Napoleon - Outlaw on the Rise
3/8/05 - LatinRapper.com exclusive interview by Dante
Mutah Wassin Shabazz Beale was born in Newark, New Jersey, one
of four sons of Spanish and African American roots. Tragic
events in his childhood led to living with his grandmother in
Irvington, New Jersey, he would eventually be connected to
2pac through Shakur's Godbrother Kadafi and became part of the
He was featured on Tupac's LP "Me Against
the world", 2pac would later bestow him with the alias of
Napoleon when the Outlawz were born, and the young artist
found himself featured on four songs on 2pacs "All Eyez
Only months after 2pac's passing, tragedy struck again as
Napoleon's cousin accidentally shot and killed Kadafi,
Napoleon later convincing his cousin to turn himself in.
December 1999, the Outlawz released their debut LP which went
platinum in less than month. Two albums later, Napoleon would
go solo. Now working on a double LP set to release this year,
Napoleon is on a mission, he spoke to LR about his life, his
music and his movement in our exclusive interview.
LatinRapper.com: Its been a while since your name has popped
up, what have you been up to?
Basically I been doing a lot of transformation. I been doing
some growing up, know what I mean. I been connected
spiritually, getting more into my spiritual side. Bowing down
to God, getting married, having kids, traveling around the
world. Seeing kids that love Pac and the Pac movement. That's
what I been doing the last couple years, just finding myself
So what new projects are you involved with?
Me and my cats, I been working, I been doing some fire things.
I got a group called the U.S, United Slaves, me and a couple
cats from all over, puttin' out mixtapes. My own label,
Devoted to Loyalty Entertainment, me and my boy Tiny, a
Mexican cat. I just got finished doing an album called "Have
Mercy", produced by Johnny J who did 150 songs for 2pac. I
been workin' with some other producers, Siege. But I just been
working and politickin', pretty soon the whole world gonna
hear a lot of Napoleon, on a major level.
Any noteworthy collaborations?
Not no artists, no mainstream artists. I did one mixtape with
Jim Jones, but these are like underground songs. For my major
album I have Barrington Levy, I have Jon B, the rest are
underdogs, I like to roll with the underdogs. The album is
fire, reason I aint put it out with yet is politickin, find
the right machine to put this out with.
So you're releasing it on your indie label?
I'm not gonna drop mine on my label, I'm gonna go to a major.
I did a production deal with Johnny J on his label Clockwork
Entertainment, we in the process of looking for major, we not
settling for nothing less.
As far as affiliations go, you're no longer a part of the
No, I'm not longer a part. I still go by Napoleon Outlaw,
'cause I still believe in a lot of stuff we represented with
Pac, but right now I'm solo. I'm gonna be an outlaw for life,
no one can take that away from me, but I plan on making a
movement. Just like Outlawz continued to put the message out
for Pac, but instead of just touching the ghettos in America,
I plan on touching ghettos across the whole world, and I need
to take that to a major label to make that happen.
How long have you been doing the solo thing?
I been doing the solo since I been out the group, about two,
three years at the most. When I came into the Outlawz, I came
as a solo artist and Pac put us together, but I came into it
I read a very moving story about you, one that moved 2Pac
himself to tears and led to you and him working together. Are
you able to share that story that with us?
Definitely. At an early age, at three years old, I witnessed
my mother and father get murdered. My brothers were in the
house, my little brother Kamil, my old brother Moonie. One of
the guys that murdered my father was my Godfather. I got shot
in my foot when I was three years old.
I'm a soldier, I know
that everything that happened, happened by the will of God,
and everything God put us through, it makes us stronger. And I
shared that with Pac, and I guess he was feeling that. Pac
grew up through a struggle the same way. And I guess Pac seen
something on the talent level that made him want to get me
So how did you get put on, wasn't it one of 2pac's relatives?
Kadafi, he was a half-brother to Pac, he shared this story
with Pac, he know sort of what happened. When we were in New
York, I been around him a couple of times, but I never really
shared the sory. So he asked "what happened with your moms and
pops", when I told him, that moved him to tears.
The media have portrayed 2Pac in both negative and positive
lights. To you personally, what kind of person was Pac?
Man, Pac, first of all, he had a beautiful soul. He was
sensitive in a lot of stuff. He could see something on the
news, like a little kid getting killed, and he would get to
tears. Some people watch the TV at dinner and don't get
affected, Pac was the opposite. He did a lot of positive
things he didn't even want the media to know. As long as God
knows the positive things that he did, that's all that
mattered. He was like a father figure, a brother figure too, a
positive role model.
Do you think the hip hop world would be different if Pac was
still with us today?
Of course, of course, I definitely believe. Because before he
passed away, hip hop was his, the number one selling artist.
All the hottest artists right now, I don't care who you are
except for a few, they got some part of Pac in them, part of
his style. Pac wanted to get into politics, he was definitely
gonna change the game. 'Cause I know what Pac wanted to do the
in the music industry, I want to do what he wanted to do, so
that's what I'm doing with my career right now.
When 2Pac passed, rest in peace, Outlawz were still on the
grind and had a platinum LP, but then we didn't hear much
about you for a while, what happened?
We did a lot of bad business mistakes, and I believe you have
to grow, every year you have to grow with your music. When we
were with the Outalwz, we didn't grow with our music, we were
doing the same thing each year that we did on the last album.
That's one of the reasons I left the group, if I can't grow
with the group, I would grow on my own. And we made mistakes.
We were a bunch of wild cats, and major labels were very
scared to deal with us, a lot of people tried to blackball us,
major artists, so we had to do our independent thing.
Blackballed Outlawz? Dissing Outlawz would be like an
extension of dissing Pac, who would want to blackball you?
It happens though, brother. But when Pac died, a lot of people
we thought were friends in the music industry turned. Pac had
enemies. Once Pac left, they didn't care about the Outlawz. I
won't say everyone had beef with Pac, but a few major dogs.
The music industry after Pac died came from the East or the
South. The East Coast thought that we had something against
them, at that time a lot of people in the industry were
friends with Biggie or Puffy, and some cats on the West Coast
were afraid of Suge, so that affected us. Being that I still
got a little foot in the game, good management, good people,
and God been opening a lot of doors, my chance at shining
definitely coming up.
What would Napoleon be doing at this very minute if he chose
to not become a rap artist?
I probably be doing what the rest of my family or friends be
doing: either locked up, dead, or selling drugs. That's the
people I know from back home. Aint no telling, but that's a
You're Muslim, from what I understand. Were you born into
Islam or did you convert?
My moms and pops was Muslim, but when they passed I wasn't
able to practice it because I was raised with a Christian
family. But I always called myself Muslim. But three years ago
I reverted, right now I can say that I'm proud to call myself
a Muslim, I do pray 5 times a day, I did go to Mecca twice.
Do your religious beliefs cross paths with your music at any
No it don't, because first of all I would never do music that
goes against my religion. Right now my music is just
positivity. Islam tells you to speak from the heart. I don't
disrespect women, I don't curse in my music, I'm doing gods
work right now. I can get killed doing what I'm doing right
now, and I would feel good that I died on a positive note, I'm
doing a positive movement .
There have been a lot of recent studies showing Latinos
gravitating towards Islam. How do you think Latinos can
benefit from learning more about your faith?
I think Latinos can learn, first of all, this faith goes back
to the Latin world. Spain was ruled by Muslims for 800 years.
Like a lot of words in Spanish come from Arabic, like arroz.
It was a lot of words, Islam goes back to their ancestors. And
Spanish Muslims contributed a lot to the world.
Like Arab influenced architecture in Spain and words like "almohada."
You notice you got a lot of Spanish people named Omar.
Actually Omar was one of the second caliphs after Mohammed,
peace be unto him. And names like Medina after the holy city,
so the influence is big. Just like a lot of African Americans
is coming back to what their ancestors were practicing.
Getting back to the music for a moment, who are some of the
artists that you listen to?
To be honest, its not too many hip hop artists, and that's
sad. Once in a while I turn on the radio, but there's not
really one artist. When Scarface drops, I listen to Scarface,
Pac drops, I listen to Pac. Common, Talib Kweli, I like what
they talk about, but there's no album I can go buy, and that's
sad when hip hop gets to that.
So what did you think about Pac's last album.
I didn't have nothing against it. I was happy about it
dropping, but the album I wasn't happy with. I don't even
think that was a good album, I couldn't really feel that
album, but I'm happy with what it did on the charts. I think
if Pac was here, he would agree with me, I wasn't happy with
the sound of the album.
The sound being who produced it, or just the way it was put
It's not even about the producer, 'cause Eminem is a dope
lyricist and I think his production is cool. But I don't like
how the album was 'cause I know how the tracks were
originally. They made his voice extra fast or extra slow. So
if you heard the original tracks, you'd say "oh my god", but
someone with a fresh ear for it wouldn't know what I'm talking
Anybody in particular you'd like to work with in the future?
I would like to work with... not just people talented, but
people because of their realness. Like Fat Joe, I would love
to do that Spanish Connection with me and Fat Joe. I plan on
doing an album where I have all street cats, and one side all
conscious rappers, and there's a lot of people that I would
pick from. I don't wanna say the names 'cause I don't want
people to steal my idea (laughs). Couple cats... Talib Kweli,
Common, people like that.
Do you speak Spanish?
No, I don't speak Spanish, that's what I'm mad about, grandma
aint teach me. She taught me how to count: uno, dos, tres,
that's about it (laughs). But my grandmother's still alive,
she's 85 years old, she from San Juan, Puerto Rico. That's my
heart, she reps Puerto Rico to the fullest.
Speaking of Islam and rap, what did you think about Shock of
Shock of the Hour?
Around '93, MC Ren dropped an album with clips from the Nation
of Islam. Very pro-black album, but also with lyrics talking
about things like hanging a black man for having white best
It's crazy 'cause a lot of people quick to talk about Islam.
One thing about Islam, you cant be mad at someone because of a
skin color. I don't wanna disrespect the Nation of Islam and
the brothers searching, but know the true religion before you
speak on the religion. You doing more harm to the religion
than the enemies of Islam. To Muslims, Christians, Jews, I'm
trying to spread a message worldwide.
So you'd collab with Christians and Jews?
Not a problem. Long as I feel like they music is the music I
feel, we can make it happen. That's not what Islam teaches,
all through the Quran, the "people of the book", how the Quran
refers to the Christians and the Jews, we need to respect
them. The prophet Mohammed, peace be unto him, respected them,
and we need to follow what the prophet did.
What are you doing now outside of music?
Right now, just trying to get into real estate. I got a lot of
business plans I want to do. Over in Dubai, in the United Arab
Emirates, its one of the riches places to be. I just came back
a couple months ago, so I'm trying to build opportunities.
What does the future hold for Napoleon?
I really feel like the world gotta see my face, I got a lot of
people backing me. I'm just doing the connection worldwide,
doing stuff for Ethiopia, trying to feed the orphans and the
AIDS victims over there. Trying be the first to get MTV to
come to Dubai or North Africa with me and see how people can
live in the gutter, the hoods of Puerto Rico. To get people to
open their eyes and see the rest of the world, Africa, Puerto
Rico, Mexico, get them open minded. I want to use my music to
open that gap worldwide.
Any last thoughts or anything you'd like to add?
Thank you and the Latin community for the interview, and
hopefully we connect everybody together, make it happen real
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