Catching up with Navigator – The Evolution Of A London MC: Journey To Alignment
September 5, 2017
For those that don’t know Navigator has been a name in the industry for some time, but our interview talks through his life as an MC. We were lucky enough to catch up with Navi at quite an exciting time as we see the release of a three part documentary produced by Beat Culture LDN – The Evolution of a London MC: Journey into Alignment. This tells the story of Navigators history within music which leads to the release of his debut album “Alignment”.
Thanks for chatting with us Navigator. How did you get into the music industry?
I started as a reggae dancehall DJ (which is what my generation called MCs back in the 80’s. What we call a DJ in dance music was called a ‘selector’ back then). In 1979 I left school and joined a local sound in Walthamstow called ‘Intruder’. In 1980 through a sound system equipment link, (when Intruder had a bigger venue to play and didn’t have the power to cover it), I got introduced to a sound system crew called Phase One from Tottenham. They saw the talent and potential, I asked to join Phase One, they said yes! I moved to Tottenham and thats where I served my apprenticeship for 4 years, whilst moving thru the sound system ‘Micman’ ranks of North-East London. Ultimately I joined Fatman Hifi in 1984, then in 1985 I moved smoothly over to Unity Hi Power and joined forces with Deman Rockers, Flinty Badman and Sean Major. The rest is history!!
MC’ing has been your passion for almost 4 decades now and you’ve worked with some pretty all star artists, can you tell us about some of them? Ie: Mo’ Fire – Rawhill Cru and Bad Company, what do you think made it such a big hit and how was it working with the guys?
Mo’ Fire was the tune that brought back the ‘new era’ of ragga vocals to DnB. There was a lot of bad stigma around the reggae influence in Jungle in the mid to late 90’s and the ragga style of Mc’ing was not being given a chance. So I went off and did other stuff like Radio 1 and Freestylers. Fast forward to 2001 and I saw Spyda on a plane going to the Winter Music Conference in Miami, he approached me and said he wanted to do some work. We linked up when we got back to the UK and I took him with me to Germany, at that time period in the scene there were hardly any vocals in the music at all. We started Rawhill Cru and recruited some mega names, Tenor Fly, Daddy Freddy and Ragga Twins to name a few and started recording tunes, we actually recorded 2 albums, neither of which saw the light of day due to politics, but Mo’ Fire was a big tune and in my heart I knew it.
One night me and all the guys were on stage at a club called MS Connexion in Mannheim Germany doing a Mo’ Fire live PA, when Vegas from Bad Company comes to me and says.. ‘Navi this Mo’ Fire is a huge tune, please get me the stems and I will try and get Fresh to do a remix’ .. at that time I didn’t even really know who Fresh was, but I knew about Bad Company because they were the hottest label of that time. So I went and linked Fresh in London, he played me a beat, I loved it, I gave him the acapella, two days later we had the remix, so we decided to give it out to a select few DJ’s to test the waters. Funnily enough most of those DJ’s didn’t want to play it and were still saying: ‘Navi I aint playing none of that ragga shit fam, I respect you as an artist, but man aint playing that style no more’.
Anyway, so Fresh and Andy C are big buddies, Fresh gives Andy the remix and asks him to remix it again for a single release on Bad Company from the ‘Shot down on Safari’ album, Andy obliges and then promptly goes off to tour the US with MCGQ. I can still remember the call from GQ when he got back now; ‘YO Navi….. you got a hit on your hands man, Mo’ Fire was the track of the whole tour fam, Congrats’.. So basically Andy C championed the track and made it world famous before it was even scheduled for a release. I called Spyda and congratulated him and then we started touring and doing LIVE shows together. Ironically, next thing I know, all the guys who were saying they aint playing ragga vocals no more, were hollering at me saying’ Naviiiiiii I need that track, send it over please’ Hmmm, Well what a turn around that was eh???
We never got around to doing a follow up, Fresh still had all the acapellas from Mo’ Fire, but he only used me, Spyda and Soultrain in his remix. Fresh then gave those acapellas to Pendulum who took the Tenor Fly vocal (Shotter, Hitter, Serial Killer) and got Spyda to sing the ‘Black Tarantula’ hook on the track and ‘kaboom’ another mega hit off the back of Mo’ Fire. Pretty epic stuff starting from just a convo on plane!
You’ve had some huge hits with Freestylers, how did you start working with them?
Just as my stint on Radio 1 was coming to an end in 1998, I got a call from a record label called Freskanova, who wanted me to come be the hype man for a show with Freestylers at G-Mex Center in Manchester. I turn up, walk in the dressing room, see Tenor Fly who I knew from sound systems days in the 80s, then Aston who used to program and engineer for Rebel MC and DJ Rap to name a couple and also J-Roc from Blapps Posse, amongst the musicians and breakers etc. I was like; what the hell is going on here? Tenor fly quickly filled me in on the story and told me his track with Freestylers called ‘B-Boy Stance’ was quite a big hit and they were about to go on tour etc. I was a bit gobsmacked, but also quite excited by the potential of the situation and then we went on stage and really did a good performance which the record label boss was there to see. As soon as I came off stage he came to me and said; ‘Come to the office and see me Monday’. I went in, we sorted out a deal, he gave me 20 dates and I immediately started touring with the band. After a while, they were looking for a follow up single for B-Boy Stance, and I eventually got to voice the beat which is now ‘Ruffneck’. Shortly after that I voiced ‘Warning’ and they both came out as singles from the ‘We Rock Hard’ album released in 1999. That year we toured America many times, most notably with Lenny Kravitz on his ‘Freedom’ tour.
Most recently you have done ‘Battle Cry’ with Serum. Tell us about this?
Long story short: I had a track called Sound the Alarm I did with Skarra Mucci produced by Bassface Sascha (legendary German producer/DJ). I needed a remix with a kick and snare as opposed to a break, but with the Jungle vibe same way. Bassface suggested Serum, I hollered David Boomah because I knew he was working with Serum quite closely. Boomah gave me Serum’s number, I holla Serum and ask if he would be interested. He says send the track over, he liked it and said send the stems.. 1 week later – remix DONE!!! .. he said he was doing an EP for Bryan G on Philly Blunt and when he was ready he would send me a beat and we do a swap, remix for vocal.. I agreed.. When I got the beat, I was like; WTF???? nah this is gonna get murked, I voiced it exactly as it is now on the track, Serum loved it, and now everyone else loves it .. hahahahaha .. by the way I got a video done for this track and it will be dropping soon, look out for that people!!
Lastly, James Brown!!! How and what did it feel like when you were standing with musical royalty?
Honestly I was in awe of him, me and Ragga Twins sat there with James Browns manager, in a Ice Rink Stadium in Oslo Norway watching the sound check with a 12 piece band. Every time he said: 1 2 3, and the band started playing, it was like a needle dropping on a record, bang on every time. He made little hand movements, the manager said: that guitarist just got docked 5 bucks for a mistake. Like; what mistake? The whole thing sounded perfect to me, but James Brown knew who did what and you had to pay for that mistake, he was the ultimate perfectionist. It’s amazing to think that I was there watching him, I never met him tho, or maybe we did take some pictures, I’m not sure. There is one thing I remember clearly tho, one of his backing singers, a middle aged lady, she lost one leg in an accident. She told us that she raised her 4 sons and bought her house off of the money James Brown paid her for shows. When she lost her leg he carried on paying her the money and helped her get back on her feet and when she was fit enough he had her come back out on tour doing her job. From this I learned that people say a lot of things about people and others believe the hearsay; But the REAL truth will always be told in the end. If you don’t know someone personally don’t assume off the back of some story you heard through the grapevine. Salute James Brown.
Your debut album Alignment just dropped on 2 August, what’s next for Navigator?
With this album I had no expectations, I just wanted to get it out to the public. The feedback has been overwhelming, straight in at No.1 on Juno, Liondub radio show Alignment album preview went to No.1 on Mixcloud, plus we went to No.3 on Beatport’s Reggae chart and then album of the month in Mixmag. Everything that has happened is a bonus to me, plus I’ve enjoyed putting this project together so much, that I am now on a mission to drop an album every year for at least the next 6 years. In between that look out for some very high profile musical projects and releases including some legendary vocalists from an unbelievable roster of old school artists and new school talent. Rest assured after 38 years hard slog, I feel brand new and like I am just starting to do what I’ve always wanted to do all these years, which is be that independent artist making and releasing the music I am feeling and not being dictated to by major record companies or any of that crap. I have taken control of my own music and artistic expression and it feels amazing. I will never rest on my laurels, that is not my style, that’s why my label is called ODT Muzik, meaning ON DIS TING, or in plain english, ON THIS THING. Relentless, Driven, Inspired, Motivated. Selah. Peace out!
Part 3 – The Evolution Of A London MC: Journey To Alignment
Directed & Produced by Jamie Beat Culture LDN
Shot by Chuba Chidebelu & Clinton (Project Black Mic)
Shot by Theon Zander
Edited by John Carlos Davison
Heres what Jamie from Beat Culture LDN has to say about the project…
“Back in 2011, I reconnected with Navigator after a few years. We met in a pub in Shepherds Bush, West London. We talked about the evolution of UK music culture, where it currently was then and where it is going. We talked about the role of the MC and it’s place within bass music and where jungle music might end up in the next few years. That conversation was the catalyst to me becoming a film and documentary producer.
We then set up about to produce and make a film about Navi’s history within the world of music covering his history from the soundsystem era to the present day. Along with a friend of mine and experienced broadcast camera man Nathaniel Jessel, we shot the film in 2 evenings in and around London. The result was The Evolution Of A London MC parts 1& 2.
In 2014, 3 years after producing the first two parts to The Evolution Of A London MC series, Navigator, Liondub and myself linked up in Berlin whilst I was in Germany for work. I ended up going to a show they were doing at YAAM Berlin Club in the city, where Shy FX & Stylo G were playing that night. I was blown away by their rapport on stage and what they did as a DJ / MC combination. Navi and I linked up a few days later and talked about developing another project.
With a background in live event production, I went on the road with Navi & Lion to help produce their live show and help consult on the Liondub International brand and label. This led me to working with both on a creative and strategic level. On returning off tour, Navi informed me that he was working on completing what would become his album ‘Alignment’, this was the point where we decided to bring the series back for a final instalment which would complete his journey from Soundsystem to Berlin to linking with Lion and dropping his album.
We then shot the next part, over the next 6 months in London, Berlin & New York City. Taking our time to get things right, is very much part of the ‘Alignment’ process and this sentiment carried through to the edit of this documentary.
Featuring interviews from Trevor Sax, Virgo Don, Remarc Junglis, Aries Priest, Spikey Tee, Dennis Porst, Soultrain Locomotive, Frank Topline, Spider Berlin & Erik Wise.
Thank you for the support. Jamie / Beat Culture LDN
Finally – shouts from Navi
Salutes to: my Mother & also my Father (RIP) for giving me life in the first instance, my children & grandchildren who have been a major inspiration in my transition into the artist Navigator, I love you all dearly.
Out to my team at ODT Muzik and Liondub-ODT Muzik, my dear brother Alaska MC, family man like Liondub, Soultrain Locomotive (Railroad Ent), Jamie (Beat Culture London), Shalshani (DIFALA), Baba Adrian, Deman Rockers & Flinty Badman aka The Ragga Twins, Sean Major (RIP brother), Skarra Mucci, David Boomah, Erbndub, Spikey Tee, Marcus Visionary, DJ Afghan (SouLove Italy), DJ Shablo (Roccia Music Italy) Remarc, Aries, Zoobie (Social Security), J Sunz, Bobby London, Shawn T, Anthony, Capital B, Spooka & SMK (Red Alert), Julian Wildgrüber (Made Vision Munich, thank you for everything King), Phantom Warrior (Katana Audio Berlin), Rich & Antonio (Pyro Radio), Daddy Skitz, Natasha (RIP), Ranking Joe, Lone Ranger, Johnny Osbourne, Raymond Napthali (one of my sound system MC teachers), Rebel MC aka Cóngo Natty, Congo Dubs, Phoebe Iron Dread, Nanci, Potential Badboy, Ras Demo, Show Stephens, Sid Young (3rd Eye Records), Kelvin 373, Mampi Swift, Ray Keith, Roni Size, Krust, Jumping Jack Frost, Brian Gee, Darren Jay, Mickey Finn, Roni Size, MC Dynamite, Rob (Stush), Uncle Dugs & Ms Wiggle, Jono D (Vibena Jungle), Aman (Jungle Jam), David Rodigan, Bobo El Numero Uno, Phase One Sound (Tottenham), Otis & Roland G (both gave me my first break in sound systems in 1980), Eddy Regal, Skiffington (BWF original Junglist RIP), Fatman Hi Power, Flip, General P, Mikey Crucial, Militant Dread, Issac Natty, Ribs (Unity Hifi), Leo & Moses (First Choice), Ricky Ranking, Kenny Knots, Peter Bouncer, Tenor Fly (RIP my family), Lloyd Coxsone, Blacka Dread, Bikey Dread, Jah Screechy, Top Cat, General Levy, Sweetie Irie, Tippa Irie, Rubi Dan, Million Stylez, Colourman, Donavan Kingjay, Jnr Dangerous, Sean Major (RIEP my brother), Seanie T, Dub Pistols, Barry Ashworth, Rodney P, Foreign Beggars, Sticky Joe, Brother Culture, Daddy Freddy, Virgo Don, Cheshire Cat, Robbo Dread, YT, Ras Cowboy Ranger, Logan D, Majistrate, Slipz, Spyda (Black Tarantula), Blu Bomma, (Basslayers), MC Agent (Romania) Funsta, Dreps, Lady Chann, Rico Dan, Flowdan, Deadly Hunta, Solo Banton, Bassman, Trigga, Nutcracka, Evil B, Herbzie, Eksman, MC Foxy, Skibadee, Shabba D, Stormin, Harry Shotta, DJ Phantasy, Blacka MC, Rieo Sky, Brockie & Det, Pressure X, Eastman, KOOL LONDON Family, Wilbur Wilberforce (Radio1), Terry T & James (3rd Party Recs), Brian Belle Fortune (All Crews), James Burns (London Rooftops), Paul Ibiza, Mark Kemit, Reinforced Crew, Goldie, Cleveland Watkiss, Aston Freestylers, Valerie M, Sirreal, Asian Dub Foundation, Adrian Sherwood, Ghetto Priest, Pony Montana, Guiliano (FGP), Uncle 22, Kool Hand Flex, Randall, Fats, De Underground Crew (Forest Gate), Lenny De Ice, Everton & Kingsley (Roast Crew), Paul Roast, Jungle Fever, William (VIP Champagne Bash), Moose (Godfather Jungle MC), MC GQ (Godfather Rave MC), Chelone Wolf aka MC Lowqui (heavy photographer), RIP Stevie Hyper D (miss you bro), Jungle Mania (Bridge & Elliott), Lloyd Innovation, UCOJ (Merrix & Jamie G), Geek Tekneek, Joe & Wesley (Ego Media), Sam De La Haye, Simon Goffe (Heavyweight Management from 90s), The Angel & Kevin, (Supa Crucial LA), AK 1200, DJ Dara, DJ Wednesday, TC Islam (RIP), MC Question Mark (legendary LA based MC from UK), MC Dyer, Bass Nacho, Noah D, Lost City, Jah Lingua, Dappaman, DJ Phat, Mr Japs, MC K, Philleye, DJ Jona, (Jungle Kidz Saarbrücken), Mannheim 68er Massive, DJ Funksta, Meditation Crew, Royal Rumble, Red Busta Flex, Svemir Milos, Bassface Sascha, DJ Freeze, MC Shadow (Mannheim), The Green Man (TGM), Brian Brainstorm (Köln), Tease (Stuttgart), Frank Topline (Berlin), DJ Rocket (Hannover), More Fire Festival, MC Stunnah (Celle), Dread FX, Profit – Florian & Martin (Berlin), Ras Lion, Jimi Handtrix, No Money (Czech Rep), Rahmanee (Serbia), FLeCK, Alex (Tigersonic Studios), Basement Studios Berlin, Fabian, Lennert, (Berlin) Basi (Red Bull Academy Salzburg) Domenico, (my sound engineering teacher at Deutsche Pop Academy Berlin), Astoria (the venue RIP), all of my fallen soldiers over the years, home to glory, I catch you all on the rebound and to everyone else who has helped me, supported me and are fans of Reggae, Jungle, Drum & Bass & UK Bass music worldwide especially the ones that buy the music and the ravers who come out to support the shows. #Salute