“I don’t sell a dream/I just embellish the scene/tell ‘em it’s me/Napoleon Elohim…”
– “God’s Whisper”
Since Rakim Allah trail blazed, the lyricist with insight naturally invites. With a calm dominance that is accentuated by an effortless cadence through a voice marked by a deeper tone of seriousness and tempered cleverness. There is a precise use of the slightest pauses to bind their transitions from the punchline to the moment of introspective rhyme. Always, they are characterized by perfect articulation as every verse is layered with internal rhymes, polysyllabic synergy and guiding a deeper spirituality—the kind that all real and oppressed people are fueled by. Upon mandatory invitation, it is the writer analyzing that is honored to tell the travels of their introduction. Here, Napoleon Da Legend’s debut, Awakening.
Napoleon’s Awakening is a flawless showcase of an MC’s ability. Developed and seasoned over time, NDL’s EP work, 2010’s The Myth or The Legend hinted at his abilities while the free original material mixtape 2011’s The Suga Cayne Experiment revealed his ability to truly song write. All to reach his Awakening debut where over beats that cover a range of tempos, styles and purposeful familiarity, his non-didactic, never preachy yet spiritually powerful and righteously principled theme are catapulted. A native of the motherland, specifically the Comoros Islands off the southeast coast of Africa’s mainland, he tells his story through the theme of deeper principles song by song.
He begins telling of his natural urge to purge his rap gift (“Intro”) through the portrait of the current hells (“the agenda is to damage the mind…”) and the keys to freedom (“wealth and knowledge that kills poverty…”) on “Awakening.” The journey is punctuated with the wielding of his developed weapons militantly (“The neurologist, world renown 7D Canon vivid lyricist, with the words I’m a photographer/Product of pain, prodigal sun who overcame, diabolical games from every molecule and DNA strain…Phosphorous/ this is brain food/ to be prosperous/ must remain true…”). A powerful battle verse that is laced with vignettes of insight where the vocal dexterity, verbatim versatility and dynamic punctuation are constantly displayed.
The theme of the matrix where 85 percent, the bulk masses, are abused through manipulation and his willingness to be a dynamically artistic leader out of that is the fuel of Awakening’s purpose. With “Jewelz pt. III” (“…locked in this rubix cube of consumerism/ worshipping the superficial/ no matter how long you run the truth will always hit you…”) telling it straight up on the first verse to the 2nd verse filled with words that merge together in notes of worded consonance (“Mind over matter/ we never mind the chatter/ my rhyme chatter I grind until I climb the ladder/ at night I shine like Las Vegas, Nevada/ on or off stage I’m manifesting the latter..”) that end in a detailed tale of the fallen rapper felled by his own disingenuousness Only to fortify the theme with the excitingly verbose “Matrix and Holograms” (“lyrical logarithm philosophize with the rhythm speak with that Solomon’s wisdom…”) and the deft “Universal Lawz” (“corporations that enslave the mass/living in chem trails that reduce the brain mass…”). NDL’s incredible layering of the verse jumps through countless ideas and leaves the listener having different fragments stick by attraction promoting pensive pondering post play.
Beat choices and individual features also drive NDL dynamically. “Wise Men” with an incredible Sean Price verse between Napoleon’s well charged industry critiques has sparked the year’s most dynamically told video. With “Oxygen,” his intensity and strong emphasis on his rhyming word charges Wu-Tang’s Raekwon who admitted, “when I heard his vocals and the beat combined, it reminded me of myself being a hungry cat coming up bout to take the game by storm. I’m very conscious about who I record with far as new artists is concerned, but when I wrote my verse I followed his lead because it was so powerful.” The other great MC feature, Spit Gemz, is an exuberant contrast of lyrical dexterity in this era’s top emerging MCs on “Truth Serum” showing the spectrum of excellence residing in BK/Medina today. Spit Gemz is also an MC of extremely rare verbal agility yet displayed in the highest intensity whereas NDL follows with a smooth and steady stomping emphasis making a classic track over the pure rolling break produced by DUS. Feats of skill are on “Napoleonic Language” over the “Broken Language” track lets NDL honor a rhyme technique perfected by Smoothe Da Hustler and Trigga Da Gambler dynamically while the deliberately swaggy “How I Feel” shows the slaying of a track with soft snares and blips without the pretty hiccup.
The theme of Awakening is the purpose that drives NDL’s persona. It is about realization of our intimate relationship’s worth as “Dancing in the Rain” to the telling of our unique 9,000 miles of oppression swam as NDL gives a brilliant glimpse of his emigrating travels on “African in NY.” It is essentially about the drive to draw out one’s own greatness. That it is there and that here NDL is sharing his as inspiration as he summates through “Knees of Atlas,” never just telling us, but artistically painting the words as “the last of a breed that carries that elixir..Po is like a beacon of light…the latest model mixed with the oldest vintage…” Certainly where Rakim (KRS & GRap) have trail blazed and NaS, GZA & WU, PUN and many greats have/are elevating, Napoleon Da Legend’s Awakening debut shows an MC talent and skill that is not merely rare and seasoned but carrying ideas that will also be treasured.