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.

Navani Knows French Street Art

 

I always like to keep up on many graf/street artists here in the U.S. but recently I was put on to someone across the pond which is always dope. My colleague sent me this video of French street artist Adam Sender on one of his recent overnight V.H.C. Colors projects. It’s cool to see the difference in style and work VS. what we have been accustomed to here in the U.S.

When I asked Adam if he minded me posting it or wanted to stay anonymous, he replied:

“It’s fine, the cops all know me.” lol

Learn more about the 20-year-old artist on facebook. Check out the video below:

Photo via www.victormalecotphotos.fr

Navani Knows: Behind the Lens with Photo Rob

There is a certain camaraderie that goes on between people that are involved in the Hip-Hop scene in NYC. I am not referring soley to the artists either, but even with people that document it. You start to see the same faces at the same events and realize there is a bond there: being a fan of dope music. With that comes a certain level of respect. That’s how I came to meet and befriend Photo Rob. I was covering events for Brooklyn Bodega and would see him all the time. But it wasn’t until I covered the 13th Anniversary of the Halftime Show this year that I really got to talk to him. I then found out 1. how much of a fan of Hip-Hop he is 2. How well known/liked he is by the artists he shoots. As I sat there and saw how everyone stopped to say hello, and how familiar he was with everyone’s music, I realized this was more than just a gig for him – Hip-hop was a passion.

He began telling me stories of events he’d covered, artists he’d seen live. There were memorable moments where groups got back together for the first time, or didn’t speak at all. He was in the know! And then my journalistic instincts kicked in and I realized there was a story here. Photo Rob has worked with everyone from Large Professor to De La Soul to Mobb Deep and done album covers for half the Lps I currently listen to. I was excited to hear more about his adventures in hip-hop. Check out what Photo Rob had to say about working with Mobb Deep, getting chased off location with Marco Polo and Torae and being on stage with legendary Rakim in my interview on Culture Vault Radio.

Photo via Robert Adam Mayer

Navani Knows Afro-Latinos

The question of my identity has been the focus of most of my writing for pretty much most of my adult life. Just when I thought the subject could be put on the backburner, this lil old thing called Census 2010 came along. Once again, I was asked to sum up the totality of my existence in one little box. Which to me is totally ridiculous. There is no easy way to pick one box when as Latinos we are made up of more than one group of people. If I were to be totally honest I think I would check off Black AND Puerto Rican.

Yes, that’s right, Black. As much as our culture doesn’t like to acknowledge it Latinos are Black too. Our African heritage plays a huge role in our culture as a people. That’s why I was elated to hear about the upcoming TV documentary called Afro-Latinos: The Untold Story.  Created and Produced by award-winning television producer Renzo Devia and co-produced by celebrated journalist Alicia Anabel Santos. This seven part series is expected to leave viewers with a new perspective on the heritage of Latinos worldwide, in addition to a better understanding of the modern day adversities still facing Afro-Latinos today.

In conjuction with the TV documentary, a website has just been released as a resource and community for Afro-Latinos all over the world @ http://afrolatinos.tv/. I am super excited about this website/project for a few reasons. One: fellow journalist Alicia Santos is working on it. I have the pleasure of knowing Alicia from the NY Latinas Writing group which she started here in the city. She has always been such an inspiring person to me so I am so excited to see one of her many dreams come to fruition. She has always been an advocate of the Afro-Latino movement and I am glad it is getting some much deserved attnetion. And secondly, I am hoping this will create awareness and a long overdue dialogue within both the Latino community and African-American community and work towards uniting the two.

Afro-Latinos: The Untold Story will be out 2011. Check out the trailer below:

Navani Knows Latinos in Literature

I first realized I wanted to share myself via the written word when I picked up Maya Angelou’s I know why the Caged Bird Sings. It was 7th grade and I read like nobody’s business in an effort to escape my world. A world I wanted so desperately to pretend didn’t exist. I saw the same kind of anguish in Maya Angelou’s book and quickly identified with it.  I put that book down and felt so empowered by it. If she could unleash herself freely like that and make me feel so much better, I wanted to do that too someday.

I first believed I could actually make this idea happen last week when I attended a “Latinos in Literature” reading event at Powerhouse books last week. There, Latino authors like Ivan Sanchez, Linda Nieves-Powell, Kim Osorio, Daniel Serrano and Joe Conzo gathered to read and discus their work. More importantly, they spoke about how and why they got published.

As I sat there and listened to them each read I got teary eyed, because they were telling a story that was part of mine. Ones I could relate to. These were people that looked and sounded like me and I could identify with, it is not often I have that opportunity. These are people I know on facebook and talk to regularly, that are from New York. To see my peers be able to live this dream reminded me that I could too.

Daniel Serrano stated that he wrote because when you discover you are a writer, its part of your identity, it’s who you are plain and simple. And you are frustrated as a person when you don’t write. I can attest to this sentiment.

Linda Nieves-Powell admitted getting her book deal with only 50 pages submitted.

And Joe Conzo exclaimed that your dreams can come true, no matter what they are. Just hold on tight to them.

I am so thankful for that simple reminder. And so thankful there are more Latinos gracing our bookstores now. Let’s make sure more of us will get the same chance by supporting them now.