Navani Knows Rooftop Legends 2011

For all you Graf heads out there or people that just like to support the culture, this weekend in NYC there is an event you probably don’t want to miss. Check out the deets below for the 4th Annual Rooftop Legends Event going down Saturday. Shout out to TOOFLY for sending the info my way. For anyone that isn’t familiar with the work of this inspiring Latina artist, check out my recent interview with her on Brooklyn Bodega.

The Rooftop Legends event began in 2007 and is the brainchild of the schools Dean, and graffiti artist, Jesse Pais. Realizing the need to preserve graffiti art and provide a space to paint, the event continues to bring together some of the most prolific artists from the cultures formative years and today.

Saturday, October 8th, 2011// 2-7PM
New Design High School (Rooftop) 350 Grand Street. // F train to Delancey
music provided by HOT 97 DJ Enuff.
Fundraiser for NDHS $5-25 entry. No one will be turned away.
More Info: Rooftop Legends

Photo via Jesse Pais.

Navani Knows the Halftime Report: PF Cuttin and Joe Fatal

This past week’s Halftime Show was epic as usual but not without it’s minor snags. What I’ve learned so far from being a honorary member of the show is that anything can go wrong and you have got to learn how to make it work. As they say, the show must go on. This week Petey Cologne forgot his laptop which is what we use to broadcast live on ustream thus causing him a brief panic attack and us wondering how we could stream. What’s important is that major troubleshooting went on including PF Cuttin giving tips and DJ Skizz helping via the chat room and a solution was found. The show did go on, Eclipse killed it as usual and so did guest DJ PF Cuttin. Joe Fatal (from legendary song “Live at the BBQ”) came thru to chat and spit his verse. All was well. You can view the stream below, however the sound quality is not that great. Thankfully, Petey reposted the show with better sound here for download.

Navani Knows the Rubble Kings

It seems the gang culture of NYC and Hip-Hop culture are closely interwined, at least that’s what director Shan Nicholson (Downtown Calling) discovered one day while partaking in his usual pastime – record digging. He Kept seeing a high priced record on the walls of stores from the group Ghetto Brothers and was intrigued. He vowed to get ot the bottom of why this group had such an expensive record and who they even were.  His research would lead him to the making of the documentary Rubble Kings, which premiered last night at he New York International Latino Film Festival.

Rubble Kings chronicles the NYC gang culture from it’s inception in the 1950’s to it’s transition in the 70’s into hip-hop culture. It’s interesting to see the connection between the two. It is by far, the most in-depth look at this era in NYC history. What was interesting was how the climate of the nation played a huge part in the creation of gangs. First there were Civil Rights, and Malcolm X and Martin Luther king and people in the inner cities were mobilizing with a hint of hope. Then after all our heroes were killed, the feeling of hope died with them, leaving a group of underserved, angry people.

This anger erupted into swarms of gangs, crews on every few blocks all over the city. The most notorious being in the Bronx, also known as the birthplace of Hip-Hop. Rubble Kings, a term used to describe how gangs made the members feel like they had some type of power, kings of something even if it was their own demolished neighborhood, details the rise and falls of these gangs. After much bloodshed, gangs would start to realize that the only people their rebellious, careless actions were hurting were themselves.

Enter Ghetto Brothers, a group that began as a traditional street gang but evolved into a community focused movement. They formed a band and held jam sessions, encouraging youth to stop the violence and take ownership of their communities. But when one of it’s members was slain in an attempt to make peace between two rivaling gangs, that’s when everything changes. A peace treaty was formed with all groups and slowly the division softened. In the midst of this Hip-Hop would see it’s beginings in the park jams featuring Djs like Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa. These jams were instrumental in bringing together people from all the gangs and using that competitive attitude now for battling on the dancefloor and not in the streets.

Rubble Kings combines personal commentary of gang members and stellar archived footage for an insightful and intimate look at gang culture never told before. This film struck a chord with me for many reasons. For one, I am a huge fan of Hip-Hop. And two, because it shed light on a part of my personal  history that is never discussed- the role gangs played in my family. My uncles and my father were involved in gangs, Savage Nomads to be exact which are discussed in the film. I remember hearing how my grandmother sewed their patches on their jackets for them, not only accpeting it but encouraging it. Back then, it was the only way to survive and she worried about her boys.  If you wanted to survive, you aligned yourself with a gang, period. But I never knew more than that. This film helped fill in the gaps of  how and why this was the way of life for many Puerto Ricans in New York during that time. For that, I am grateful. 

I think this is a must see film for anyone who is not only a fan of Hip-Hop, but who wants to learn about an overlooked, influential era in NYC history –  and how it sparked a transition that would change the world.

For more info on future screenings follow Rubble Kings on Twitter.

Navani Knows How to Go Back to Basics

My homegirl Sue from Abstract Music Group invited me out this past Monday to a show she put together at The Trash Bar called “Back to Basics”. If you can’t tell by the name it was an underground Hip-Hop show that had a line up of artists that exemplified the true art of the genre (everything from lyricism to beat boxing).

I was most excited to see Rasheed Chapell perform because I was impressed with the music I’ve heard from him thus far. But I left there discovering a slew of artists I am now a fan of. That’s what’s great about these shows – you get to connect with artists and stay current.

Highlights included Kalil Kash opening and giving an energetic performance despite fasting all day, Silent Knight killing the acapella and performing “Staying Busy”,  Shay accompanied by her Beat Boxer who killed it in sandals, Rasheed Chapell who sounded even better than he does on his album and Brown Bag All Stars who closed the show. Shout out to DJ Eclipse who came out to support, it’s always great to see people who have been in the game for so long still a fan and still connected to the movement.

All in all it was a great night for Hip-Hop. Check out more pics of the event courtesy of Sedgwick & Cedar.  If you missed it, don’t fret! Abstract Music Group has another great show lined up for August 18th. Get the deets here.

photos via Sedgwick & Cedar. Video via

Navani Knows Ox 2010

Happy Tuesday! Today is the first day back after Memorial Day, it’s 90 degrees and summer seems to finally be here in NYC. With that comes not only a slew of blockbuster movies hitting the theaters, but also a slew of new music being dropped. Today the super anticipated 3rd solo album from the big homie Vast Aire Drops entitled Ox 2010: A Street Odyssey.

I am not only excited to promote this album because Vast is my friend  (not like facebook friend , I mean we kinda grew up together and actually speak in real life, like normal people) but because it is a good album! I am happy to come across an album with so much creativity.  It boasts his signature style – unpredictable beats grounded in boom bap but with a twist of science fiction in the backdrop. If nothing else it is entertaining. And with guests like Raekwon and Cappadonna, what more can you ask for?

Even still, I tried my best to be totally objective when reviewing the album for Brooklyn Bodega. Check out what I said here.

And shout out to my homie Orign of Futprnts Workshop from Orlando who did the artwork for the album cover. Talk about six degrees of separation for real! The world is really small. He is an awesome artist/animator/producer who has done work for the likes of Prince Po, Vast Aire and more. Check out more of his work here.

And go cop Ox 2010, it dropped today!

Navani Knows “Monumental” Music

Last night I was privy to attend an exclusive listening party for the new album by Smif N Wessun titled Monumental. What has had me excited about this album for I dunno, the last year and half since it was announced it was coming was the fact that it is producd entirely by Pete Rock. In case we haven’t met yet, Pete Rock is in my Top 5 list of Producers of all time. I am also excited that there is finally a release date slated, after a year of waiting around and all this hype, it is finally here: June 28th it will be available to the masses.

So cut to the Ace Hotel, venue of choice for a Duck Down, Smif N Wessun reunion. I got there a little after start time and had to wait on line for a good 20 minutes. I was worried about missing the start of the album, but then saw Skyzoo, Pete Rock, Cipha Sounds and their entourage cut in front of me and go in as I approached the entry. Nice. Well, at least i didn’t have to worry about being late. I made it in after them and hit the bar which was packed. Standing next to the person ordering a drink for Pete Rock I learned  his drink of choice is red wine. Impressive, I thought. My bf and I double fisted some drinks and made our way to the main room. The set up of Liberty Hall left a lot to be desired – It seemed like so many different entrances to one small room that didn’t even have a stage. Everyone was cramped and standing in a mobb facing the front where the 3 chairs set up for the artists were placed. This wasn’t too annoying until I tried to get a spot facing that set up and realized the entire front row was a mobb of “photographers” (I.E. people with digital cameras and camera phones).

I stayed put and just quietly drank my cuervo and pineapple, that helped. Finally, Cipha made a few opening jokes and started the album. Pete was nice off the red wine, it was like seeing your parents drunk for the first time, a lil shocking and amusing at the same time. He did a lil two step and kinda adlibbed whatever Steele was saying when answering questions about the making of the album. I thoroughly enjoyed that.

So, onto the album itself: Monumental, is Smif N Wessun with Pete Rock on production. It consists of 14 tracks, well 13 actual songs and one intro (you know how Pete is with his intros). There are 12 features which is almost as many songs on the album. That means only 3 of the songs are soley Tek and Steeele. Not sure how I feel about that yet. The production is of course, stellar. Pete Rock shows a huge range in his ability with songs like “That’s Hard”, then going into something totally different like the reggae infused song “This One”. The strongest tracks to me that stood out were the afore mentioned “That’s Hard” (featuring Sean P. and Styles P.)  has the best lyricism, “Monumental” (featuring Tyler Woods and Pete Rock) and “Nighttime” (featuring Pete Rock and Buckshot) for their gritty head nod beats and energy. Oddly, they all have features which makes me skeptical. The three songs without features – “Go Off”, “Time to Say” and “Fire” didn’t stand out.

As a Smif N Wessun fan, I like them as a group, they have a unique sound that works and great energy that has kept them relevant for 15 years. That was what I was looking forward to hearing on this album. However, I gotta be honest and say I didn’t really get that sound or feeling. Instead of showcasing Smif N Wessun, clouded with so many features, it became something else. It became an awesome Pete Rock album, featuring Smif N Wessun and friends. So, either way, Monumental is a win for Duck Down – they are killing it with their snowball of hardhitting albums: Pharoahe Monch, Random Axe and now this.  However, if it’s a win for the fans of Smif N Wessun  is yet to be determined.

Check out  pics from the event here.

Navani Knows the Happiness Formula (AKA My 33rd Birthday Blog)

Okay, I put it off for as long as I could – but we all knew it was coming: the quintessential birthday blog. You know, the one where I reflect on my whole life and what I’ve learned in the last year as May 10th approaches. Then I feel the need to find some morsel of enlightenment to share. At first, I thought I had nothing to say this year. But then, as I sat at the swim up bar in Jamaica celebrating with my boyfriend, the message hit me. I was telling him I wished we had more time to stay on vacation. “If only we could stay one extra day…”,  I whined. He stopped sipping his zombie and said, “Geez, you are never satisfied, huh? Why don’t you just be happy for the time you do have here”. POW! That hit me right in the kisser. Was this true – not only in this instance, but in other areas of my life? Was I never satisfied?

They say relationships are mirrors, they will show you who you are, even parts you don’t want to see. And here this man that has known me not even a full year continues to do just that – show me all my patterns and all my crap. He was absolutely right though, I am never satisfied! It is the script of my whole entire life! If only I finish college and got a good paying job, then I would be happy. If only I made more money, then I would be happy. If only, if only, well you get the idea. I never stopped and took stock of where I was in the moment and accepted it. I could never appreciate what I had in my life instead I focused on what I thought was missing. I focused energy on what more I could possibly attain, thinking I needed it to prove my worth to the world, and to myself.

Here’s the secret – happiness is a choice. We all deserve to be happy just like we all deserve to be loved. All we have to do is show up. There is no “proving” anything. It is not something you suddenly obtain after paying a certain amount of dues. It is birthright! Only, I could not see that for the last um 32 years. I can be happy right now! It’s that simple. Just be grateful for all that I have and that I am in this moment, for that is enough. I don’t need a reason to be “happy” or content, I can just be. Do you know how freeing that discovery is? I can be happy right here and right now for my health, my safety, my job, the roof over my head and for the fact that I have a passion in my life and can exercise it whenever  I want, like right now in this blog post. Be happy that I am loved. Be happy for the person I am and the person I am learning to be. 

If I base my happiness on outer, external circumstances the only guarantee is that those circumstances will constantly change. And with every change of my surroundings, my feelings for myself and happiness change with it. That is just a recipe for disaster. It is chaos, and although it is what I am used to, I know now it is no longer what I want. I have a choice!  I can choose to find happiness within myself and with it find peace of mind knowing that those circumstances aren’t going to change abruptly.  When we can learn to love ourselves flaws and all, the charge goes away. The self-judgment goes away. We step into self-acceptance and from that place of self-acceptance we then have the inner conviction to create any kind of outer world we desire. We are undefined by the outer world, and rather defined by inner conviction.

This is how we connect with the unchanging. No longer defined by outer circumstances, our deep love of ourselves right where we are is solid ground to from which to live life. And as I did the math it definitely made more sense to celebrate having 5 days in Jamaica instead of worrying about the one day I thought I was missing. Cheers, I thought, as I sipped on my Jamaican Delight cocktail.