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 www.wnyu.org.