Napoleon: Where You Been Man?

By Nooreen Kara  |  04/16/2008

napoleonIt's not often that you'll see rappers glorifying anything but their riches. But Mutah Wassin Shabazz Beale -- better known to the music industry as Napoleon from The Outlawz -- has left the rap game, along with the lifestyle it can promote, and is now a practicing Muslim, glorifying only God. He's experienced his fair share of street life while working under Pac's shadow, but throughout his life he's had to deal with struggles. He witnessed his parents' murder when he was just three years old, one of his brothers then committed suicide and he's seen the closest people to him, Pac and fellow Outlaw member Kadafi, fall victim to the "thug life."

While his parents were Muslim converts, after their death Mutah was raised by his Christian grandmother. Like many young people today who see music as one of the few way out of the streets, Mutah chose rap as a career path, and moved to California with childhood friend Kadafi. Together they formed part of The Outlawz. He got what he aspired for -- fame, money, houses, celebrities and parties. But Napoleon was still unsatisfied with life. It was only when he took some time out to study religion and found contentment within Islam and its beliefs that he realized what had been missing.

As Islam grows in the world and, in particular, the African-American community -- Tupac's sister and uncle have recently converted, as have other members of The Outlawz -- Mutah sits down to talk to Ballerstatus about his faith, the music industry and why the youth of today should be switching their priorities. Most people know you from your work with The Outlawz and Tupac, but nowadays you're focusing more on your religion. What have you been up to for the past few years?

Napoleon: Lately I've been doing motivational speaking, doing a lot of things for the youth and trying to work with a lot of youth organizations within America. I'm just trying to do as much as possible -- if I get called out, I'll come, no problem. Going back a little bit to the mid-90s –- understandably, when Pac and Kadafi died you must have started to question your own aims in life -- but before that, when you were with Pac and probably getting everything you wanted, in terms of money and girls and cars, were you happy? Or, even then, did you always feel there was more to life?

Napoleon: When I started to make money and buy houses and cars, I thought that would be the point in my life when I'd be satisfied and I'd feel content, but I still felt like there was something missing. It wasn't until I became a Muslim and learnt more about the religion and know who my Lord is -- that's when I started feeling tranquility and that feeling of no contentment slowly but surely went away. When was the first time you thought about Islam seriously, and why?

Napoleon: My mom and dad were converts to Islam, but they passed away when I was three years old, so it always used to be in the back of my head. I used to wonder why they became Muslim, but I don't know why, it might have been laziness, I never really took the time out to try and figure it out on my own. Then there was a time when I was in the studio and I got into a fist fight with my lil brother and the guy who broke it up in the parking lot happened to be Muslim. He started inviting me to the masjid [mosque] and giving me literature and that's how I started to come closer to Islam. A lot of people reading this are going to be asking, "Why Islam?" You were raised by your Christian grandmother and have studied both religions, so why Islam specifically?

Napoleon: I really believe, truly, that Islam, and this is no disrespect to any other religion, but Islam gives guidance. And even some non-Muslims say -- I read a book, I forgot the name but the author said "This religion is the clearest of all religions, it's not confused." And growing up as a Christian -- no disrespect to any religion -- sometimes like when you questioned my grandmother like "What does this mean?" She would say, "We just have to believe it." Islam doesn't teach you to just believe it, you have to have the certainty while you're doing it, and certainty while you're praying to Allah. The religion of Islam showed me that certainty and I know why I'm worshipping God, I know why I'm leaving the music alone, I know why I pray five times a day and why you should get married and you should go to Hajj. It's clear to me. It's a very disciplined religion. You've completely given up the rap game, but do you not think rap music can also have a positive influence in that it gives people an insight into the struggles of inner city life? Some rappers, and this is similar to Tupac, aspire to highlight certain social and political issues -- Nas's new album being called Nigger for example.

Napoleon: I think as far as Islamically, it cannot be a good thing. The reason why is that musical instruments is what's not permissible in Islam. So to try and spread Islam with musical instruments would be innovating, it'd be starting something new in the religion. There's a reason why the Prophet Muhammad told us to stay away from instruments -- even non-Muslims. I was reading the other day, there were some doctors and psychologists who did a research on music, and they said they don't listen to music and they don't allow their kids to listen to music. They agreed that music had an effect on them, both mentally and physically, sometimes without you knowing. Even to the point that certain musical sounds can make your heart skip a beat, some can raise your blood pressure, and some can even lead to a heart attack. Then you got the people who might argue that some musical sounds can make you calm and this and that, but in Islam, nothing should have an effect over us more than the word of God, which is the Quran. So, I try to stay away from that. I know you recorded a video a while back for your Tupac tribute track "Never Forget." What influence did Pac have on you personally?

Napoleon: Pac, he was like a big brother to me. In some cases, he was also like a father figure to me. I was with him from when I was like 13, 14 years old, so I learnt a lot from him. And in Islam, if you don't thank the people, you don't thank Allah, you don't thank God. So I thank him for what he did for me and my family. He definitely had a good influence on me and he tried, even amongst The Outlawz, to lead us to do positive work. Most of Pac's music was positive, but then again something could tick him off and he would probably say something more on the gangsta side. But that's why Islam gives you that foundation. Other than that, he was definitely a good person. From what I've gathered, Pac was talking about you when he said "Oh you Muslim now?" on the song "I Ain't Mad At Cha..."

Napoleon: Nah, everybody think it was, but back then I wasn't Muslim when he did that song. I thought so. From what you know, what were his religious views?

Napoleon: To be honest, I really didn't know when he died if he was practicing or he was really into religion. God knows best if a man does have his own personal religion. Do you still talk to the other members of The Outlawz?

Napoleon: Definitely, I keep in touch with the members of The Outlawz. Two of them have become Muslim -- E.D.I. Mean and Young Noble became Muslim, so I definitely keep in contact with them. What about other people you knew from when you were in the industry?

Napoleon: I don't look down on nobody, so if I ever get a chance to be around them, I speak to them. We might not be in the same clubs or the same places as back in the day, but if I see them I talk to them. Islam is known to be the religion of many slaves from Africa, and there's a growing number of people reverting to Islam in America. Do you think that the true message of Islam, and not what is seen on TV, is finally getting through?

Napoleon: Especially among the African-American and Hispanic communities, Islam is definitely growing. It's the fastest growing religion in America, and from what I've heard, it's the fastest growing religion in the world. Everyday I hear there's a new Muslim coming in, so it's definitely growing fast. How do you think the youth today should go about changing their lifestyles?

Napoleon: It all depends on certain youth. Sometimes people have something in them where they just like to have fun, so we can't just tell them they have to stop having fun, we have to use wisdom and try tell them to change their lifestyle. But I think the best thing -- a lot of people, when they get older, some of the things they did when they were a child, they regret. You might tell someone that they drinking alcohol now or smoking weed now, but they might get to an age where it has an effect on their health, and it happens many a time, so I think the youth should also look at the future. I think they should get a education. Education is very important to better ourselves and better our community. A lot of your fans have been requesting that you release your material non-profit on the internet, maybe acapella. Would you consider doing this?

Napoleon: It came across my mind, but I never really thought about moving forward with it. Maybe in the future, you never know. Maybe one day, maybe one day.