In this episode Kwasi brings back Dutty Bookman to discuss the movement he has helped dub as the Reggae Revival after a panel at SXSW 2027. He also speaks to Koro Fyah of the Bevel Rock camp about his ABC’s at SXSW as well. Bomani interviews the founder of the Uganda’s Bavubuka Foundation, Babaluku, and their chief archivist Gilbert Daniels about Hip-Hop in Uganda and the Lugaflow movement. Bomani and Kwasi also discuss spirituality in independent music, and how the community discusses things like sin. A must listen!
scroll down to see music videos and live performances from navon smith. listen and read along!
Bomani Armah: How’s everybody doing? This is Bomani Armah, broadcasting live from the Even Place. Today we are doing The Indie, my show dedicated to independent art, independent business, independent thought. So, it was only a matter of time before I had my man, Von aka the Voice of a Nation, better known as NaVon Smith here in the studio. Introduce yourself to everybody Navon.
Navon Smith: Hey what’s up, what’s up, what’s up? This is Navon Smith. It’s all good. You know, a lot of people having their issues with the name change.
Bomani Armah: We were just talking about it. We’ve known each other for a lot of our artistic careers, you know what I’m saying? Back in the—
Navon Smith: You’re almost close to eight or nine years, I think when it was going on.
Bomani Armah: Yeah, yeah it has been. We were doing shows next to The Howard Theatre at this place called [inaudible 00:44]. And, I was telling people—I’ve bragged about this for ten years and it becomes truer and truer every time. I know my favorite MCs personally. You know, people with skills, people with drive, and people who I believe what they’re saying because I see them live the lifestyle that they’re talking about. And so you were telling me one of the things that we were talking about is kind of the reinvention, the re-emergence of you as a hip hop artist. You had this project V for Vendetta, I remember that when you were releasing it and now you know, you’re moving units in the streets with it and now you’re doing it again releasing music videos. Tell people about the project a little bit.
Navon Smith: V for Vendetta is like the title—if you seen V for Vendetta, then you kind of know—you kind of know the direction of the album or what have you. It’s definitely really social conscious hip hop album, but we’ve never got the visuals for it, it never went viral, it was strictly in the streets. I was a stubborn guy back then. I didn’t believe in internet, I didn’t believe in, you know, the whole thing and I just want to get that out there. You know, we revamped it, we put out the video ‘Fear’, which is going to be like the lead single off of the album, which is getting like a crazy response.
Everybody is loving ‘Fear’ right now. I didn’t think people were going to get it. I didn’t care, but they got it; so it feels good, you know what I mean, when people get it. But, yeah that’s pretty much it man, V for Vendetta.
Bomani Armah: So, one of the things you know, I’ve been learning to do recently especially when talking to artists is to begin with the art. So, what we’re going to do is we’re going to play that song and for the people who are watching this on the video blog, we’re going to show the video, but give us all the set-up we need to know for the song. What’s going on with this?
Navon Smith: ‘Fear’, everybody hears it differently, but fear is about nature, it’s about Mother Nature, it’s about women and about women being God and it’s about that awakening, you know what I mean?
Bomani Armah: Gotcha.
Navon Smith: So, when you pay attention especially to the talking like—I don’t have a chorus in here. I’m actually talking—I’m actually speaking in between the lyrics, but it’s actually an awakening and the song was just really thought of to spark—like if I can just spark the conversation that make people—even if you don’t necessarily get it, if it sparks something in you, then I think I’ve done what I set out to do.
Bomani Armah: I mean, you’ve already, even in introducing the song you know, talking about God and spirituality and femininity and that, like that’s already a topic that’s outside of the box of what most people are normally used to talking about.
Navon Smith: I tell people all the time, men have XY chromosomes and woman have XX chromosomes and if you chop off the bottom part of the X it’s really just a Y chromosome, you know what I mean? Like if you do like this and you take that half off, it’s a Y and if you research the Y chromosome, it actually has 2.8 less genetic material than the X chromosome. So, men are actually like genetic defects, like we have breasts and can’t breastfeed. You know what I mean, like women, the uterus is just an inward phallus or what have you, you know what I mean?
So, they have everything that we have and more. So you know, I know in different cultures, you know men is always accentuated by being the dominant factor in there. So, you hear in the speaking part of the song I actually say, “You know, it’s time to wake up, but get from behind the blinding light”. And I explain to you how women are darkness and men are light, but how you are more apt be blinded by light, than you are by darkness.
Bomani Armah: You’re given them a lot to chew on with this song.
Navon Smith: Yeah it’s a lot in it, ain’t it.
Bomani Armah: So, let’s get right to it, and then when we come back, we’ll talk a little bit more about the art behind it, because like I said you do talk about that you’re a brother from the streets of DC, but you’ve been reading and researching and you’ve got a lot going on with your music. So, coming up next, you’re going to hear and some of you are going to watch the video ‘Fear’ by Navon Smith from his project V for Vendetta.
So you just hit them upside the head with that one, Navon. So, tell me about the process of making the video and releasing this as a single, because this is you, you know breaking back into this part of what you do as an artist.
Navon Smith: Man, it was hectic. Like, you know, me and my videographer, bless her heart and my heart, but we go back and forth and we be like, “ahhhh”, you know what I mean, but we always come up with great visuals. It was a simple—we shot it ourselves. It was just me and her. We did everything ourselves. We went out into the woods, because we felt like that was the best place, it was nature, it represented that side. So, you see me in water, you know what I mean? You see different aspects of it or what have you. Actually, if you pay attention to the video; I don’t know if you know it—because everyone was on the Mayan calendar.
When we shot it, it was before the whole Mayan but if you research about the Mayan’s, they talk about when that calendar date ended or what have you, when the so-called you know “end of the world” but they say in one aspect of the prophecy, they talk about ‘The Nine’. The nine gods who came down or what have you and they were supposed to do certain things. I don’t want to go into it too much. So, in that first scene, it’s actually nine Von’s, you see?
Now, I don’t know if people caught that, it’s actually nine personalities there, so you see me rapping, but I’m over here and I’m over there and you see all these different pieces, so it kind of ties back into that, yeah.
Bomani Armah: It was really creative, which is something you have to be when you’re doing this independently. You know what I’m saying? You can’t just rely on paying for someone renting a Bentley and sitting on it, you know what I’m saying? You have to have an idea, you have to have a concept and you were pushing that really hard with this.
Navon Smith: I think for me to do that, I would lose—I can’t do this without being myself. I have to tie into who I am and like the Bentley, I don’t have a Bentley. You know what I mean? And so, I’m not going to sit there and be riding around in no Bentley, acting like that’s my lifestyle. I’m going to give you my life and I’m going to be as honest—the main thing when I’m shooting a video is just honesty. Like we were just having a conversation and we’re shooting this new video and I’m up there having an argument with my videographer, and she’s like, “Well you don’t have to do it like—you don’t have to be that real. You don’t have to take the route from walking from here to there, like you can make it and cut it.” I’m like, “But nah, I want it to be real though, so people can really see that route and they kind of connect with it or whatever”, so yeah I’m guilty of that.
Bomani Armah: Well see, but I mean that’s why your lyrics go all over the place because like you said; you read, you study, you have these conversations and so you don’t have typical conversations about these issues. Now, we’re going to have to go to a break in a second, but since you are an MC and we support independent art here, you’ve got to spit—it’s like 16 or something or 8 or 16 or 24 or a random 12 ½, you know what I’m saying? Or a six and three quarter for the people.
Navon Smith: Not a problem. Is profanity—
Bomani Armah: Yeah, just avoid it. You know, I don’t care, but you know just in case Dr. Jones wants to put it on his AM stations down south, let’s keep it clean.
Navon Smith: I’ll try my best, you know.
Bomani Armah: Alright, here we go.
Navon Smith: Started out with a flow on a dream, figured I could make a lower doing between. If you ever had to grind then you know what I mean. I’m from the hood motherfucker, so you know what I’ve seen. Encaged in hell, watched all my friends as they rebel, witness my first murder at the age of 12. I am DC like Dave Chappelle. Forget school, we educate ourselves, because waiting on them is like waiting to fail. Fuck them, my cousin through weight on the scale and started hustling racing for sales. Young, we are the projects, but money ain’t an object, my uncle used to keep a quarter mil in my closet. Couple of bricks, buckets of cris, I’m 14 with grown women sucking my UHM. I decided I ain’t messing with this, but unwillingly became accustomed to it. Is it my fault that this was my cost? I ain’t choose this life, this was by force. Visit my thoughts.
Channel my feelings, deaf city murder land I’m surrounded by killings, surrounded by villains and they’re arming up. My little cousin just robbed an armored truck; all he got was a court case waiting on his court date, now his whole life depends on what the court say. And of course, they don’t get it, how can you judge a life, if you ain’t live it? How can you say what’s right, if you ain’t did it? You’re just as crooked as us. Why you looking at us? I ain’t looking for much. But, I pray I find it. I know life is real, every day I’m reminded. They say I got skills, my music is timeless, I just say what I feel I don’t care about this rhyme, psshh. Been doing this since ’96. I’m damn near 30. At peace with myself, so haters can’t disturb me. I know I’m the sshhh you niggas can’t discourage me, I feel like Rakim when he was with Eric B. That’s it.
Bomani Armah: That was Navon y’all; Navon Smith spitting the truth. So, y’all are going to learn a lot more about him. We are going to come back for another segment. Not only is he an artist, he’s a businessman. He’s got his own record label and he was throwing some legendary hip hop parties that I hope he gets back to. So, we’re going to talk about that when we come to the next segment. This is The Indie, we talk about independent art, independent business, independent thought, I’m Bomani Armah. We’ll be right back.
: Once again, this is Bomani Armah, broadcasting from the Even Place. We are here doing The Indie. It’s about independent art, independent business, independent thought with Navon Smith. He’s got his project V for Vendetta. He’s got another project that he’s working on called Reach for the Stars, with the title track which is featuring Glenn Lewis. And so, we’re going to talk about that because you’re doing your records yourself, your way.
I mean, that’s how you are able to talk about the messages you are. So, tell us a little bit about the process of putting these projects together and what it took to move 10,000 units. You know what I’m saying, without the internet.
Navon Smith: Oh man. V for Vendetta; we just went out and we just did donations. Like to be honest with you, I am going to tell you what was so sincere about V for Vendetta: when I was recording it, I had no intentions of releasing it. I had no intentions of selling it. I just recorded it. You know what I mean? I tell people all the time when I first started doing music, I used to just write, I didn’t have beats, I didn’t have a studio, I didn’t even have intentions of recording when I first started doing music; I just did it. And I had like suitcases and chests of rhymes, thousands and thousands of rhymes.
So, when I hear people like [inaudible 11:19]. I wasn’t that guy, I never did it for that. I just did it because I loved to do music. You know what I mean? So, as far as with the V for Vendetta, what really pushed that album, I was like you know when we pressed it up—I wound up bumping into a connect and we was able to press up copies at a really sick price. Like, I was able to press up copies for like 30 cents, 28 cents a pop. You know what I mean? 28 to 30 cents a pop.
Bomani Armah: And You used to tell me that you know, knowing how to re-up and sell in other games helped you really big time through this way.
Navon Smith: Yeah, because you know, I just sit out there and hustle all day. I used to tell people all the time the CD money was better than drug money, because the drug game had got so crazy that you know, you would buy—like I would have a CD for 20 cent, 25 cent, 30 cents and I would do donations because I came up with this idea to do donations. I was like “I’m not going to sell them” because I just want everybody to have it.
Bomani Armah: But you make a profit even if someone gives you a dollar?
Navon Smith: But I didn’t look at that. I’m going to tell you something: when I went out and people gave me like $3, 4 and people started giving me $10 and $20 and I only paid 30 cents on it. You can’t get that type of money off of drug money.
Like you don’t get that flip out of drug money. You know you buy an ounce for, you know, I’m just going to keep it low you know what I mean, but you could buy you know something small. You may spend like a $100-200, but you’d be lucky to make 300, you know what I mean? And if you smoke, you’re done.
Bomani Armah: I mean a couple of things and it builds into a couple of conversations I’ve been having today. Dr. Jones was telling me in the radio industry, you have to sell everything for at least hundred percent profit. You know what I’m saying? So, it doesn’t make sense to try to get 30, 40, 50%. And another thing, I’ll just quote myself on this; in my own project, the hustle that I did, I say you make music for the love, then sell it for the money. If you make it for the money, then it’ll sound like you’re making it for the money. But, if you are just an artist, and then trying to sell the art that you make, people will approach you that way and people appreciate the art that you’re making.
Navon Smith: Who would’ve thought that ‘Read a Book’ would have did what it did?
Bomani Armah: Right, right, right.
Navon Smith: You know what I mean? I remember first hearing it. In ‘Bar None’, you know what I mean? On ‘U Street’; I remember when you first—this is before anything, and who would have thought that, but that was a sincere song.
Bomani Armah: It was about the students I was working with and, yeah.
Navon Smith: It just comes from that place and I think that that’s where music has to come from. I think that’s what was lost in a music for a minute, but I think it’s kind of getting back to that. When you hear artist like Kendrick, when you see different things, I think people get it mistaken, because you hear a guy like Jay-Z, that’s him.
Bomani Armah: Right, right.
Navon Smith: So, that’s why he does well. He’s coming from a sincere place. You know what I mean?
Bomani Armah: When you’re trying to be Jay-Z, then you’ve lost something.
Navon Smith: It’s a problem. Exactly. That’s when it becomes a problem. So, as long as you’re coming from that ‘Read a Book’ space because you’re a guy that’s in at that point, you was actually in the school systems trying to get kids to read more. Like, that’s something that you were actually doing. A lot of people don’t know that. You ain’t just say, “Hey, I’m going to make a song ‘Read a Book’ for some ignorant niggas.” You know what I mean? It was like it was a real song. That’s the same thing when you hear V for Vendetta and when you hear me—I remember your protégé—
Bomani Armah: Oh, you’re talking about Chris?
Navon Smith: Chris. Chris came to me, he was like, “Yo, how did you come up?” Because I had this song about girls wearing blonde hair. He was like, “Yo, it’s so simple, but it’s so intricate.” And I’m like, that’s a real place, Chris. That’s exactly how I feel. You know what I mean?
Bomani Armah: We’re talking about Christylez Bacon, one of the other people I tell you when I know my favorite MC’s personally. You know what I’m saying? He’s dope. He’s dope.
Navon Smith: Yo! Christylez. I remember ‘Kool-Aid’, that’s classic! You know what I mean? Like we go back.
Bomani Armah: We go way back.
Navon Smith: I remember when Christylez was going to Duke Ellington and was getting all those different things and you were actually like, mentoring him and bringing him up. He kind of spread his wings and did his own thing.
Bomani Armah: And this is why the genesis of this show comes from the idea of I’ve loved watching artist find their voice and present it to the world and that happens all over the place. And so, we were talking you know, we go back to doing shows in [inaudible 15:16], which doesn’t exist anymore but used to be what, it used to be—
Navon Smith: Before that though, even before that.
Bomani Armah: Yeah, yeah; even before that. And it was about—there were really real voices around us you know? and hip hop is alive and I’m glad—this is actually a great segment into another one of your hustles because one of the problems I have with people was when they criticize radio rap culture and say they’re criticizing hip hop. When they’re really just criticizing the radio, because hip hop is alive and well. Hip hop lives and you used to this series called ‘Hip Hop Lives’, because it doesn’t’ take the radio to bring it to you. These are real people. You can go see them in concert whether it is these big names you would bring down like, ‘Dead Prez’ and ‘EPMD’ and the whole ‘Ducktown Family’ and then you and other local artists would open for them and do shows with them because it’s a live, living, breathing thing going on.
Navon Smith: I’m going to tell you ‘Hip Hop Lives’ initially started, because we could not get shows.
Bomani Armah: I got you.
Navon Smith: We could not open up. We were out there, we were grinding and nobody was in the street like how we were and I think you can vouch for that or anybody in the street at that particular time. And I don’t think—I haven’t seen it yet; nobody was in the street like us as far as selling CD’s and out there actually actively—and we couldn’t get shows. So, what we did was: I took the money—we moved a great amount of CD’s and we took the money and we said ‘you know what, they’re not going to give us shows. We’re going to throw our own shows, and that’s how ‘Hip Hop Lives’ came about.
‘Hip Hop Lives’ started with that idea of, you know, I can’t get into these groups. You know, DC was always set up into these little groups and cliques and if you wasn’t in this clique, at that time only a certain amount of people—so, I did the show and I took people like Flex Mathews and gave him shows, who couldn’t get shows you know what I mean? Like if a person—when Godzilla wasn’t performing on anything, we gave Godzilla their first drink when they opened up for like a top artist or what have you.
Bomani Armah: Right. And if you don’t know these people, get familiar. Hip Hop Lives in DC. You don’t really need to—if you’re tired of the radio, don’t worry about it.
There is real hip hop you know what I’m saying, that’s happening live and in the living color all over the place.
Navon Smith: And we took a to Baltimore and we did it out Baltimore as well. A lot of people don’t know that. We were doing DC and Baltimore, and we opened up that same platform for Baltimore artists and allowed them to come on there and do their thing and they got chance to open up for Dug Down, for Dead Prez, you know some of their favorite artists, over what have you. That was a great thing, it was an honor to do it and we definitely got to get back into doing that.
Bomani Armah: So, what would be the key to keeping that going? To making sure that there—I mean, I brag about the poetry community in DC because the poetry community here is one of the best in the country. People come from all over the place, and they find all these places that you can get paid to do your art. The hip hop community has been fluctuating. You know what I’m saying? Right now, I don’t know exactly where hip hop artists are getting paid to do their thing the way they want to. How do we keep that community alive and vibrant the way we were doing it?
Navon Smith: I mean, you know you just have to stay involved man. Like, the essence like you know people—I remember when Barnone fell off and it was sad. I was like “That hurt”, you know what I mean? I’m not going to lie. And the reason why it did that because the people that laid the foundations, they just gave up on it you know, new people came and, instead of them embracing those new people and guiding them and cultivating them, they turned their backs and it was like, “Oh, I don’t want to mess with this. This right here, it ain’t the same. It ain’t the same. It ain’t this and it ain’t that.” And it was just a really sad thing, and I think that’s what happens. It happened to hip hop. Like, the older guys, they get older and they’re bitter because they’re not where they want to be at, or what have you. And they turn their back on the younger generation and they wonder why it goes astray. Then they get mad and say hip hop’s dead.
Bomani Armah: Right.
Navon Smith: You know what I mean? It’s like it’s a double edged sword. Like where were you to guide? And, why didn’t you set yourself up? Here you are, you’re 50 years old and your’e still trying to get a record deal. Like, you should be an exec at this point and you could have guided some of these artists, but yet you left it in their hands of these peeps. So, you can’t get mad. Like, you know what I mean? You had those opportunities to do those things , or what have you, and it’s like you know so—
Bomani Armah: I mean, that’s the phrase I think the people who think that hip hop is a thing that they were doing, rather than a living breathing culture.
Navon Smith: Culture.
Bomani Armah: You know what I’m saying?
Navon Smith: It’s something that you were living. Yeah. The minute that you stopped living it, it was just something you was never really doing.
Bomani Armah: You was never really doing, right. And that’s why, I mean for both of us why it was important for not only ask to get our own rhymes on, our own beats on, but to make sure there was a place for the culture that happened.
Navon Smith: For other people, you know I immediately started doing open mic’s. Like, I came out with Barnone, I think like two months later, I had three open mic’s all over the city. You remember that?
Bomani Armah: Right, right, right.
Navon Smith: I was all over [inaudible 19:56].
Bomani Armah: I remember that.
Navon Smith: Yo, we were everywhere. We went out—
Bomani Armah: The poetry in the front, massages in the back.
Navon Smith: Exactly. Yeah, people don’t know that. So, you know, the ‘Hip Hop Lives’ thing, it was really second nature for me. You know what I mean? And, actually, ‘Hip Hop Lives’ actually opened up doors for me to go and work with great people like Mark [inaudible 20:12].
Bomani Armah: Okay.
Navon Smith: We went over there, we brought down everyone from like Musiq Soulchild, Common Sense. We brought [inaudible 20:20] back over there again. I mean every art—I can’t even think of, you know Angie Stone-you name it; any R&B artist you can name. So, that tapped me into the R&B world and it showed me how—like Angie Stone used to rap, she’s started off as a rapper. A lot of people don’t know that. She was a hip hop artist and so, you see the connection in there. I think the one thing that keep hip hop going is you have to allow it to grow. You can’t stun it. You can’t put it in the box, because hip hop is not in a box.
You can’t say that the boom-bap-boom-bap is just all hip hop because that’s not real. Because it started off as samples. That’s where they originated at, rapping off of the samples. You can’t say that Soldier Boy is not hip hop because he’s not as lyrical, because the original—when you listen to hip hop in the beginning, it was hip hop [inaudible 21:07]. It wasn’t saying nothing. It was fun, it was dancing, it was this. And we start judging hip hop and condemning it and at that point that’s when we start killing it.
Bomani Armah: Some people want to imagine that hip hop was born from a meeting between Malcolm Xand Huey Newton, you know what I’m saying?
Navon Smith: Yeah.
Bomani Armah: And it wasn’t.
Navon Smith: It started from having fun.
Bomani Armah: It was a DJ and somebody on the microphone, you know filling in the space between the—
Navon Smith: [Inaudible 23:21] the hottest MC; 2 Chainz ain’t no MC. MC is master of ceremony.
Bomani Armah: Master of ceremony; people move when he gets on the mic.
Navon Smith: It has nothing to do with the lyrics. It’s people that can move the crowd even Rakim said that. So, how does that tie into anything?
But, I think what’s happened now is like you know I’m not, I don’t mean to take shots there on Islam, but it’s almost like the Hadith and the Quran.
Bomani Arman: Okay.
Navon Smith: Now, you have this hadith of hip hop with these traditions of ruling over the whole original setting of what was set done. Now, people are putting more emphasis on the hadith than they are putting on the actual Quran. It’s like that was happening to hip hop. People are—they want to take the highest state of hip hop; Rakim and dadada. If you ain’t doing this, then that ain’t hip hop. But, that’s not where hip hop started from. Do you remember the reason why Kool Moe Dee won the battle against Busy Bee? It’s because Busy Bee wasn’t that type of battle rapper. Remember his whole thing with battling was who could get the crowd hyped. Kool Moe Dee came on there and went straight at him.
Bomani Armah: He lyrically crushed him, yeah.
Navon Smith: Yeah. Like, yo, dude [inaudible 22:48]. Nobody did that before at that point. But, that’s to let you know that that didn’t start with Kool Moe Dee. It was actually with Busy Bee and when you look where it was at with Busy Bee, so now when that come time comes back around and you get you a Busy Bee, nobody wants to respect that anymore.
Bomani Armah: But, that is a reflection of real hip hop. So, we’re going to talk about that more and as y’all been hearing, Navon Smith can talk about a lot of different topics and so we’re going to come back. We’re going to have like our wild card round here at The Indie, independent art, independent business, independent thought, back here broadcasting from the Even Place, we’ll be right back.
: Welcome back ladies and gentlemen, this is Bomani Armah, broadcasting once again from the Even Place. This is The Indie where we celebrate independent art, independent business, independent thought. Our guest today has been Navon Smith. I know you’ve been enjoying the conversation as much as I have. We’ve been catching up on old times you know what I’m saying, coming up on the youth street art scene here in Washington DC, but also discussing the business of making this happen, making this art and this culture work for us artistically and as business people. And, I really want to get into this next project that you’re talking about. It’s called ‘Reach for the Stars’.
You said the lead single is featuring Glenn Lewis and I know and people have been able to hit that disc from listening to that song we played earlier just listening to our conversation is that there’s no, shallow conversations with Navon. And I’m sure there’s a whole much of really intricate entrusting things going on in this album, tell people about it.
Navon Smith: ‘Reach for the Stars’ is a journey. It’s a journey of a struggling artist that’s trying to make it into being a superstar, pretty much. You know what I mean?
Bomani Armah: Okay.
Navon Smith: That’s really what is about. The first track on there is called ‘What I got to Do to Make You Love Me.’ And, that song represents an artist that’s in a room, and you all know when we’re first writing that first rhyme and you’re first get in there and you want people to like you, you want to do is accepted in that community; in the hip hop community. And so, you’re trying to figure out what can I say, how can I do it, and I think we all start out emulating and doing things, but by the time I get to the end of song, I found my own voice, I know who I am, I’m comfortable, and I don’t need that. So, that’s the first intro track or the intro track off of there. The next song is called—
Bomani Armah: Hold on. [inaudible 25:13] before we get to the next song. What was that process like for you personally? Like to figure out what NaVon sounded like?
Navon Smith: I mean, it was for real, I think it was fun. Actually, because in hip hop, we’re always inspired by—you know people are like, “Who inspires you?” You know, other hip hop artists. So you know, the minute you can emulate your own artist you feel like you got it.
Bomani Armah: I hate it when artist, no matter what genre of art they do, I hate it when you’re like, “Well, so who do you sound like? “I don’t sound like nobody.” I’m like, that’s not even possible.
Navon Smith: Right, yeah. And you listen to my music, like the guy who really sparked me, that really, really sparked me, sparked me was Ice Cube. And, if you listen to my music, it make perfect sense. The old Ice Cube.
Bomani Armah: And old Ice Cube didn’t leave anything on the table. Everything was worth talking about.
Navon Smith: But, Redman is who made me actually want to rap. Redman was like, “Oh, I want to rap.” Because I love the metaphors—I didn’t want to talk about killing and dadadadada.
Bomani Armah: Right.
Navon Smith: So, when Redman came with all the metaphors and back then I was smoking a lot of weed and doing all that shit, so—
Bomani Armah: That would make you like Redman even more.
Navon Smith: Yeah. And then, I think the last but not the least, was Tupac because I think, when I heard ‘Makaveli’—like I’m at age at this point, I’m conscious, I’m listening to those things. I’m a baby. I’m really just hearing it. It’s really not my choice, I’m really just hearing what’s in the car whatever that person is putting in that car, but by that time I get to like ‘All Eyes On Me,’ ‘Makaveli,’ I’m actually purchasing my own CD’s. And that album—and if you listen to Fear, at the end of Fear it’s a Makaveli thing that’s quoted out of there. That’s a prop and that’s from the album Makaveli, “God coming, she just taking her time.”
Bomani Armah: You quoted Pac earlier when you said it might not paraphrase them. Pac famously said, you know I may not change the world but I’m a spark the mind that’s going to change the world.
Navon Smith: That’s what it’s about, so I was inspired. That album, that Makaveli album even more than ‘All eyes on me’. That Makaveli album made me vibrate. I can’t even explain to you, it made me vibrate.
Bomani Armah: I feel you, I feel you. I mean, Outkast albums were those for me and it was interesting because—
Navon Smith: Yo. Come on yo. I missed that. Forgive me for that.
Bomani Armah: Right, right, right. Oh, no it’s all good.
Navon Smith: No, I was like Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik; that’s the weed.
Bomani Armah: And you were there, at that time, that’s the kind of person you wanted to be so that album was perfect.
Navon Smith: Oh, I had the corn rolls.
Bomani Armah: And then when ATLien’s came out, I was that person too. I was like, what exactly am I? How do I fit into the—
NaVon Smith: I wasn’t that person though. ATLiens—
Bomani Armah: Well, see maybe you were Big Boy and not Andre.
Navon Smith: No no, like in the first joint, Andre was always my man but I was still stuck on Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik . So, when ATLiens came out, I actually wasn’t really ready—
Bomani Armah: They talk about that in the Aquemini that they lost some people,
Navon Smith: No, but in Aquemini, when Andre hit that line, “Alien can blend right on in wit’ yo’ kin look again ’cause I swear I spot one every now and then,” I was like “Oh, whoa! That joint just sparked the hell out of me.” So now, Andre has always been one of those guys, but no you’re right, Outkast had a big influence on me, but not as much as Tupac did.
Bomani Armah: I got you. That’s because if Cube and Pac are your people, they would tell you about all this esoteric and political things right to your face and I hear that in your style.
Navon Smith: That’s exactly—I’m a direct reflection of them.
Bomani Armah: So, if we’re going to—this is your journey as an artist, what do we got going on next? What’s the next track?
Navon Smith: The next track is ‘Free’ It’s like and once you come [inaudible 28:54] with yourself, and you’re comfortable with yourself, the next track on there is ‘Free.’ And ‘Free’ is about being—not being free, like enslaved, but being slave to your emotions, to your desires, to your past, to your past experiences. You know, a lot of people can get past your past. A lot of people can’t move forward because they still stuck on something that happened 10 years ago. So, ‘Free’ is all about those things. It’s about getting passed that, so you can reach for the stars.
Bomani Armah: Now, is this introspective for you, or this you talking about—
Navon Smith: No, this is me. These stories that are in there, you know ‘Free’ is talking about me. That first verse is all about my childhood and it’s talking about me having my virginity taken by crack-head.
Bomani Armah: Oh, whoa.
NoVan Smith: It’s like when you’re trying to get passed those things. You know, that’s common in the hood. People don’t know that. It may not be known in the world, but when you grew up in that environment, it’s not actually like that now, but when you grew up in that environment, it’s common for an older guy to give a crack head, for us to have sex with a crack head. You know, you give them piece of whatever and they go and take you into a room and whatever—
Bomani Armah: Right, right, right.
Navon Smith: So, those are things that mess me up. As a kid, you thought it was cute. When I got older, it’d mess me up.
Bomani Armah: It changed your perspective of what sex was or what their relationship was—
Navon Smith: Everything! Yea. My women, yeah and bad enough, in there it talks about my mom is being strung out on crack. And, my pops not being around, so it says—I think one line there, it says—talking about my dad; maybe he didn’t know these demons wanted my soul. Pop, they took me places I never wanted to go, and they taught me things I never wanted to know. Kept my mom strung on coke to keep her under control. 14 years old and I’m already a pothead, virginity taken by the neighborhood crack head. I’m lucky I’m not this dead somewhere on the corner, whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.’ So that’s what ’Free’ is about. It’s about getting away from all those desires, those feelings, those emotions, those anxieties and just being able to put all those things behind you and focus on your goals and move forward because reality, you can’t do that, you can’t really successfully do that in my opinion until you get past those—
Bomani Armah: Unless you reconcile those things.
Navon Smith: Or they’ll catch up with your career and destroy you while your stars is at its brightest.
Bomani Armah: Okay. So, let’s keep working through this album. What’s going on with the next track?
Navon Smith: The next album is ‘Reach for the Stars’, and it just really saying once you’ve accepted yourself for who you are, you’re no longer seeking approval; like when you’re saying “What I got to do to make you love me?” and you’ve freed yourself from—
Bomani Armah: Right, right. You move past that point.
Navon Smith: You’ve got passed your own demons because that’s what ‘Free’ is about. It’s about moving past your own inner demons, your own spiritual flaws, or what have you, and now you’re able to actually focus on your goals and reach for the stars, and start just that. You can start setting your goals and planning on—you haven’t necessarily hit them yet but you start writing everything down.
Bomani Armah: So, all the ducks are in a row?
Navon Smith: Yeah you’re like, “I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that. You’re excited about your future and that’s what it’s about. ‘Reach for the Stars’ is at that point when you’re just excited about life; you’re excited and you know you’re confident and you’re just like “Yo, I’m going to make it.”
Bomani Armah: I mean, the way this is setting up to me, it sounds like it can be a very—like an invaluable lesson to be able to give to people; especially people coming from your similar situations.
Navon Smith: Yeah.
Bomani Arman: Okay, so I think we have enough time for you to explain one more track for the people. I want to keep—just tease them. But, let them know what’s going on with the track.
Navon Smith: Of course, as you go on your journey, and things start to go on your way, you start to get confidence. You start to believe, and that’s the next track.
The next track is called ‘Believe’ and it’s saying that when you first set out on that journey, you’re kind of nervous, your heart is beating. You remember when you did your first open mic? You’re like “Oh man, I don’t how is this going to work. I hope people come”, and then when your joint is packed, you start feeling yourself.
Bomani Armah: And now my walk’s different.
Navon Smith: Yeah, [inaudible 32:56] whole thing. It’s like Neo in the ‘Matrix’.
Bomani Armah: Right. Everything’s in slow motion.
Navon Smith: Yes. So, and that’s what ‘Believe’ is about. ‘Believe’ is really just that, it’s like you’re at that point when you believe in yourself, you know you can do it, you’re talking trash, you’re whole swag has changed, the confidence is there. So, yeah.
Bomani Armah: Right, right, right. We’re going to definitely bring you back on multiple occasions. The conversation I had earlier today when we were taping for the Even Place was being your authentic self, living your authentic life. That’s something Dr. Jones and I were just talking about and that’s literally, that’s how you’re able to have those moments. I mean, the other day I bragged about being able to perform at a school, perform at a museum, at a church, and at the night club in the same day. And at this point, I’ve gotten to the point where it’s a second nature. But, it’s not me stepping outside of my normalness. It’s a group of 8th graders—let’s go. I’m so real with it that it happened easily and I feel like the same thing is happened to you; both through your art, through your hustle. All of it is so authentically you that it doesn’t even really take effort.
Navon Smith: Exactly.
Bomani Smith: And so tell people where they can get in contact with you, you know the website, twitter, all that good stuff that you got going on.
Navon Smith: My website is navonsmith.com, that’s N-A-V-O-N Smith.com; twitter the same thing @navonsmith; facebook: Navon Smith; you tube, please subscribe to the YouTube page. Everything is Navon Smith across the board, that’s why I chose it.
Bomani Armah: N-A-V-O-N.
Navon Smith: N-A-V-O-N S-M-I-T-H Smith, everything. So, if you type in Navon Smith in Google, everything will pop up. Like I say, The Reverb Nation is Navon Smith, everything is Navon Smith, the Sound Cloud is Navon Smith. It was a great way to brand myself, and it’s who I am. I actually think it was a great—you know, people are like Von, Von, Von, that’s great. And people still call me Von. I’m cool with that, but understand that Navon Smith is a direct reflection of me and that’s a direct reflection of my music.
Bomani Armah: I’m glad that you’re able to be so real and honest with both your art, and your business, and go back, rewind this, watch that ‘Fear’ video over again or listen to the ‘Fear’ song over again. So, you’re promising us new videos and new music on a regular basis now? [inaudible 35:09]?
Navon Smith: Oh man, yo we have so much music like on V for Vendetta alone, it was like 27 songs.
Bomani Armah: I do remember that.
Navon Smith: And we added a bunch of them; we added more. And so, then you’ve got ‘Reach for the Stars’ is like done. That’s 12 brand new songs off of that album and then I’m also working on a—shout out to my man, D-Lee. But, I’m [inaudible 35:31] complete with my album with this guy from Spain who is sick. He found me on YouTube, on the internet just by sending me beats. So, definitely new music is going to be flopping out every other week now.
Bomani Armah: That’s what‘s up. Ladies and gentlemen, this has been Navon Smith, I’m Bomani Armah, I’m your host here. We are broadcasting from the Even Place, the show is called The Indie, independent art, independent business, independent thought, join us for our next episode we’ll be going to the exact same thing wonderful exploration of art, business, and thought. Thank you Navon, we’re going to have you back very soon. We’ll talk to y’all later, peace.
Navon Smith: Peace.