Digging with…Napoleon Wright II

You seem to be a sort of renaissance man, you “wear many hats” and seem to do a little bit of everything. You’re a designer, an illustrator and animator, a musician, b-boy, beat maker, event promoter, husband, and as of very recently a father. How do you find balance between all of your talents, passions and responsibilities?

I tend to look at my skillsets as different ways to communicate creatively vs individual things I do. It’s really a culmination of my experiences growing up as a military kid. You move around a lot and your world is constantly changing. You are continuously having to adapt and I think that came out in my art and how I live my life. Art was my first best friend and depending on where I lived, overseas or in the states, I would fall into things that I liked and my creative perspective would be shaped by the environment I was in. So overtime, I found myself just creating what I liked, wherever I was, over and over again, which led to my versatility and thankfully, into my professional and personal life. Being a father is my latest journey. I’m really looking forward to not only growing with my son and my wife, but also what will reveal itself creatively. 

I had a chance to check out your Creative Mornings Raleigh feature which I thought was fantastic and I learned a few more things about you that I found very interesting, (Y’all need to go check that out here). One of the things that caught my attention was that you spent much of your childhood in Germany.  Being a b-boy, was there a scene and culture for that there or is this something you taught yourself? Did you have any kind of crew like the Raleigh Rockers in Germany?

When I was in Germany, gangster rap was at its height and my parents didn’t let me watch the music videos or let me listen to the music. So I grew up mostly on the soul records they played in the house or the underground hip hop my sister was playing in her room, which was next to mine. I loved the rhythm of James Brown’s music. It was just this constant groove. I loved to dance and I would just move the way his music made me feel. Before I knew what breaking was, a lot of the movements I would do as a kid were breaking movements (Top Rock, Hand Styles). So even though I wasn’t exposed the b boys/b girls in Germany, the foundation of the dance and hip hop was being laid. Later on I would see breakin’ in movies and commercials, but my first direct exposure to the culture and the dance was when I arrived in NC for college. Once I had space to practice and a community to meet up with, that’s all I needed to get down. 

You also mentioned how you got into music production as well as animation.  You make your own music for some of the visuals you make for various companies you work with. Do you have any music out there that you’ve made for fun or aside from the commercial work you’ve been doing? If so, where can we find it?

Whenever the budget permits, I like to make my own music for the visuals. Not all stock music is terrible but anytime you can make something really yours all the way around, I’ve always been an advocate for that. 

What’s your vinyl collection like? What do you like about vinyl?

I’ve got a modest but solid collection of about 500 records. My collection is all over the place. Everything from Al Green to The Talking Heads to Parliament Funkadelic. If I find a rhythm or a harmony I like, it doesn’t matter the genre, it’s usually coming home with me. I like records because there are so many things you get when you buy one. Great sounding music, usually great artwork or at least a cool visual concept, historical references of the time, and the memory or story of where and how you got it.

Do you have any favorite places to look for records? Online or in-person shops?

My favorite spots are Nice Price Books & Records, Father & Son, and flea markets. I buy all my records in person. Hunting for that sound on the spot is key and part of the experience.

I really like how you’ve created Becauseus (BCUS) as your platform for creating change for the greater good. Do you have any large projects you’re working on currently or something on the back burner you’d like to pump more life into?

I’m really looking forward to making a Becauseus Film. I’ve been writing and storyboarding and I hope to bring to fruition before too long.

Can you tell us a little bit about the Play Moore Music event you held in Moore Square? I’m so mad I missed this event. I feel like something like that should be a regular event here in Raleigh as it’s pretty common in other cities. Do you think it was received well, is it something you’d like to try again?

Play Moore Music Festival was a dream that my friend and Moore Square Event and Program manager at the time Amanda Fletcher helped come true. Moore Square used to be known as “Black Main Street” because it contained the most black businesses in the city. As a way to honor the history and the culture of the square, the festival was meant have that block party feel; a staple in black music. Music ringing through the city, bringing you closer to the vibe, whoever you are, for free. It was a true collaboration of friends, DJ’s, and mother nature, and once COVID calms down, the plan is to bring it back. 

How long have you lived in the Raleigh area now? What would you like to see more of here as far as culture goes?

I’ve lived in Raleigh for 16 years and I’d love to see the city give as much attention to the arts, music, and dance as they do these big corporations moving into the Triangle area. Believe it or not, DJ’s and Hip-Hop made this city what it is. There is a rich history of bboy/bgirl battles, beat battles, mc battles, and dance spots that birthed the culture in the city. It’s still alive and well if you know where to look and we do our best to shine the light on it. 

I feel like this last year really crushed downtown with the pandemic and the riots here in Raleigh and it seems like people have looked to other places to hang. What do you think it will take for us to get that energy back?

The riots downtown were difficult to watch but I understood why it was happening. The pandemic is difficult to watch and it’s infuriating that it is still happening. As a culture, I think this is a great time to build with each other on an emotional & spiritual level first. Then, through conversation and dialogue, we can keep the energy going in the safest way possible and then use those conversations to think about how we can share that energy with the city. It’s definitely happening behind the scenes and I see it getting stronger in the coming years

Although Raleigh seemed to have taken a temporary hit, there have recently been plans announced for continued growth in downtown.  Apparently, they’re planning to add a few 40 story buildings in the next couple years.  Gentrification has been a huge topic of discussion in the last handful of years or so. In your ideal world scenario would you have any ideas or thoughts about how the city can responsibly handle these concerns?

Gentrification is running rampant in the city right now. I’ve never lived anywhere long enough to see something like this first hand but seeing it with my own eyes really puts into perspective how entire communities can be pushed out and erased. It seems like Raleigh is focused on growth at any cost vs meaningful and equitable growth. With being #2 on the 2021 U.S. News and World Report as the best place to live overall, the city has a real opportunity to lead the way by honoring its history and current residents.