Napoleon Wright II is a man of many talents. He raps, sings, plays instruments, produces beats, directs films and videos, even runs his own creative firm, Pan II Creative. And recently, he was in LA, taking part in a B-boy battle with his crewmates, the Raleigh Rockers. “We didn’t make it to the finals or anything like that, but we definitely got our name out there,” says Wright, 33, on the phone Monday. “And people knew North Carolina was in the building.”
The California-born, Raleigh-based Wright is definitely in a better place now than he was around this time a year ago, when he was the victim of an armed mugging in downtown Raleigh. “I heard somebody, like, running really fast behind me,” he remembers. “I thought it was just somebody that was drunk or something, just running to their car for whatever reason. And I stopped and turned around, and I saw this person was running in my direction.”
Wright turned over his wallet and phone when the robber pulled out an automatic weapon. The assailant was eventually caught, but the incident shook him up. “After about a month or two, I was ready to reconnect with the world around me, which is Raleigh,” he says. “Because, for a little while, it was tough for me to, like, drive by there … the same spot where it happened. But, with time, what was cool was that I didn’t let that incident basically deter my feelings of how I feel about Raleigh. I didn’t let that negativity affect it.”
Wright dove back into his work. Before the year is up, he will release a follow-up to his 2013 album, “The Napoleon Complex.” Titled “Dichotomy,” it’s a 20-track collection of instrumentals. “It’s kind of a creative expression musically, just trying to put together some beats that, when you listen to it from front to back, you can kind of get an emotion out of it,” he says. “And a lot of experiences over the time, including when I got robbed, are present in this album, through the beats that you hear to the titles of the song. Like, you’ll kind of gather what I’m talking about without saying anything, from the emotion of the beat. At least, that was my motivation behind it.”
Wright has also been working with New York musician Jared Wofford on a collaborative album, “ART NAP.” Although a release date hasn’t been set, Wright says he is most psyched about this project. “The dopest thing about it to me is that the way that we made the project,” he says. “We got in the room. I would play something. It didn’t matter what it was – keys or drums or whatever. And then I’d get to a point where it just felt good. And I would get up, and then he would sit down and treat it like it was a blank canvas. He would, like, play guitar over it and do whatever else he felt was right.… And, so, we made a bunch of tracks through that process, and the way it came out is pretty crazy to me.”
But let’s not forget Wright’s filmmaking side. He’s putting the finishing touches on a documentary focusing on military brats – something Wright, a former brat himself, knows a lot about. The doc includes interviews with Army base-residing kids while performing at Fort Kiley, Kansas, a few years back.
All those years as a military kid shaped Wright into a strong, multifaceted person, able to bounce back from trauma and ready to create music (he performs at Neptunes on Thursday), films, dance moves, etc. “That’s really what I’m trying to do – lead through my actions, man,” he says, “and trying to get people to understand that I’m not doing anything that you can’t do.”