From headlining Upper School music chapel to opening for Waka Flocka Flame, Daren Napier (’12) has climbed the ranks of the music industry.
Napier’s first solo rap mixtape, “Ashli Orion,” will be released tomorrow.
“The project is about me dealing with my past and ultimately realizing that I can’t escape it,” Napier said. “That I have to learn how to apply the lessons to my present life.”
Within the past few years, Napier’s style and volume of works have grown tremendously.
Napier started the rap group MYTH as a junior with fellow alums Matt McKinney and Henry Morris (both ’11).
“MYTH was kind of an accident in a lot of ways, but it just worked out,” Napier said. “I have always been a fan of music, and I always used to mess around and write my own stuff.”
Although the group continued after the three graduated, after the release of their album “We the Mayans” last May, the trio decided to go their separate ways.
“We were all a bunch of kids trying to be serious musicians, but we didn’t have the product or the know-how,” Napier said. “All of us had kind of sensed that MYTH had realized its full potential.”
However, Napier’s love of music pushed him into pursuing a solo career. He took a year off from school at Columbia University to release music and develop a unique style.
“By the time I was finished with this transformation, I felt like I couldn’t continue branding myself as ‘D-Naps the King,’” Napier said. “At the suggestion of my close friend, I changed it to ‘King of Nothing.’”
Although Napier abandoned his former moniker, his past work helped him garner the attention of Sam Davidoff, the CEO of Wavey Media Group. Napier eventually signed with the record label.
“[Davidoff] initially offered to help fund and distribute my mixtape when it was still being written and conceptualized, and I declined,” Napier said. “When I had come close to finishing and began to realize how good the project was, I reached out to Sam because I needed as much help as I could possibly get.”
Past work with MYTH even helped Napier establish a new team of producers and musicians. Napier met his current producer Nick Nañez while working on the song “Invest in Me” for “We the Mayans.”
Nañez and Napier united to honor the legacy of Ali Mizra, a friend who passed away in 2013.
“Nick and I are a unit. We have such a great understanding of each other musically and as people, and we both work incredibly hard to achieve the best possible sound.”
Napier’s attention for the past few months has been focused on his mixtape “Ashli Orion.”
“‘Ashli’ is so long in the making that I can honestly say that you wouldn’t be ready even if I told you how good it is,” Napier said.
During the recording process, Napier partnered with Grammy Award-winning sound engineer Mickael Zibi, famous for his work with artists such as Paul Wall, Lil Jon and Chris Brown.
“He’s been a huge mentor to me and helped me really refine my sound and validate that it is what we think it is,” Napier said.
In addition to Zibi, Nañez has played a part in the mixtape.
“Nick really challenges me as far as production, so all the songs flow very well but sound entirely different from one another,” Napier said. “It’s just so much more genuine and serious than anything I’ve ever been a part of, and I can’t wait for it to be heard.”
Although “Ashli Orion” has not yet been released, Napier has already opened shows for Waka Flocka Flame and A$AP Ferg at the University of Texas in Austin. The three songs that Napier has released, “Ridin’ with my Fadie,” “GT” and “Carol and Sullivan Freestyle,” have already garnered thousands of plays on King of Nothing’s SoundCloud.
Napier’s high standards and desire for perfection motivate him in his music.
“My plan is to keep working as hard as I possibly can and always push myself to release great projects,” Napier said. “The goal is never to stop whatever I’m doing that particular day until it’s not good but great. I had hundreds of verses that I threw away, just because I knew that they were decent as opposed to excellent.”
Napier plans to take his career as King of Nothing as far as possible.
“The general consensus of me, my team and my family is that this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” Napier said. “I’m confident that if I keep making connections and spreading my name, then ‘Ashli’ will be the catalyst for some huge opportunities.”
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