for thinking up marvelous concepts like these will lead him to kitchens in cities all over -- I hope one day he brings his talents to the West!

Are you hungry, Washingtonians? ‘Sup with JB, why don’t you?’

Delving into the passions of others has recently become a passion of mine. It’s helped me learn their rhyme & reason and also sparked new creative ideas for how I can nurture my own interests. I thoroughly enjoy seeing young individuals who create their own paths, who use their urban landscapes to allow their talents to shine. It’s exhilarating to see my peers and counterparts aspire for more than just a 9-5 defined lifestyle. Challenging practicality, this generation is notably redefining what it means to hustle with purpose.

Of course, the world couldn’t go ‘round without the practical professions that we need to survive in modern society. There are so many young people making strides in these arenas as well (medicine, law, education, engineering, etc) who deserve well-earned praise.

For me however, it’s the culture that adds the spice. We need platforms to express ourselves and ways to make life enjoyable -- all the time (not just on weekends, vacations, and after retirement)!

It’s so important to support those with a dream. Support doesn’t have to mean coming out of your pocket. It comes in various forms -- sharing a link to someone you know would like it, retweeting a tweet that promotes someone’s website/product, leaving a comment, showing face & bringing friends to an event they’re hosting. Our generation has the power to shift cultural norms and create reformed patterns among the corporate landscape, but individually, we can’t do it alone. A little bit of encouragement can go a LONG way. 

If you’re inspired by someone, find a way to let that person know! We must uplift each other, hold each other accountable, and show support as we all set out to accomplish our #GoldenGoals.

Kristen Noelle

I consider myself a softly eccentric urbanista. I’m quiet by nature, and I’ve generally always had a mellow laid-back vibe. However, when it comes to my preferences for fun, my style, and my overall thought process, I get a bit more eccentric. I like stepping out of the box of normalcy -- but without forcing anything. I’m a thrill junkie and I live for things that get my adrenaline pumping, such as riding on top of party buses in New York City and hanging off of skyscrapers in Vegas. I spring for bold hues, colorful prints and patterns, and a relaxed look that gives effortless-chic. I like exploring new places and capturing exciting sites. I’m a creative, with a million different ideas running through my mind each day. Whether I’m designing waistbeads, imagining up new clothing concepts, envisioning my next business venture, or planning my next adventure abroad, I’m always thinking of how I can create something great. Being raised in the suburbs but not far from the city and constantly traveling, I developed a love for the best of worlds. The calm and the crazy. The easy-going and the always-buzzing. The soft and the eccentric.