Urban Vault caught up with Brooklyn, NY based emcee NAPOLEON DA LEGEND to ask him some questions about his music, collaborations and inspirations
Since the ‘Golden Era’ of Hip Hop, true school lyricists have come very few and far between. The combination of passion, flair on the mic, urban poetry mixed with torrential, jigsaw-like wordplay is a rare alchemy of attributes Napoleon Da Legendcarries in his arsenal. Delivering picturesque vocals over musical canvases, N.D.L. Aka Pharoah-Gamo offers his personal rendition of what he refers to as “Reality Rap”. He is also the newest member of the legendary Bushwick NY supergroup’Dysfunkshunal Familee’ of ‘New Ruff Flava‘ fame in 1994. He draws his inspiration from a unique background and life experience. Born in Paris, France to African immigrants from the severely impoverished Comoros, and later migrating toWashington DC at the age of four, N.D.L. has been subject to enough culture shock to last several lifetimes. At the age of 16, His parents both went their separate ways and moved back overseas after divorcing. Despite his young age, N.D.L. decided to stay in the US to carve a path by himself. Having to learn to survive and fend for himself at a young age gave N.D.L. the insight and inspiration for his passionate and vivid delivery. By the age of 17, he start penning projects including a limited edition maxi-single vinyl ‘Prison’ released by indy-label ‘Savoir-Faire’ in Europe. N.D.L. independently put out some mix-tapes with local artists named the ‘Black Mafia’ series, which created a street buzz in D.M.V. area (DC/MD/VA). During that period, he was featured on songs with Bad Boy artist Red Café & Universal/Barclay artist Matt Houston (Shawty a Gansta), as well as Trina, formerly of ‘Slip N Slide’ (Sex Toy). Furthermore, former Dr. Dreprodigy Knoc-Turn’Al enlisted N.D.L. on his comeback record ‘Red Rum Mindset’. His buzz in Europe also made him a sought out MC for features with iconic French artists such as ‘Rockin’ Squat’ of the pioneer Hip Hip group ‘Assassin’ and Hip Hop group ‘Saian Supa Crew’. He later leaked the ‘Deep Cover 2010‘ Big Pun tribute video, which was featured on numerous Hip Hop blogs and websites. Since then, he has been featured consistently on sites such as Allhiphop.com (Heater of Day multiple times), kevinnottingham.com, HipHopDX.com, 2DopeBoyz and many others. In 2010, he dropped ‘The Myth or The Legend’ EP, which was sold online and hand to hand by his street team. A year later, in collaboration with producer/personality/director Crazy Al Cayne (www.sugarcayne.com), N.D.L. was featured on a full-length mix-tape ‘The Sugar Cayne Experiment Vol 1’ on which he would create songs over beats C.A.C. had authentically produced during the nineties. The songs and videos from these projects garnered an undeniable buzz on YouTube and many Hip Hop blogs and websites. N.D.L. impromptu freestyle on CAC’s “Spit in the Wip” was featured on B.E.T’s The Deal on March 2010. In December 2012, N.D.L. was featured on the legendary Video Music Box show and interviewed by Ralph McDaniels, which aired in the NY, NJ and CT area on the NYC-TV Life channel. Since then, many of his videos have been on rotation on V.M.B.DJ Bazarro (Beatminerz Radio personality) extended him an invitation to join his rap group ‘Dysfunkshunal Familee’ in March 2013,which he has accepted, with whom he’s been touring and doing shows up and down the East Coast. In April 2013, he released his debut full-length solo album ‘Awakening’ featuring music with Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon and Sean Price. His satirical yet comedic video for ‘Wise Men’ featuring Sean P has garnered a cult following online. N.D.L. also made his acting debut taking part in a role for a web drama series ‘Back to Basics’ directed by Cyril Mahe. Impressed from what Cyril Mahe described as “natural talent as an actor”, he later enlisted him to star in an installment of the horror/suspense series ‘The Devil May Care’, which premiered at Yotel in NYC in the summer of 2013. In March 2014, N.D.L. performed in Berlin, Germany on March 9th at Cassiopeia alongside Sadat X (Brand Nubian) and El Da Sensei (Artifacts). He then was chosen to perform at Pharoah Monche’s PTSD album release party at reknowned SOB’s in NYChosted by Peter Rosenberg of Hot97 in April 2014. N.D.L. has toured non-stop from 2014 to the beginning of 2015 doing shows in NYC, Atlantic City, Philadelphia, Maryland,Washington DC, Tampa Bay, San Diego, Worcester, Los Angeles, San Diego and Berlin, Germany among other places. He was selected to perform at Live at the BBQ 2.0 sponsored byRalph McDaniels at V.M.B. and hosted by Large Professor at the 2015 Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival. Currently, N.D.L. is working on his next ‘Propaganda’ project, as well as an album fully produced by the legendary Beatminerz (Mr Walt, DJ Evil Dee & DJ Bazarro). N.D.L. recently linked up with artist/producer BBass to release a joint project ‘THP’ (The Happy Place). This summer opus was conceived and recorded by both artists in the span of 2 weeks just in time for the summer season and dropped July 3rd, 2015 on all digital outlets. With the overwhelmingly positive response ‘THP’ has garnered from critics, radio and DJs as well as an ever expanding fan base, N.D.L. has surely been prepping for an eventful year.
What is your name?
Napoleon Da Legend
Where are you from?
I was born in Paris, France, originally from the Comoros (lower East Africa). I grew up in the DMV and currently reside in Brooklyn, NY.
How long have you been making music?
A few years.
How many songs /albums have you released to date?
I have released one album, two EPs and several mixtapes throughout the years. Awakening was released in April, 2013 featuring Sean Price (RIP) and Raekwon. THP (The Happy Place) EP, which is a collaboration project with artist/producer BBass was released July 2015. I can’t count how many songs I have released or have featured on, I’ve been putting in work. It seems like a new song I’m on one way or another gets released every week. It’s a blessing to see the fruits of your labor see the light of day.
Can you tell us about your latest song/album, the background and inspirations behind it?
THP was a summer project I did with BBass. He produced every song and sung on most of them. We wanted to really explore a new sound without being tied to the rules the music industry implicitly sets on what constitutes a hit record or a commercially viable record. We were inspired and recorded the six songs in the span of about a week. It’s definitely some “feel good” music, which is different from what I have done in the past.
How have you ended up in the music industry?
I put myself there. I always was passionate about music. I dreamt as a young teen of having my music out there and touring the world. I pursued it and grew into the artist that I am today. The music game is not what it used to be, it’s important to create a unique sound and brand for yourself coming into it. I’m a bar-a-holic, I have a unique story and perspective from my cultural upbringing and my travels. I don’t like recycling the same words and ideas from what’s trending at a given period. From that and consistent shows and output, I’ve built a loyal following for myself through the years.
Who inspires you when you make your music?
My hunger to express myself and communicate my philosophy and feelings to the world. My hunger to embody the change I want to see in the world. My hunger to survive and thrive in this world. The inner fire gives me inspiration at any given moment.
Who have you collaborated with so far in your Career?
I’ve collaborated with countless artists, however the most notable at the present time being the late Great Sean Price and Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan. I’ve collaborated with countless dope legends, mainstream and underground artists. Collabs make you better point blank.
Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
I would love to collab with Capleton and Sade.
What do you think of the music industry in 2015?
The industry has changed, not as much money as in the past. The music is available for streaming. Artists have to be a lot more creative other than the music, meaning from a promotional and marketing standpoint to get attention. The art is the art, real art will stand the test of time. Being successful in the business is something else altogether. It’s even more competitive with the internet and the low cost of recording. Anybody can play on the same playing field. This makes an artist have to work all that much harder to make a living off of the music. The radio is trap heavy at the moment, trends come and they go. My focus is on making the best sound that represents me at any given moment. I don’t “trap” myself into any one sound, I’m here to make music. As long as I’m being lyrical I’m doing my job as an emcee.
What have you got planned for 2016?
I plan on releasing more music. I’m teaming up with Boom Bap Nation to showcase more artists and lyric memes on http://www.facebook.com/lyricalmindedbbn so make sure you check that out if you into heavy bars. We want to bring you authentic Hip Hop and that’s what I’m here to do.
What was the first album you bought?
Wow, let me see…. I believe I bought two the same day and they were the Chronic by Dr. Dre and 36th by Wu-Tang Clan, if I remember correctly. Kind of shows how diverse the sound was back then in Hip-Hop meaning in good Hip Hop. Two classics with a totally different approach and sound. Those days were special for sure.
What’s your favorite song at the moment?
Jah is by my Side by Tony Rebel.
If you had to sell your music collection tomorrow, what album would you leave in your draw?
Michael Jackson Thriller
What do you do when you’re not making music?
Making some buckwheat oatmeal. Watching films. Teaching the youth. Walking on the pavement towards my next destination. Breaking somebody’s ankle on the court.
Facebook or Twitter?
In a few words sum up your thoughts about Urban Vault?
Urban Vault is dope, your transmit the culture to the masses which is what is needed. I appreciate what yall bring to the table.
Thank you for your time and may you carry on making dope, fresh music…