Tavistock Hall in Harlesden, London was buzzing with excitement. Over 250 young Muslims gathered to hear Napolean, the former member of Tupac’ssuccessful rap group Outlawz, speak.
With his admirable Islamic etiquette he made a silent Dua before gracing the stage to speak of his life before Islam and sincerely urge the youth to follow the Quran and Sunna instead of running towards crime and destruction.
I met with him beforehand to hear how he went from being a successful rapper to living a life devoted to Allah. Napolean, born Mutah Beale, was born in New Jersey to Muslim parents who were tragically killed when he was three years-old.
“Even though I was born Muslim, I was raised with my grandparents who were Christian. I had no Islam in my life growing up. We had a couple of Muslim uncles but the only thing they taught us was not to eat pork and that we have a book called the Quran. That’s the only Islamic influences we had”
Mutah began rapping to escape an inevitable life of crime and was introduced to Tupac who invited him to join his group. Mutah enjoyed unfounded success at the side of the most famous rapper in history.
The illusions of this world are temporary and I wondered what led a successful rapper to embrace Islam. “I never thought that I would become a Muslim and I never thought that I would give up music for anything. But I was looking for some happiness.
“At that time in my life I had everything that you could imagine – homes, money, cars, but I still wasn’t happy. While I was searching I happened to run into a Muslim brother who invited me to the masjid. I saw a brotherhood that we don’t see on the streets or in the music industry. I started reading the Quran and I knew this wasn’t the words of a man, even though it was an English translation it just hit me from the jump, you know.”
After embracing Islam he didn’t leave the industry completely. I was interested to learn about the difficulties he faced making the transition from one way of life to another.
“It wasn’t easy at all, at that time I was in a contract for $250,000.They gave me $50,000 upfront and we were about to close the deal with Sony Records. I was signed to the label of Johnny J who was responsible for most of Tupac’s hits, he produced my whole album and it was the best music I had ever done, so there was a lot of ego involved”
“I was in contracts with Johnny J and I learned as a Muslim if you’re in contracts that aren’t too contradictory to your deen you have to fulfil them so I kept doing dua to Allah then one day my lawyer called and said they’re releasing you. There wasn’t no arguing; no asking for any money back it was just as simple as that, so Al-hamdulillah.”
Even though he was contractually out of the music industry I wanted to know if there were any aspects of his previous lifestyle he had trouble giving up.
“The lifestyle was hard to give up. Coming from the hood and being a musician we are used to having money, womanising, having everything our way. You just follow your desires and don’t have discipline, you are not used to getting up at five in the morning to pray. I had to change my whole character and the way I thought about life.”
Mutah has been a practising Muslim now for four years and has travelled throughout the world using his experiences and influential status to give inspirational talks to young people, urging them to follow the ‘straight path’.
As a final note I requested some advice that he could share with many Muslims experiencing hardships in holding firm to their religion.
“I would tell them to hold on. Change is easy for no-one, so when you do change stick with it, don’t give up and don’t worry about the peer-pressure or what your friends say, just move forward because eventually the change will be for the better of yourself.”
After the successful speech in London, Mutah went on to deliver talks across the UK, including, Cardiff, Bradford, Manchester and Rochdale and meet youngsters to encourage them to change their ways from the “Thug life to deen life”.