Navani Knows My Old NY


Hector “Nicer” Nazario brought images of the South Bronx out of the streets and into a gallery in his latest exhibit aptly titled, “My Old NY.” The show which opened Sept 1st,  is a trip down memory lane to anyone who spent time in the borough during the 70s and 80s. For me, a Puerto Rican born there, seeing the familiar images of the piragua man, old men playing dominoes and corner bodegas felt immediately like home. Each piece represented a sliver of my childhood and a scene so distant from the gentrified NY we now live in.

“My Old NY” is a must see not only for anyone who is a fan of the legendary graf writer Nicer (Tats Cru) but for those nostalgic for a lost era of New York City as well.


FullSizeRender (1)




The exhibit is live now at Avant Garde Gallery.

Navani Knows Radio: Life Lessons from ‘The Halftime Show’

halftime flyer 18thIt’s the first week of March and while for many that means jumping right into March Madness, for me it means high anticipation for the annual Halftime Show Anniversary show extravaganza. This year marks the 18th anniversary but not only that, tonight marks the last ever broadcast of the NYC radio show staple. It’s a sad day for listeners as one of NY’s longest running independent terrestrial hip-hop shows will end, leaving a huge void for those seeking the best in the indie scene. Today I am reminiscing about all the great times I’ve spent there while being a member of the show from 2011-2014. It was a time to meet amazing artists I looked up to my whole life while working with a great crew — including a legend in the industry, DJ Eclipse. Just being around for the hip-hop conversations and debates was a learning experience in music history in itself. But as I think back I realize I learned so much about life too. Here are my top life lessons from working on WNYU’s The Halftime Show.

Treat Every Opportunity Like a Job
One of the many aspects that make The Halftime Show so special is that everyone on there is a professional. They take their craft very seriously and it shows on the music and the mixes. DJ Eclipse treats the slot which is at a college radio, with all that comes with it – not always great equipment, no money, and he puts on a professional sounding show that would be fit for any of the major radio stations. That is something that he takes pride in. The point is you never know what opportunities might come from something you do now even if it’s a favor. When Eclipse was organizing the Rock Steady SummersStage Anniversary events he did such a great job that he was asked to return and organize more  SummerStage events including the 25th Anniversary concert / screening: Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives event and the 40th Anniversary of Hip-Hop Culture featuring DJ Kool Herc show. So, you never know what opportunities can come of something. In life, treat every experience and opportunity like it’s the major leagues.

halftime show crew

Photo via PhotoRob

Let Opportunities Find You
I would frantically seek out opportunities, whether it was professionally or personally. I always felt the need to make things happen. I have to be constantly ‘doing’ something. Whether it was trying to get my name in another publication or manipulating a romantic situation. But constantly chasing something leads to distraction and exhaustion. Want begets more wanting. I watched Eclipse conduct himself in a totally different way. He instead focused on his craft and just did really good work and the opportunities came to him. People noticed him and reached out to work with him on a plethora of things — anything from organizing a Summer Stage event to booking an Australian tour to DJing on MTV. He never had to chase anything. It completely changed my mindset moving forward on how I show up and operate in life.

Talent Trumps All
The best part of being part of an independent college station was the freedom. There were no program directors telling you what to play, no advertisers to appease, no payola influencing what gets spins. It meant it didn’t matter whether you were on a major label or not, or if you just sent in a really great demo – you had the same chance of getting airplay. All it came down to was one simple question: are you dope or not? Talent trumped everything. So, even if you were a big name and came out with a mediocre project, you won’t get play. But then you could be an up-and-coming artist with a dope project and boom now you are on the playlist right next to names of veterans. I think that standard garnered a certain level of trust from listeners in the show and in its practices. This was a tough crowd and rightfully so. This was the place that a pre-Grammy nominated Kanye came to freestyle over only his own beats. Where Rhymefest spit what would later be the lyrics from “Jesus Walks” in a freestyle. Now it was the place where I would be introduced to great artists like Rapsody, Rasheed Chappell, Maffew Ragazino, Wyld Bunch and Timeless Truth. At the end of the day what matters is talent.

halftime turntables

The Show Must Go On
In the time I was with Halftime we never canceled or pre-recorded a show. Not a once. No matter if people were touring or it fell right on a holiday. No matter if it was inclement weather. Not even during the black out that came after hurricane Sandy. Even Halloween was canceled that year and there went our idea to dress up as the Seinfeld crew. But the show went on. The members at the time were DJ Eclipse, DJ Skizz and Petey cologne. We all carpooled that night. I remember riding together in Petey’s car driving through the pitch-black streets of the city. It was scary af. No streetlights, no nothing. But that’s just how dedicated everyone was to the show.

External conditions aside, sometimes things would go down while the show was going on. Guests cancel at the last minute. Sometimes they get lost and come super late. Technical difficulties ensue. One time when Kool Herc came to the show someone accidentally turned the lights off in the studio and we had no idea how to get them back on. I was mortified because this was Kool Herc and now the live Ustream was pitch-black. Eclipse, Skizz and Petey all happened to be away that week. Nightmare. Finally, the lights came back on by themselves like 10 minutes later. This stuff would stress me, the rookie, out to no end. But the guys were totally fine. They didn’t stress about these things. I guess they had years more experience in dealing with it. At the end of the day they were there and the music was there and the show goes on. Being around them I learned how to not sweat the small stuff, or even big stuff that is just not in your control.  You roll with the punches, just like in life.

Salute to DJ Eclipse for holding it down for 18 years! Shout out to the crew Petey Cologne and DJ Skizz who were always supportive of me. Shout out to Lynn who was the original pioneer along with Riz. And to the countless others that would pitch in over the years: D-Stroy, Torae, DJ Boogieblind, JS-1, DJ Ready Cee and DJ Mixx, DJ Boo, DJ Amore, DJ Chela, SUCE, Dharmic X and Marz One just to name a few. Shout out to the chat room that became a community week after week. Old School Randy, I’m looking at you! Thanks for all the great memories!

Tune in to The Halftime Show finale tonight, March 2nd, live at 10:30pm EST on WNYU 89.1FM and

Navani Knows 10 Women Who Rocked the Music Scene in 2015

As the year comes to a close and all the “Best of” lists have gone viral it has come to my attention that as per usual, women are left out of the conversation when it comes to lists for music. Maybe the people in charge just don’t bother to listen to female artists, or some will argue that this was an awful year for women in music in general. In any case, I’m taking a moment before this year officially ends to pay homage to the ladies of 2015. In case you can’t remember how much influence women still have here are my 10 fave moments of women ruling the music scene in 2015 (in no particular order).

  1. That time when M.I.A. dropped a timely political video about the refugee crisis LIKE A BOSS. When the video for “Borders” dropped I played it on repeat almost all day. How could you not question our country’s politics after listening to those lyrics:
    “Borders (What’s up with that?)
    Politics (What’s up with that?)
    Police shots (What’s up with that?)
    Identities (What’s up with that?)
    Your privilege (What’s up with that?)
    Broke people (What’s up with that?)
    Boat people (What’s up with that?)
    The realness (What’s up with that?)”
    Asking all this while sitting perched on top of a pyramid of refugees only accentuated the message. Such a powerful visual for a powerful cause. M.I.A. never shies away from the controversial topics that need to be addressed.
  2. That time when Missy Elliott made her comeback with puppets in “WTF”and the internet lost its mind. I mean, I lost my mind back in February when Katy Perry bought her on stage and the beat for “Get Your Freak On” dropped. It was a little foreshadowing that there would be more to come from Missy this year. But when the video finally did drop for “WTF” I was in Argentina and I still felt a collective “YES” scream across the world from here. YES! for creativity, YES! for dancers, YES! for being a dope female musician in a blinged-out track suit. Oh Pharrell can’t make the video shoot? No problem, we’ll just make some fly dancing puppets. Oh Missy, how we missed you so!
  3. That time when Erykah Badu dropped a mixtape featuring a collabo with her baby-daddy Andre 3000 called  “Hello” and made us reevaluate our relationship goals. When Andre says, “Okay, challenge/Leave your phone unlocked and right side up/
    Walk out the room without throwin’ your bitch off balance/
    It’s either on or off, ain’t no in between when it’s valid.” It’s his first verse of 2015 and it’s OOF, super deep. I love the entire concept of “But You Caint Use My Phone” being a social commentary on the influence and obsession of our phones in this day and age. So much so, that how we interact with them around significant others is the new test of a relationship. I mean yes, Erykah is my spirit animal so she can rarely do wrong in my book but still, this song reminded us what soul music could be.
  4. That brings us to the OTHER “Hello” of this year: That time Adele dropped her album 25 and sold more copies than anyone in one week –  3.38 Million copies in the U.S. alone to be exact. Then continued to sell over a million copies two more weeks, breaking other records along the way. BONG.  I love it when artists can rely solely on their talents to win big and not make the focus about their appearance. Adele does that brilliantly (in my British accent) time and time again. Kudos to her also for having Tristen Wilds AKA Mack Wilds AKA Michael Lee star as her love interest in this video:
  5. That time the Amy documentary came out and gave us all the feels…
    I can’t talk about Adele without thinking about my other fave British Songstress, Amy Winehouse.  I miss her so much at times like this. Luckily, this year we had the release of Amy, which gave us a few more live moments of her on the big screen to hang on to. The documentary gave an intimate look into the back story of Amy’s quick rise to fame and her fall from grace. As sad as it was to watch, I really appreciated the movie for giving an honest portrayal of someone completely overwhelmed not only with her demons but with her unwanted fame. I left with an even bigger respect for Amy as an artist, someone who valued her process and her artistry over everything else. She didn’t care about being a  pop star, she just wanted to make authentic music.
  6. That time when we learned how to say twins in Yoruba with the release of the debut self-titled album from Ibeyi. Two Afro-Cuban Parisian sisters rocked my world with their Yoruba chants over self-made hip-hop infused drum beats. If this is the year of authenticity and showing up as you are, these two take the cake. They sing about dealing with grief, loss of love, and paying homage to our ancestors in ways no 21-year-old should know about yet. Cheers to women that honor every aspect of their culture and their soul. It was an amazing album that bough traditional Afro-Cuban Yoruba music to the mainstream. And kudos to their hat-tip to Jay Electronica in the song “Exhibit Diaz” Can’t wait to see what’s next for these sisters.
  7. That time Jennifer Lopez hosted the American Music Awards and killed the opening performance, reminding us she is still a ‘Fly Girl’ at 46. And, she looked amazing doing so. I mean come on, did you think I would have a list and not mention her? Have we met?  Yes, I ride for JLo regardless but she really killed it! she performed the year’s hits better than the artists themselves. Say what you will about her as a singer or actress, but at the end of the day she is a true dancer at heart and her skills cannot be questioned in this performance.
  8. That time Florence + the Machine dropped their third studio album and it was even better than the first two… I didn’t think it was possible but then there she was, Florence and her tambourine were back with a vengeance in How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. Songs like “What Kind of Man” and “Hiding” became my living room dance party anthems. I immediately channeled my barefoot, inner-hippie and followed her all the way to Montreal just to catch a peek of her singing about love, loss and her drinking problems. This album was extremely raw and personal. Well done, mate.
  9. That time Janelle Monae reminded us that #blacklivesmatter with the song “Hell You Talmbout.” It’s been a tomultrorous year in the fight against police brutality, especially on the heels of the non-indictment ruling of Tamir Rice’s case. We are hurting and tired, we scream Black Lives Matter but feel like it falls on deaf ears. Janelle Monae screamed back and let us know we were not alone when she dropped this song along side her Wondaland crew. In it she recites the names of Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray and the many other lives unjustly lost to police. I dare you to listen to this song and not get chills.
  10. Lastly, that time Aretha Franklin, her clutch and her fur coat, graced the stage at the Kennedy Center Honors and made President Obama cry with her performance of “Like a Woman.” Yes, she was paying homage to Carole King who wrote the song, but we know who made the song a hit. Aretha plays the piano, she drops her fur coat and all without missing a beat. If you forgot what the Queen of Soul looks like, here is your reminder.

Navani Knows the Ferguson Decision: Where is Hip Hop?

The Grand Jury decision was made Monday night not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the murder of unarmed teen Michael Brown and I like most of America – at least my America, am heart-broken. Not surprised really, but still heart-broken. Amidst the anger and frustration I am also confused. As I watch people take the streets to protest I can’t help but wonder, where is Hip Hop in all this?

I fell in love with Hip Hop over 20 years ago for it’s rebellious nature. I loved that it talked about things that were considered taboo and went against the grain. It was brave, honest and fearless. It was a movement created and made up of people that represented me – the economically challenged, invisible person of color. For the first time people were talking about the things that went on in our communities, sharing our personal struggles and putting it out to the mainstream. It was as if we actually mattered.

Artists like Public Enemy, KRS-One, NWA and later on Nas gave a glimpse into what daily life was like for the underprivileged and underserved. The communities that are so easy to ignore. It gave a voice to those without one. It felt empowering. That’s what started my love affair with Hip Hop and that’s what I miss about it today.

20 years later and Hip Hop has grown into a huge, international, powerful cash cow yet the communities that birthed it still suffer needlessly. So many people feed off of Hip Hop culture yet no one is protecting the people it represents. It baffles me that nothing has changed. The same issues of police brutality and injustice KRS-One spoke about in “Sound of Da Police” are still happening.

These are not new issues for anyone looking in from the outside. This has been going on my entire life. If you listen to “Fight the Power” you will see that. If you watch “Do the Right Thing” and “Boyz n the Hood” you will see that. If you ever pick up a book written by a person of color you will see that. The same reoccurring themes continue to show up. It’s so easy for those that are not personally affected by it to be completely oblivious and turn a blind eye.

No matter what your thoughts of Michael Brown are – whether you classify him as a “thug” (which I have seen a lot of in my Facebook feed) or not, deserving or not – I just want to remind people that this is bigger than one case, one cop, one non-indictment. I grew up with a huge mistrust of the establishment and law enforcement as it was ingrained in our culture. We were told rules to abide by like if you ever get pulled over make sure you keep your hands up where they can see, don’t reach for the glove compartment. But now keeping your hands in the air doesn’t even work. I constantly feared and still do, for any of my male relatives or friends to ever interact with the police. If you didn’t grow up feeling like that consider yourself lucky, it’s a privilege that most people I know do not have.

I recently went to see a Keith Haring exhibit called “The Political Line.” It showed how he addressed many social and political issues like racism, gay rights, media and consumerism in his work. He used his art to make a statement and take a stand. In the gallery write up it said Keith Haring “saw the role of an artist as that of an antagonist, with a responsibility to speak out against inequity and injustice.” I agree with that statement. I have always considered true emcees to be artists.

So, now I am wondering when Hip Hop will go back to its roots and use the power of their million-dollar corporate sponsorships, the 360 deals and the millions of followers on social media to speak out against injustice? That’s the Hip Hop I know and miss.  And we need it more than ever now.

Navani Knows Graffiti: SSB and TATS CRU Collaborate on Tribute to Christopher “Shadow” Lee


I don’t make it up to the Bronx very often, even to see my own family (sorry Titi!). But when two legendary graffiti crews collaborate on a project you don’t want to miss it. Saturday, September 6th the Brooklyn-based SSB (Soul Stoned Brothers) crew and Bronx-based TATS CRU joined forces to pay tribute to Shadow AKA Christopher Lee (Spike Lee’s brother). The late SSB crew legend was a respected artist for  over 40 years. Kicking off at The Point CDC this was the first of many murals all over the country to pay homage to the artist. But to see it you have to be fast! It lasted a whole of two days then it was transformed into another project. That is the exciting thing about graffiti, one day it’s here and the next it is gone. It is a constantly changing and moving art form. Luckily, some press were invited to document the event. While there I caught up with graffiti pioneer and SSB founder AIM, AKA George Colon to get some back story. Check out some pics of the mural and hear George reflect on his friendship with Shadow below.

Continue reading

Navani Knows Shoreditch Street Art


I recently went on a spur of the moment trip to London courtesy of an awesome friend who travels all over the world for work and has lots of miles to spare. Thanks again, awesome friend! I loved just about everything in London – the architecture, the accents, the history and did I mention accents? Those doorman with tuxedos and top hats on weren’t bad either –  way to make a gal feel like royalty.  And, it was sunny the entire time I was there which like never happens. So, all in all, it was a pretty magical time. But when people ask me what my favorite part of my trip was I have to say it was taking a walking tour of Shoreditch, the mecca of London’s street art culture.

Being an avid Hip Hop and graffiti enthusiast stateside, when scoping out things to do across the pond I immediately thought: Banksy. I figured there must be something graffiti-related to see there so I took to Google and found there are numerous street art tours. By way of TripAdvisor testimonials and my wonky schedule, I ended up booking a tour with Dave from Shoreditch Street Art Tours. What a good thing too, because he ended up being quite an authority about the artists and the scene in London having covered it in his blog for the past 10 years. If you don’t believe me, just ask, who enlisted his help for this piece on Shoreditch’s top 25 street artists.

I left with a new understanding of what street art is vs graffiti (different audiences, different techniques, different messages) and a slew of new European artists to follow online. After the outing, I caught up with Dave who besides being principal tour guide of Shoreditch Street Art Tours is a photographer and writer to learn how he got his start. Check out what he has to say about Banksy, the newcomers he is excited about, and see some of my amateur pics below.

Continue reading

Navani Knows Voodo Fe’ Mathelier: The Art of Freedom


This piece was originally published on

When my homegirl Selene first told me she was filming a video piece about the artist Voodo Fe’ and asked if I’d be interested in interviewing him I was intrigued by the way she described his work. I am always up for meeting creative folk. But what really captured me about him was this overarching theme in his work to take items and materials deemed trash and make them something beautiful. It’s this idea of being reborn, reinvented and making something from nothing, that really resonated deeply with me. It’s what initially drew me to other art forms like Hip-Hop. On the heels of his latest exhibit opening I had the opportunity to speak to Voodo Fe’ Mathelier and get the story behind his many triumphant ventures in street art, music and fashion leading him to work with brands from Calvin Klein to the NFL. To my surprise, the most outstanding tidbits he taught me were not even about art, but rather how to live life. Here the Brooklyn-bred artist shares why he believes he has been able to make a living as an artist, what his greatest gift is, and what everyone’s number one job is.

Continue reading