Napoleon Demps

Daddy B. Nice's #125 ranked Southern Soul Artist

Portrait of Napoleon Demps  by Daddy B. Nice

Napoleon Demps

September 3, 2018:

Originally posted in Daddy B. Nice's CD Reviews

May 20, 2018:

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Southern Soul, Vol. 2: Southern Soul With A Twist (Prodigee Records) One Star * A disappointment. Avoid.

Any southern soul music lover is bound to be depressed (if not shocked, enraged or at least confused) by this so-called “southern soul” sampler, Southern Soul, Vol. 2: Southern Soul With A Twist. Depressed, first of all, by the music, a mess of tentative and dilettantish soul, funk and rap. Depressed, more importantly, by the hubris of Napoleon Demps in daring to call this mish-mash of styles “southern soul”. Depressed, finally, that fellow northerners would take it for such, when it's just more of the national/urban pablum everyone (outside of the South) thinks is current R&B.

You can see why southern soul would have trouble “making inroads” in the North if this is what they’re being led to believe is southern soul. And this is why I have long argued that you couldn’t just call southern soul music “soul,” as some worthy advocates like Vick Allen always argued. You had to call it “southern soul” because it IS different, with its own identity. And "soul" music can mean anything and everything, as this set attests. But what has always puzzled your Daddy B. Nice is why a recording artist would want to label himself a "southern soul genre" artist, while not being in love with (and actively using) the genre's musical conventions?

Napoleon Demps is from Flint, Michigan. If I remember right, so was Simeo (producer name Simeo Overall), who was much more talented but essentially did the same thing during his early career as Napoleon is doing now, in Simeo’s case foisting hiphop on the audience as “southern soul” with relentless tenacity when it was nothing of the sort. Simeo later hooked up with the late Floyd Taylor, Johnnie’s most talented son, and together they came up with a compelling, hiphop-southern soul hybrid sound, ”I’m ‘Bout It, ‘Bout It”. Too bad we couldn’t have seen the future fruits of that collaboration. But make no mistake: with Floyd Taylor and Simeo, we're talking about music on a far more sophisticated level than transpires here.

The songs on Southern Soul, Vol. 2: Southern Soul With A Twist don't deserve mention because there's nothing in the southern soul vein and there's nothing you haven't heard before--and done better--perhaps as Muzak coming through a paper mache' speaker in an elevator. The impression is of a bunch of well-meaning but clueless young Northerners playing at--and in the majority of cases kidding themselves about--being "southern soul".

If this sampler is any indication, Napoleon either isn't into southern soul or doesn't know what southern soul music is. If he does know (which would mean he's really cynical), he evidently believes he's entitled to use the term to sell any music of any style, whatsoever.

The only truly southern soul song in this compilation is Ra'Shad's "Saddle Up". and it sticks out like an ostrich neck. You can imagine someone listening to what they think is "southern soul with a twist" and suddenly getting clubbed in the head by "Saddle Up." What the hell is this? It's southern soul, fella. Wake up, girl! But the high is brief, about three minutes.

Listen to Ra'Shad The Blues Kid, Napoleon Demps & Jassup Lashawn Crosby singing "Saddle Up" on YouTube.

--Daddy B. Nice

Buy Napoleon Demps' Various Artists: Southern Soul, Vol. 2: Southern Soul with a Twist at Amazon.

Listen to tracks from Various Artists: Southern Soul, Vol. 2: Southern Soul with a Twist on YouTube.

See Daddy B. Nice’s Artist Guide to Napoleon Demps. - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide


June 3, 2018:

Napoleon responds to the review.

Read Napoleon's response in Daddy B. Nice's Mailbag.

....Now posted on this page: Tidbits #1. Scroll down. - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

May 20, 2018:

See Daddy B. Nice's new Review of Napoleon's VARIOUS ARTISTS VOL. 2: SOUTHERN SOUL WITH A TWIST - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

April 1, 2018: NEW ALBUM ALERT!:

Buy Napoleon Demps' new sampler, VARIOUS ARTISTS VOL. 2: SOUTHERN SOUL WITH A TWIST, at Amazon.

Buy Napoleon Demps' new sampler, VARIOUS ARTISTS VOL. 2: SOUTHERN SOUL WITH A TWIST, at iTunes.


Dem Legz
by Napoleon Demps

O Baby
by Stone Paxton

Come Back Home
by Napoleon Demps

Baby Makin Love
by Floyd Fuller

Going Out
by Ms. Nikell x

You're My All
by Stone Paxton

Get Together One More Time
by Napoleon Demp

Real Love
by Napoleon Demps

Saddle Up
by Rashad the Blues Kid

Swing That Thang
by Napoleon Demps

What Don't Kill Me
by Napoleon Demps

Daddy B. Nice notes: This sounds like a "northern" record. Demps--from Flint, Michigan--apparently isn't immersing himself in southern soul radio, and the labeling is a stretch. Maybe that's why it's called "southern soul with a twist"?

But if you read 2016's solid 3-star review below, my initial impression of Southern Soul Vol. 1--after its presumptuousness in coming from such a young and marginal performer--was also dismissive. But I changed my mind over time. On this new set, Rashad's "Saddle Up" is indisputable southern soul.

Listen to Rashad The Blues Kid & Napoleon singing "Saddle Up" on YouTube. - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

October 12, 2016: Re-Posted From Daddy B. Nice's New CD Reviews

Southern Soul, Vol. 1
Three Stars *** Solid. The artist's fans will enjoy.

The first time I listened to Napoleon Demps Presents...Southern Soul Vol. 1, the record sounded crude and amateurish, and with no retail available I threw the sampler in the "slush" pile. Now--a couple of months later and the record available for sale--I slipped the album into the CD player once again and suddenly it sounds much better. I'm listening to it with interest and playing it over and over, with the difference between my two reactions still unaccountable.

Napoleon Demps is a native of Flint, Michigan, notorious for the municipal water-poisoning of its overwhelmingly African-American constituency and a northern outpost of southern soul second only to Chicago (if not first), home to such chitlin' circuit luminaries as Simeo Overall and James Smith and the northern base of Anna Coday's Coday Records. Demps first made a name for himself in 2006 under the name "Napoleon" with the extremely catchy track, "Who You Been Lovin'?", still his signature song, a duet with Mr. David which once linked to My Space but unfortunately is still not posted on YouTube in spite of being re-promoted by the artist in 2011.

The hooky "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah..." from "Who You Been Lovin'?" graces "Party," the fairly generic, opening track from Southern Soul Vol. 1, instantly reminding southern soul veterans from whence the artist comes. It also sounds very Mr. David-like. Four other tunes by Demps are featured on the disc, none of hit-song caliber save for "A Lie Don't Care Who Tell It," an especially well-crafted and memorable ballad that charted at #6 on Daddy B. Nice's Top Ten Southern Soul Singles for August 2016.

Listen to Napoleon Demp singing "A Lie Don't Care Who Tell It" on YouTube.

"Damn," a rather sophomoric ballad (temper tantrum based on an argument with the wife about going to the club), "Step," a modestly successful "stepping" song, and "Let Me Get It For The Last Time," a mid-tempo tune in the Marvin Sease style, round out the Napoleon Demps selections.

The over-wrought "Living A Lie" by Katrenia Jefferson is perhaps the highest-profile guest selection. "Living A Lie" was the #1 southern soul song at WDLT's "All Blues Saturdays" in Mobile, Alabama for much of the summer, although I also heard there were behind-the-scenes
machinations behind its prolonged run. I was the first critic to tout Jackson, Mississippi's Jefferson years ago due to her amazing, locally-produced, never-published underground songs, "Chance Of A Lifetime" and "Holding On." I still don't think Jefferson's unique, dramatic skills have gravitated to the right producer, although "What If I" and "That Thang" come close. Katrenia's style is so hyper-emotional it demands a producer who can keep the singer "within" herself rather than pushing her over the emotional and stylistic "edge".

By comparison, Lady T's “Shake” is remarkably modest yet successful, a groove-heavy, bass-dominant dance jam with a raw, rough vocal that perfectly enhances its underground authenticity. First distributed in 2014, ”Shake (Your Money Maker)" was especially well-received on the Gulf Coast, where Mobile’s DJ Nikki DeMarks put it into heavy rotation.

Mister Zay’s (Xavier Ayers’) ”Cut It," is less fun, a tepid if solid single with an oft-used synth-horn line by the vocalist who has had a checkered career since his first southern soul hit single, the Luther Lackey-written ”She Only Wants To See Me On Friday." The latter was never issued on a Mister Zay album but an integral piece of the most influential sampler in contemporary southern soul lore, Mardi Gras Record’s Ultimate Southern Soul (2002).

”(You Can) Never Get It All," by Rashad The Blues Kid, represents southern soul new blood, a young artist whom your Daddy B. Nice likened to “a young, raw, unschooled Lee 'Shot' Williams" in his August 2016 chart debut, ”Shake It." And ”U Got It" by Uncle Wayne completes the line-up of relative “outcasts and unknowns.” Uncle Wayne had a couple of underground singles in 2007, including the interesting ”Red House."

And if in this review I've erred more in line with my initial reaction--hyper-critical--it's incumbent upon me to say that taken as a whole everything on this album sounds natural and well-done, even "Living A Lie" by Katrenia Jefferson, which to newer listeners may sound as wondrous as "Chance Of A Lifetime" once sounded to me. The secret is undoubtedly in the variety of the artists, and the fact that, though roughly-executed when examined individually, the overall effect of the songs in the collection is positive. Napoleon Demps perhaps over-reaches with this ambitious set, but his aggressiveness (adding five artists' songs to his quintet) pays off. Napoleon Demps Presents...Southern Soul Vol. 1 reminds me of the equally interesting if also relatively low-budget samplers out of Montgomery, Alabama, ”Southern Soul Blues: Various Artists Hot Spot Volumes 1-3."

--Daddy B. Nice

Sample/Buy Napoleon Demps Presents...Southern Soul Vol. 1 at Amazon. - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

October 10, 2016:


Sample/Buy Napoleon Demps Presents...Southern Soul Vol. 1 at Amazon.

From Daddy B. Nice's Corner...

Daddy B. Nice's Top 10 "BREAKING" Southern Soul Singles Preview For. . .

-------AUGUST 2016---------

6. "A Lie Don't Care Who Tell It"-------Napoleon Demps

An affecting mid-tempo tune from the same Napoleon who brought you "Who You Been Lovin'" with Mr. David a decade ago. From the upcoming sampler, NAPOLEON DEMPS PRESENTS SOUTHERN SOUL, on sale soon.

Track list:

Party (Radio)
by Nepoleon, Background Vocals Stone Paxton & Floyed Fuller

Living a Lie
by Katrenia

A Lie Dont Care Who Tell It
by Napoleon & Ron G Ronald Suggs

by Napolean & Floyd Fuller

by Lady T.

Cut It
by Mr Zay & Xavier Ayers

Never Get It All
by Rashad the Blues Kid & Jessup Lashawn Crosby

U Got It
by Uncle Wayne

by Napolean & Marcello

Let Me Get It for the Last Time
by Napolean & Gerry Roberts


To automatically link to Napoleon Demp's charted radio singles, awards, CD's and other citations on the website, go to "Demps, Napoleon" in Daddy B. Nice's Comprehensive Index.

************ - Chitlin' Circuit Southern Soul Music Guide

--Daddy B. Nice



RE: Napoleon Review Reply

See Daddy B. Nice's CD Review of Napoleon Demps' "Southern Soul Vol. 2, Southern Soul With A Twist".

First of all Daddy B Nice let me thank you over the years for your support and helping to expose my music to a broader platform but I must respectfully disagree with you review of my latest project. Now I do understand that it doesnt sound like the typical Southern Soul of days past which I am a fan of and a student of yes I grew up in the North but my parents are from the south. So i grew up to the sounds of o.v. wright mckinley mitchell little milton artie blues boy white tyrone davis and marvin sease to name a few and I know the root of Southern Soul and even though some of my earlier music is hard to find it represents thay song. Cuts like Let me get it for the last time body talk and Who you been lovin. However like many things I have evolved as an artist and I felt the need to in my opinion combine soulful singing with several elements hip hop ,Gospel, Zydeco, and even Country!!! My music is currently sold out on several media outlets and it was distributed by Sony with a noted musician who has produced and written for several major acts in the music industry. Now I have no gripes with you having an opinion. I dont even have gripes with you saying this isnt Southern Soul as you know it but the last time i checked artistry isn't about playing it safe its about reaching and expanding sir i shouldnt sound the same today as i did in 2004 when I started. So ask this question as an artist am i allowed to have a different expression of what southern soul is to me. I grew up in Michigan so i have a different spin on things So i have to represent my way. I love Southern Soul music always will it dominates my playlist and i know its roots and i wont forget but Napoleon has to be Napoleon Sir not a replica of what is the norm in Southern Soul. Look at The differences in classic soul music Stax and Motown were both labled Soul just distinct differences in presentation but i know stax artists traveled north and Motown artists traveled South and people got into them the point is it was all Soul without definitions just variations. Well in closing Daddy b nice I sent you an email with a hip hop video by the legendary group the roots. Its called what they do if you can try to listen to the theme of it. It's what i go through as an artist I cant do what they do I must do what I do!!! Have a blessed day and continued success on your column sir.


Listen to The Roots singing "What They Do" on YouTube.


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