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: 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: Dilla 101

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I was having a conversation with my homie Dee Phunk the other day regarding my plans to attend the 3rd annual Dilla tribute party Rare Form is throwing when he paused and asked me, “Wait, do you know anything about Dilla?” Appalled, I scoffed back via IM, “ummm duh!”

I  then proceeded to rattle off the lil bit of knowledge I had on the producer in question. I guess it was enough to get my hip-hop pass back because he replied approvingly, “Oh, ok.” But the exchange made think of how many people don’t know his work yet buy the shirts and rep for him now cause it has become trendy. It’s much like throwing on a Che Guevara shirt just because you see Jay-Z wearing one. So, it led me to ask him, “If you had to school someone about Dilla, what would you tell them?”

To answer me, Dee put together a lil blog that I will feature here (awww, my first guest blogger). So, before you iron your “I heart Dilla” t-shirt this weekend, check out his response:

Dilla 101 (From a Fan’s Perspective) – By Dee Phunk

Detroit native producer / sometimes-emcee James “J Dilla” Yancey left his physical state on February 10th, 2006 due to complications from lupus, a very rare and highly debilitating disease – a very sad story indeed.  But what can be considered just as sad was that it happened when many feel that Dilla was on the cusp of breaking out and being that next big thing: the producer that claws his way out of obscurity and enjoys mainstream success.

Was Dilla driving towards that goal?  Of course not, he was modest about his genius.  He just really enjoyed making music.  And that’s what separates the great people from the pack of monotony.  Since his untimely passing, many people have taken his legacy into their own hands and helped spread his music to anyone willing to learn.  I’m definitely one of those people. His discography is vast, leaving something for everyone.  If I had to give someone a quick introduction to the man, I’d probably start slow and easy.  Here are some jump off points…

1) Ever been at the club and danced to Q-Tip’s “Vivrant Thing?”  Ever been in the shower and rapped / sung really badly along to “Passin’ Me By” by The Pharcyde?  Ever broke up with someone and had Janet Jackson’s “Got ‘Til It’s Gone” on repeat?  Congratulations.  You already like Dilla.  He produced all of those.

2) Wikipedia can be inaccurate at times depending on whatever foolios are updating.  But Dilla’s page is pretty on the money as his true supporters make it their duty to keep every thing on point.  Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J_Dilla to read up on how he got his start, the path his career took and more.

3) Chances are if you like artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Busta Rhymes, Common, De La Soul, The Pharcyde, Erykah Badu, and D’Angelo, you will probably enjoy the majority of Dilla’s music.  If you own any CDs by any of these artists, read thru the liner notes and find his name.  His style goes from smooth soul all the way to hardcore hip-hop.  His range was almost limitless.  Slum Village’s Fantastic Vol. 2, Q-Tip’s first solo effort Amplified and Common’s critically-acclaimed Like Water for Chocolate are great springboards.  If you like those and are feeling dangerous, you might be able to move to more advanced things like Jaylib’s Champion Sound (a collaboration between him and LA-based beatsmith Madlib) and his final album, Donuts.  Neck brace not included.

4) If your favorite hip-hop producer doesn’t list Dilla in their top 10 favorite producers of all time (sometimes I think it should be top 5, but whatever), they should be beaten unconscious.  J Dilla mastered the art of sampling and probably had a lot more tricks up his sleeve.  He had an uncanny knack for chopping up samples and re-stitching them back together seamlessly.  Many folks are floored when they hear the original samples for some their favorite Dilla instrumentals.

5) If this story doesn’t make you a believer or at least pique your interest ever-so-slightly, then you should get your pulse checked.  It’s a wonderful tale narrated by ?uestlove of The Roots about a music geek and a conundrum over a Roy Ayers sample: http://www.rappersiknow.com/2008/11/26/questlove-vs-jay-dee-the-little-brother-beat-story/

I’m not going to guarantee positive results.  Not everyone likes Dilla.  But I feel if you do like a certain style of music and can gradually open your mind to other artists, he can find a place in your iPod.  Maybe even a permanent one.  He’s already found a place within many peoples’ hearts.

For more of Dee Phunk’s music musings, check out his blog www.treesforbreakfast.com.

Navani Knows: Termanology + J. Dilla = Heavenly Music

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It takes a lot to get me to go out these days. First of all, I am old. Secondly, it’s friggin cold out! So my days of pounding the pavement have been put on hold lately. But when I heard Termanology was throwing a lil shindig in honor of his latest opus “If Heaven Was a Mile Away” I knew it would be worthwhile to go – and I was right.

I support Term any chance I can, not just because he is Puerto Rican (which is my reason for supporting J. Lo) but because he has a sick flow. So, I knew combining his flow over J. Dilla’s beats would equal musical magic.Therefore, I thought I’d take the time out to go support the event and get a listen to the whole mixtape. The album is amazing. And the party @ Sutra wasn’t too shabby either.

Statik Selektah was on the ones and two’s, previewing Term’s mixtape and then doing a hot old school set. A couple of industry folk came through to show love including Just Blaze, Lil Fame of M.O.P., Skyzoo and DJ Eclipse to name a few.

Oh, did I mention it was open bar?

I caught up with Term to ask him how the idea for the J. Dilla Tribute came about and he had this to say:

I always like J. Dilla a lot; I have been heavily influenced by his beats. But it came about almost on accident. Statik sold me his computer and he left all these J. Dilla beats on there. I was on tour at the time and I had nothing better to do but write, so I was like I am going to go through all these beats and find me some hot tracks write to them. There were like 400 beats on there! So I was bugging out, like which ones do I pick? I picked the ones I liked the best and put them on a cd and just wrote to them the whole time I was on tour. When we got back I went to the studio, locked myself in and layed it down in 72 hours. It was crazy.

Well, thank goodness for happy accidents. If you haven’t heard the mixtape you can grab it at http://www.termanologymusic.com.

Fave song: “Circulate (100 bars)”
Fave beat: “Only One Can Win”

Check out what else Term had to say regarding being Latino in this industry here on blogamole.com.

Photo by A. Garcia