Navani Knows Starr-Gazin’

Looking back at 2011 and all the things I’ve done, experienced and accomplished what stands out the most are the the great people I’ve met and built with along the way. You just never know when you will bond with someone, whether it’s at a CMJ show or while running amok in the streets of NYC looking for an afterparty – which was the case when I met the homie Chief Justice.

Nothing builds a relationship like trying to hail cabs in NYC together and standing outside the Red Bull Space not getting in. These are moments you just never forget. So when it came time for Chief Justice to film his latest video “Starr-Gazin'” I was honored to be a part of the action. Taking off work was a no-brainer.

This video is off the EP Genesis: The New Beginning, a project he worked with DJ Evil Dee on. You’ll see us all donning couture DMV shirts, paying homage to where Chief is from. The dude is really talented and I respect his grind. You can DL the EP on itunes. Peep the official video below:

Navani Knows Heroines

I’ve learned in NY that the most random meetings become the most substantial relationships. For instance, the way I met Glamour Mag columnist/NYU  professor Jessica Seigal. I happened to walk by her abode en route to my 9-5 one morning, when she commented on my skirt. She complimented me on my ensemble and continued to walk with me a few blocks towards my job. In that time we learned that we both are writers (SCORE) and exchanged info.

I didn’t expect to hear anything from her, when I received an invite to a book launch party/ walking tour she was participating in for The Heroine’s Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore. The tagline of the book is “Life lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalss Wilde” which intrigued me ( I am all for girl power). Plus, the idea of connecting some of these literary luminaries to the neighborhood I work in,  even better. So, I decided to check it out.

Turned out to be quite the event. There had to be at least 50 people (size of a small wedding recpetion) on this guided walking tour of landmark buildings throughout Greenwich Village. Pleaces of interest included: The street where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women (allegedly, research says otherwise), The place where Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter Rose Wilder Lane lived in bohemian splendor, the former home of Alice Walker and husband Mel Leventhal and Edna St. Vincent Millay’s house (the smallest house in NYC!). Jessica Seigal co-guided the tour which was awesome because she grew up in this neighborhood and had a plethora of fun facts to share at will. Like, the plaque on Cherry Lane saying it was named for cherry blossoms is wrong. It was a typo from “Cheery” Lane that forever changed history. In fact, many of the plaques have misinformation I learned last night. I was in fun fact heaven! Did you know Louisa May Alcott was addicted to morphine? Scandalous. And that the village was split into two worlds: southside was for the poor bohemians that didn’t play by the rules of high society (i.e. Edna St. Vincent Millay) and northside was for high society/ people with money (i.e. Edith Wharton).

I am sooo glad I attended this event (and not because of the free Champagne and Glamour mags, though that didn’t hurt). It ended up being just the surge of inspiration I needed for myself as a writer. I was feeling pretty lame earlier that day thinking I was wasting my life away at a 9-5 where people use the word “circle back” way too often. I felt like this is not what the life a writer is supposed to look like. But then, I came out and found a book that is full of insighful nuggets for moments just like this from women writer’s themselves. These women are truly heroines to me because they continued to write in the midst of their life. They had sucky jobs, families to tend to, money/marital woes yet in spite of  it all, they still wrote. To be reminded of that was a much needed life lesson for me.

 Thanks again Erin and Jessica for a great event and for being literary heroines as well!

Navani Knows The Album Of The Year and Serendipity

NYC never ceases to amaze me. Every time I contemplate moving I have an experience that reminds me why I struggle so much to stay here. Take last night for instance. I left my house en route to the Black Milk Album Release party, dreading going to another event alone. I mean, yes, I knew there would be some people I know in attendance, but I just loathe actually “attending alone.” You know, the awkward moments walking in and hanging around waiting to see someone you know to then tag along with them. I am not good at awkward in-between moments. Luckily, my night didn’t have any of them.

Waiting at my bus stop, I serendipitously met a fellow creative type. He was looking for a restaurant in my neighborhood that sadly didn’t exist anymore. But in the brief 2 minutes we had to talk before my bus came I learned he was a singer/songwriter transplant from Kentucky named Darnell Levine. I told him that if he wanted something to do in BK to check out Southpaw.  I left, thinking I would prob never see him again and a lil disappointed we didn’t get to exchange info. But he actually did find both Southpaw and me later on in the night. It was a total movie moment that could only happen in NYC.

I finally arrive @ Southpaw and enter alone. Since none of my Brooklyn Bodega peeps are here I figure I should hit the bar to give me something to do until I can either 1. Interview Black Milk or 2. Find my homegirl  EbonyPeace to run amok with. I thankfully didn’t have to entertain myself too long because at that moment my homie 88-Keys ran up on me. I thought it was some dude trying to be funny, but alas it was someone I knew, phew. I was glad to catch up with him since he is never on the scene now that he is happily married with two children. I guess he came out to support the Detroit music movement that would be taking place that night. He also introduced me to another musician named QD, J. Dilla’s cousin and an emcee. After he walked off and I attempted to look totally amused standing there alone, Skyzoo and Illmind came in and grabbed a drink with me. I hadn’t caught up with them since my video debut in “Frisbees.” Skyzoo lamented that “Album of the Year” was not available in Target. Illmind ordered a Long Island Iced Tea and told me he thought the new album was absolutely amazing.

The night continued on in this fashion, more people I knew flooding in, more catching up. I never did actually find myself ever alone. I floated around the venue hopping from co-workers to friends to industry peers. Hit up backstage and did what Black Milk described as a “painless” interview before he took the stage. Watched Pharoahe Monch come in and discuss his new project with BM. He told us that he just got vocals back from Jill Scott  that he is excited about. BM suggested he come to Detroit and hit up the studio. Will a BM beat make it on there? Guess we will see.

The show was one of the best I have been to in awhile. Guilty Simpson did his thing. Sean Price of course, killed it – rude and crazy as he is. The crowd loved it and so do I.  Pharoahe Monch took the stage with Sean P. and Black Milk to perform their song “Matrix”. That was a nice treat. Black Milk’s set was awesome accompanied by his band. He played old faves like “Fall in Love” (Slum Village) and of course new songs off “Album of the Year” – including my fave”Deadly Medley.” Talib Kweli was in the building to support along with Jean Grae and Rah Digga . DJ Spinna was on the 1’s and 2’s. And just when you thought it was over Black Milk bought out Jay Electronica to say what’s up and then closed by performing a joint with Sean P. and Guilty Simpson off the Random Axe project.

What impressed me most about the night was that there were as many artists in the audience as there were on stage. I mean, people came out as fans and that is always great to see. The place was packed! So much so that Black Milk was completely stunned and overwhelmed. He just couldn’t believe the great response. I guess at the end of the day, we both felt right at home there at Southpaw that night. I realized hip hop has always been a home for me, a place where I feel truly comfortable and like I belong. With hip hop, I am never alone. Thankfully, that hasn’t changed.

Photo via Mr. Mass for BlackMilk.biz

Navani Knows Guerrilla Journalism: Interview With Malice of Clipse

If you’ve followed my writing career you know by now it’s best described as non-traditional. Same goes for  my writing techniques. Like for instance, setting up interviews with artists. Most of the best interviews I’ve done have been using “guerrilla journalism” techniques. For example, bum-rushing artists at shows or events and doing impromtu interviews. Fave ones include backstage at Black August with Smif N Wessun a few years ago and most recently Q-Tip @ Brooklyn Bowl.

My latest venture happened last week at a Clipse show at the Highline Ballroom. I was invited by my cohort, The Company Man, to check out an artist Brooklyn Bodega is considering adding ot the line up for this year’s show, Philly native Chiddy Bang. I had no idea who this cat was but I was sold on the fact that Charles Hamilton and the Clipse were also on the bill.

So while enjoying Charles’ set, we were introduced to the PR person for Clipse, who said she’d totally get us an interview after the show. Dope! Now it was time for impromtu research via my blackberry.

The show turned out to be pretty cool. Charles performed his well known anthem “Brooklyn Girls” sans the headphones which was refreshing. Chiddy Bang proved to have a huge following here in NYC as the audience screamed out all his lyrics. And Clipse bought out Jadakiss as a surprise guest to perform his hits “By Your Side” and “We Gon’ Make it” (Eff the frail ish!. ..love that line lol).

The show ends and The Company Man and I hit backstage to do the interview. Except, we realize Clipse didn’t really agree to it. Turns out the PR person has no pull lol. But we didn’t let that discourage us. We hung around anyway and although Pusha T managed to run past us, Malice didn’t get away. I distracted him enough it turns out. As he checked me out and said hello we immediately saw an in for an interview. We followed him down the stairs as he left and he  mercilessy fell victim to our guerilla journalism tactics. The rest as they say, is history. Check out the full interview on Brooklyn Bodega.

Navani Knows: 5 Minutes With Q-Tip

Everytime I am dead set on moving out of New York, I have a classic moment that reminds me why I can’t. For instance, the moment I went to Brooklyn Bowl just to hang out and ended up meeting Q-Tip. It was a random Thursday night and I heard last minute that ?uestlove (Roots Crew) was spinning there. So, off I went with a friend to check it out. Turns out it was ?uest’s birthday and alongside him at the DJ booth was none other than Q-Tip, just hanging out. I flirted with the idea of talking to him (being the journalist I am I am always looking for another story) but I quickly chickened out fearing I would appear like a groupie.

After bowling a wonderful game of 51 and a few drinks later, I allowed my friend Duane to talk me into approching the legendary MC. I never know what to expect when meeting an artist, especially someone so iconic. Some artists that you think will be awesome turn out to be uber cocky or rude and then it changes their whole image for you forever. Luckily, I found out that Tip was not one of those people. He was as humble as he is talented and immediately agreed to do an interview with me.

While my main goal was to find out if him and Amanda Diva were truly a couple (which he never confirms but does list her as a fave artist -hmm lol), I did manage to get some other insightful nuggets from him on the future of hip-hop, his relationship with legendary producer J. Dilla and a special request for Jay-Z. Check out what the former Tribe member says in the interview here.

Shout out again to D-Nice for giving me the pep talk to make this happen. And shout out to Dee Phunk for giving me the lead that Brooklyn Bodega was looking for new writers 🙂

Photo via Google Images

Navani Knows: DJ Enuff Turns 21, Again

I was recently invited to celebrate the birthday of an esteemed DJ and Latino trailblazer:

DJ Enuff, of the world renowned Heavy Hitters crew. 

Though he might not recall, this is not the first time we’ve met. Back in my younger days when I had the energy and time off to hit up Miami for the infamous memorial day weekends, we crossed paths. In a VIP area of a Busta Rhymes bday party where celebs lined the club. I reemember me nad my cousin spotted him chillin and thought aww man, that’s Enuff. He was one of the Latino DJs making a name for himself in hip-hop. This was a huge deal for a hip-hop head like myself. We approached him for a pic and he was super humble. 

Some ten years later and we meet again through a mutual friend and I ended up sitting across from him at his birthday dinner, saying a toast in his honor. And it was this moment I reflected on. Though much older now and much more successful, he is still the same humble man I met in Miami. 

We wrapped up our toasts at Mr. Chow with the bottle of champagne sent over by DJ Kay Slay and made our way to the official party @ Quo. Not before getting the disclaimer from Enuff himself:

“I don’t know what kind of crowd it will be, I don’t invite the people at these parties.”

 Ha! Luckily, the party at Quo was in one word: ridiculous. Great crowd, great music. Everyone came out to show love including: Talib Kweli, Red Cafe, Jim Jones, Diddy (he finally decided to show up) and of course Hot 97 fam DJ Bobby Trends and the CrowdMover L. Boogs (my CW Post Fam! lol). 

From this party I learned two things: I need a good two days to recover from a night out like that and I could never live in the spotlight and deal with paparazzi on a regular basis.  

Happy Birthday again Enuff, one of the realest DJs game!

Navani Knows Unsigned Hype: Orign Performs @ The Anti-Pop Music Fest

Anyone that is frustrated with the state of hip-hop need only look in the most unlikey of places these days: The sunshine state. 

jjive

Living in New york City we tend to  believe we are the center of the universe and that nothing exists outside of our city limits, especially when it comes to hot music. I recently had a wake up call when I went to visit some family in Florida. 

There, my cousin introduced me to the underground hip-hop scene of Orlando – one that is reminiscent of what hip-hop here used to be. It seems him and his cohorts keep the essence of hip-hop alive in tight lyrical retreats over self-made beats that they do simply for the love of music. This scene encompasses every aspect of hip-hop from freestyling, producing, DJing (DJ SPS – 2008 DMC champ also resides there) and animating. Yes, these brothers are truly artists. 

The 5th annual Anti-Pop Music Festival that kicked off last night in at the Backbooth in downtown Orlando captured the momentum of this scene showcasing the local indie talents of artists like Amiam, Grey Matter, DJ SPS, BC and my peoples Orign. It proved that hip-hop is alive and well in the sunshine state.

Check out Orign, whose style is reminiscent of  Native Tongues/Tribe Called Quest as he hit the stage.  Peep more videos at sexybeasttv, including one of my faves, “Dream” featuring my cous, I. 

I’m looking forward to Orlando being put on the map for something other than Disney World and Boy Bands. And with the rustlings of the underground scene getting louder coupled with the talent from the music school Full Sails, I’m sure that thing will be hip-hop.