interview Dubcnn Exclusive Ė Napoleon Da Legend  (January 2010) | Interview By: Jonathan Hay

   Napoleon Da Legend, a wise and deeply lyrical cat from the D.C area who shares the same name as the well-known Emporer of France is making a big impact with his recently released single ďVeni Vidi Vici Part 2Ē.

In the same way Napoleon Bonaparte changed European politics, this thought-provoking MC hopes to revolutionize Hip-Hop as we know it, as he explains ďThe music game is sick right now, [it] needs revival fast. There are too many carbon copies, imitators, band wagon jumpers and too few originators and innovators.Ē

Dubcnn sits down with Napolean Da Legend to discuss History, Hip-Hop Wars, and Humanity in this Dubcnn Exclusive Interview.

As ever, be sure to leave your feedback in our forums or email them to haywire@dubcnn.com.

Interview was done in January 2010

Questions Asked By: Jonathan Hay
Dubcnn Exclusive Ė Napoleon Da Legend
By: Jonathan Hay

Dubcnn: Napoleon Da Legend, why does this name represent you as an artist? Do you have a fascination with European history or do you consider yourself a history buff?

Back in the day, I fell in love with basketball and had some major hoop dreams. The D.M.V. area is a basketball city with lots of talent coming out of there, you know, Francis, Beasley, Durant, AI, etc. I used to talk major shit on the courts and everybody that seen me would tell you the same thing, not to mention I did my thing, too. I used to take it to the big boys in the lane and go in hard, regardless. Being shorter than the average ball player, it would make a lot of heads turn. People started to call me ďNapoleonĒ on some everyday talk because of my ambition and ďshit talkingĒ. [Laughs] It grew on me and I was feeling it. So when I started rapping I thought it was only natural for me to keep it. All I did was add ďDa LegendĒ to the back because the mark I would leave was yet to be witnessed.

I wouldnít say my main interest was solely on European history, but more precisely the History of the World and humanity. I always enjoy catching National Geographic Channel and the History channel. What really intrigues me is ďrealĒ history, not just what is broadcasted and written. History always belongs to the victor. I feel as though if we, as one people, donít learn from our past mistakes, we will keep falling down the same traps over and over. Itís like the old saying: ďIf you donít know where you came from, you donít know where you goingĒ. The vast majority of the soldiers fighting wars all over the world in different lands are the youth. They have no idea what they are doing because they canít put their actions in context. They are part of disputes that originated well before they were conceived, brainwashed to do someone elseís bidding. It ainít fair. They are never the ones that benefit in the end. History is important; I feel we gain from knowing and researching our history -- point blank.

Dubcnn: In the early 19th century, French Emperor Napoleon I shaped European politics with his actions. How do you foresee yourself shaping musical history?

Napoleon Iís blueprint and concept is very much alive in the Western European way of living, governance and doing things -- in particular in France. He was no doubt a one-of-a-kind individual and has been written about in tens of thousands of publications. He had a genius mind. Was he a little crazy, brutal and ego-centric? More than likely the answer is a ďyesĒ on all counts.

Napoleon Da Legend rewrites history through his music. Thatís why I said in the previous question that itís important to know your history in order not to repeat mistakes from the past.

As an artist, Iím just gonna be dedicated to let my experiences and my soul speak and live through my verses with brutal honesty and true feeling. The music game is sick right now, [it] needs revival fast. There are too many carbon copies, imitators, band wagon jumpers and too few originators and innovators. Itís sad to me that, nowadays, not only do they bite flows and rhymes, rappers are now biting swag. I would have stopped doing this music thing a long time ago if it was about me trying to be the next man. I feel that by me doing music thatís true to me as a man and pushing the boundaries of Hip-Hop and music as a whole, I would have played my part in reshaping the musical landscape. History belongs to the victor, so time will tell. I win and they will remember; I lose and I become long and forgotten. [Laughs] Thatís for the people to decide, not me.

Dubcnn: Napoleon I led the French in a series of conflicts called the Napoleonic Wars, which involved every major European power. If you could battle any of the major powers in Hip-Hop in your own series of Napoleonic Wars, who would you chose to battle and why?

Napoleon I bit off more than he could chew. [Laughs] He had it all and still wanted more. Iím a keep it real with you: my battles are not with anybody within the Hip-Hop circles. I wake up and go to sleep battling my demons from within and the negative forces from the outside that we get bombarded with on a daily basis. I speak on it in a lot of my music -- check out ďMy LifeĒ, ďMarch 2 ZionĒ, ďTo Be a ManĒ. On a bigger scale, my battle is with the disgusting inequalities that we see out there. On one side, we throw away food and complain about our cheap cell phones and TVs, when in other parts of the world people have no food to eat or clean water to drink. I really have an issue with these types of things. One thing about humans is we adapt and get numb to things real fast. We start focusing on what we donít have instead of cherishing what we do have. Iím guilty of that, every day. Whoís to blame -- us down here or the powers that be? I think a little of both. My battle ainít with the major powers in Hip-Hop, that just would be a waste of time.

Dubcnn: And staying of the subject of wars, do you think that all the beefs that have become so common within the Hip-Hop community over the years are played out? What are you wishing to happen along this line as we approach this new era?

You damn right. The beefs became too much of a common thing. Cats is beefing about any little thing nowadays. Crybaby sensitive rappers, B. [Laughs] I think it got out of hand when the beefs became more important and had our attention more than the actual songs, you feel me? Today, anybody can just pick up a camcorder with his boys or what not and say ďfuck ______,Ē insert a rapperís name, ďWhen I see him, Iím a knock him out,Ē or whatever else. Itís entertaining, you know. The Romanís understood it when they had gladiators in the arenas and people used to scream for blood. Itís the same thing; people like to see drama. And the beef is feeding that thirst. The problem is that it has nothing to do with music anymore and in the long-run, the rappers and the music suffers one way or another. Our attention span is so short, itís like we have to have something to talk about the next day. So whatís better than to say, ďsuch and such dissed such and such?Ē Personally, I respected beefs such as Canibus and LL, and Nas and Jay-Z. Although, it got a little personal, both sides were really trying to prove they were better MCs than the other. That was beautiful and it gave birth to classic records. I respect that. I enjoyed it also. Back in the day, rappers had more subliminal beefs where they would compete on who came out with the hottest records. Now, cats is literally shitting on each otherís very existence. [Laughs] Beef just for the sake of beefing holds no weight for me. Rap became a huge beauty and popularity contest where cats just do anything for some air-time. Now, I can guarantee the rappers who pull these stunts wonít be remembered long.

Dubcnn: Youíve been receiving a great response to your recently released single ďVeni Vidi Vici Part 2ĒÖtell us about the meaning behind this song, including the details that went into its making.

I appreciate the overwhelming response Iíve been getting from the song. I think that this record speaks for itself when you listen to it. ďVeni Vidi ViciĒ, for those that may not know, was something Julius Caesar, the Roman Emperor, allegedly said and it means ďI came, I saw, I conqueredĒ. Itís a saying thatís very fitting to N.D.L.ís state of mind. The beauty about Hip-Hop music is that, unlike in the physical world, there are no boundaries or limits to what you can do. Growing up as a kid, my mind used to wander, watching flix and animes and I really believed I was a Super-Hero. I discovered that through Hip-Hop, I could really materialize my ideas. That song represents me just laying back and watching the rap game with the good stuff as well as the bullshit. Itís just me telling the Hip-Hoppers around the world that my awakening is imminent and it is gonna be felt. Funny that the ď2012Ē movie just came out because thatís what I was picturing when I was dropping my verses. Itís a call to arms, so to speak, to all that are with me and that share my feelings and my pain. We are the forgotten ones, and as the hands of time change, money will change hands, too. Bless.

Dubcnn: What can you tell us about ďVeni Vidi Vici Part 1Ē?

This was the precursor to Part Two, although I had done that quite a few years back. You can hear it on my Myspace page [myspace.com/napoleondalegend]. I believe the instrumental came from a Cormega album, although I didnít know it at the time. My man, Al Doogie, brought that beat to my spot coming back from New York. I never heard the original until a few months later. It was back when I used to just rhyme on anything that sounded good, not caring where it came from or whether or not I could use that beat in the future. The concept was similar to the second one, just at an earlier moment of my journey.

Dubcnn: Many of your songs have a deep lyrical message entangled within them, what subjects tend to speak to you the most when writing?

My man, on the real, I speak about anything and everything that comes to mind. The music usually guides where my train of thought is going to go on particular track. Chances are, I ainít gonna be hollering about Marcus Garvey on a ďbooty-shakingĒ song [laughs], but you never know. [Laughs] I go through my emotions, my ups and downs, my divine peaks and devilish lows. All of that will get bottled up in my music. Iím good, as long as itís true to what Iím feeling the moment that it comes out of my mouth. I mostly speak for the masses, the people that suffer, the underprivileged, the outcasts. People that need music to keep them going from one day to the next. My subjects can range from political shit to that girl giving me the eye behind that desk. [Laughs]

Dubcnn: What have you been through in your past that prompts the deep lyrical connection and passionate messages in your music?

Shattered dreams, disconnected from my roots as an immigrant, then disconnected from family. Having to learn life lessons and fend for myself on my own for years, pain and suffering of being a man in a world that can be so cold at times. Experiencing loss, disappointment from expectations not met. The only consistent thing in my life has always been music. Not necessarily me doing it, but me having it at armís reach to listen, soothe my being and keep me focus through tough times. Honestly, it comes from a higher power and, most times, I donít have a clue what Iím gonna say and I disconnect from my present self. When I listen back, I feel as if someone else did it.

Dubcnn: Do you go for a certain vibe when writing a song? If so, how do you go about achieving your ultimate scenario?

Iíve been in what I like to call ďVietnam modeĒ for years, where I would be here and there and everywhere. So I got used to creating in different scenarios, so to speak. I just use the moment and let it convey what is supposed to be at that moment in time. I go with the vibes and the mood and make it happen. Sometimes, some people who donít even make music may be there chilling and might contribute to that energy or whatever we doing at the moment, you feel me? My ultimate scenario is a banging-ass beat and somewhere for me to record [laughs]. As long as Iím feeling it, thatís all that matters. I donít do shit that I donít feel.

Dubcnn: When did you first discover that you could write, and how have you been able to cultivate your gift over the years?

Good ass question! I need to think back now [laughs]. In my early teen years, I never thought I would be rapping, although I was already a die-hard fan from the day I discovered it. It wasnít until I seen my boys do it. Before that, it was not something I thought was accessible to me in any way. When I saw them do it, it made me want to try. So I went ahead and wrote my first verse, kicked it to them that same day and they felt it. At that point, I wasnít thinking in terms of ďI can writeĒ or ďIím illĒ, I was just loving it while I was doing it. It was a rush, I felt free. I think the first time that I grew the nuts to kick a flow at a party full of people and I was getting cheers and daps, I realized that I could actually do this.

Dubcnn: Do you support less meaningful Hip-Hop, such as club-bangers with a lighthearted significance?

I support everything that comes from the heart. If thatís how them cats were feeling at the time they made that record and it sounds good, then I support it. Hip-Hop is a vibe, itís a rhythm you know. It doesnít just take one form. Every since I started, I loved spitting to any type of beat there was. I may hit a club or two myself from time to time. So I need something to motivate me when Iím there, my man. Sometimes, you just wanna move, you feel me? I ainít trying to watch the History Channel on them flat screens in the club, B! [Laughs] I wanna have some motivation. Thereís a time and place for everything. The existence of the club-banger is warranted and needed -- but, let me add, when itís done properly! No garbage, recycled BS for me. Back in the days, rappers like Biggie and Busta could kill it on a beat, lyrically as an MC, then turn around and get you grooving in the club, all the while killing the hell out of that club beat. Only the best could do that. Nowadays, either you do this or you do that. Thatís corny to me, for real. Everybodyís in a box. The rappers that I would probably like to hear on a club-banger donít do them or are not accepted. It brought the bar down a few notches for Hip-Hop to the point that sometimes I wanna break my own car radio with a sledge hammer when I hear these cookie-cutter club tracks. They should come out with ďDo-It-Yourself Club-BangerĒ kits. That would sell. I said that! So give me my royalties when it comes out. [Laughs]

Dubcnn: How has your education played a part in your success thus far? For example, some lyricists feel that English and Language Arts classes have helped define their writing abilitiesÖ

I ainít reached a point where I can say Iím a success in music yet, B. Iím a success in the sense that Iím alive and I ainít insane, at least not on a clinical level. Life has been my best educator. Never took a creative writing or any type of class of that sort in my life. Donít think I would ever need to. But thatís me. Iím sure it could and has helped many people. English classes helped me master the language and learn the appropriate connotations of certain words. As far as lyricism goes, itís something that formulates inside my head. I take bits and pieces from here and there.

Dubcnn: Do you feel that further education or additional classes could have helped to improve your music in any way? Please explain.

Who knows? I think education is important in the sense where you get out your comfort zone -- ya crib, ya block, ya hood or whatever -- and you meet people from different walks of life, social backgrounds and different perspectives of thinking. I think that alone helps your music and affects how you grow as an artist. As an artist, even as a person, you never want your mind to be stuck in a box. Education breaks these barriers. When I say ďeducationĒ, I donít necessarily mean school in its common definition. I mean life. You can live through your life unaware and in a box, and bypass that education. Get out the crib! See, listen!

Dubcnn: Give us some introspect into your life in Washington D.CÖ.

The D.M.V., mostly Maryland and DC for me, is where I grew up, B. Been there since I was four, when the family came from overseas. Moved around a lot and grew up real fast. I was hitting the club scene at sixteen. At that age, I was basically living by myself, my family was my friends. My biological family was scattered overseas. Back then, I had met the Mad Power Unit, a promotion team that was throwing the biggest parties in the area. They heard me spit after an event they threw out in VA, felt my style and started working with me as an artist. Thatís when everything accelerated; I had to learn the ropes fast. Here I was, in all these spots surrounded by grow men and grown women. All I was doing before then was recording on my four-tracks and playing ball around all the courts in DC and MD. I met a lot of folks, got featured on a lot of mixtape, DVDs, albums, etc. Traveled across the US and overseas doing shows and projects with this music shit. DC taught me most of what I know, to put it in short -- from the fly shit, to the grimy shit. If you been here, you know what it is. People who are not from here have a hard time conceptualizing how you can go from the White House to the ďhoodestĒ of the hoods in a five-minute drive. Shit is wild. I would be grinding on a chick against the wall in a club while Bush was sleeping with his wife at the oval office. [Laughs]

Dubcnn: Are you ever inspired to incorporate elements of go-go into your music as a nod to your cityís musical history?

I do my music organically. I donít limit myself to one thing. I wouldnít catch myself disrespecting that genre by exploiting it and riding some coattail or nothing. It would have to happen naturally through a vibe or a connection. I would flow to anything that sounds good. Give me some jungle music and Iíll hit that [laughs]. For real though, I donít give a damn. I have to feel everything I do. Donít wanna do nothing as a gimmick though. I rep where Iím from with the way I flow and the things I say, period. Iím an original. Canít be nothing else but that.

Dubcnn: What are your opinions about Wale?

Wale has caused the Hip-Hop world lens to tilt towards us a lot more. I respect him for that. Donít know him personally and have never ran across him out here, although my boy Godfather co-produced three certified bangers on his album. As an artist, he definitely has his own style and sound. I donít feel as though he tries to sound like anyone else but himself, which is a rare thing nowadays.

Dubcnn: You are a fan of Big Pun, how has the legendary rapper impacted you?

Big Pun has taken lyricism and ďflowacismĒ where no one has taken it before. He came at a time where rappers sounded different from one another. There was Jay, Nas, Pun, Pac, Canibus, NORE, D.M.X. during that period. It was a great time for Hip-Hop. Canít mention Pun without mentioning Kool G Rap, who obviously inspired him, too. It was a time when it was actually inspiring to listen to rap. You wanted to get a pad and a beat and write some of your own lyrics right then and there. Nowadays, I more-so vibe to reggae and dancehall artists a lot, such as -- but not restricted to -- Capleton, Sizzla and Richie Spice. They are killas on the beats. They never forgot how to come from the heart. So, respect due.

Dubcnn: Dubcnn has shown support for the film Big Pun: The Legacy, have you had a chance to see the film? If so, what are your thoughts on it?

To be honest with you, I never got to see it. I remember seeing the trailer and wanting to see it, but with all this shit going on with me, I lost track of it. I definitely plan to peep it though. Guess Iíll get back to you on it.

Dubcnn: Another ďbigĒ emcee that comes to mind is Big L; how did the life and death of Big L effect you, if at all?

When I think of Big L, I think of metaphors and that voice of his, which is so distinct. He was one of those MCs I thought didnít even reach the peak of his potential career-wise, even though he was already a top lyricist in the game when alive. Honestly, his death saddened me a great deal. He was young black man doing his thing. And he got slaughtered over some dumb shit. Biggie, Pac, Pun and Big L all regulated in the rap scene. Wasnít no bullshit allowed. People wouldnít buy it, wouldnít fall for a bullshit rapper acting like he nice with it. Today, if you got a mouth and you can yell loud, you think you can rap. He was and still is a pillar in Hip-Hop.

Dubcnn: Out here on the west coast, Crooked I, Nipsey Hussle, Glasses Malone and Jay Rock are what many consider to be the elite of the new west coast greats. What do you personally think of these artists?

I ainít here talking to you to tell you no lie my man. Iíve heard of all of these names, but am only familiar with Crooked I as far as music and rhyme style. Heís an original. He couldíve been born in the East, South or wherever, it wouldnít matter. Skills are skills and he has some for ten other men. I definitely want to check the new class, you know. I, personally, look at artists for what they are worth and whether or not their music strikes a chord with me. Where you are from doesnít enter my criteria for critique. One thing is for sure, them standing out in the vast talent pool out there in that regions says a lot.

Dubcnn: Since Dubcnn is the #1 West Coast News Network, itís been said that Dr. Dre and his affiliates frequently check the website. If you were ever asked to ghostwrite a song for Dr. Dre, how would you formulate the concept of the song and what would most likely serve as your lyrical content, style and cadence?

Thatís whats up! Dr. Dre is a monster, a creator of classics that canít be touched. I would have to see where his head was at first, get a good vibe from him. Need to tap into his vision. Ghostwriting is about the artist on the song, not the writer. Only through his vision would I formulate my flow. But to make a long story short, I would make that man sound like he never sounded before.

Dubcnn: Can you give us an example?

Since yaíll are the #1 on the West Coast, hereís an exclusive of what I could do:

ďThe One Man Conglomerate / honored young with a doctorate
Shutting the industry down / the games due for a garnishment
Awards, plaques and accomplishments like a blur in my vision
Cooking this crack looking like bean curd in the kitchenĒ

This one was on me, Dre, the rest will cost you. [laughs]

Dubcnn: If you could have any Dre track for yourself thatís been commercially released over the years, which track would you choose and why?

I would take anything from the DoggyStyle album for real. I donít know what they were smoking on during that period of time but they were in a zone!

Dubcnn: Any upcoming projects or releases we should know about?

Look out for my album in the 2010, along with many surprises, features, videos and collabs. Follow me on twitter for all updates, www.twitter.com/napoleondaleg and www.myspace.com/napoleondalegend. On top of that, if you ever hear about me coming to your part of town, come show love!

Dubcnn: Any final thoughts?

I wanna give thanks to Dubcnn for this interview and showcasing my music and videos on their virtual stage. I wanna give thanks to all the Hip-Hop heads and Hip-Hop heads who nod their heads to my songs. Letís stop the bullshit and keep these guns on safety. Letís create a better environment for our seeds to grow in. More love, less violence, more fire. Love is love.



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