“I want to get the crowd unbelievably hype,” said DJ Relley Rozay, the student headliner for spring Lawnparties, when asked what he was most looking forward to about his performance on May 7.
Also known by the name Durelle Napier ’17, the aspiring DJ hails from Long Island, N.Y., and has grown up with music all around him. Hip-hop runs in the family; Napier’s uncle, Parrish Smith, is a member of the hip-hop duo EPMD. “Before I was even born, my family was big into hip-hop,” Napier explained, “When I was growing up, I was always listening to my uncle and different hip-hop artists from back in the day. My mom would always quiz me while we were riding in the car, like, at home she would play some music and ask me: ‘Who is this?’”
Napier credits these childhood moments as having helped shape him into who he is today. “I feel like when I was growing up, with them quizzing me — about not just hip-hop, but different music in general — my music knowledge increased,” he added.
Yet it was ultimately at a boarding school when Napier discovered his knack for DJing. “I was bored, so I figured I might as well get into music and start DJing, since I’ve always loved music and known music ... and then I just started getting better at it,” he said.
His first time DJing at the University was an event in the Wilson Black Box Theater during the fall of his sophomore year. “Ever since I DJed my first event here, I fell in love with it, and then took off from there,” Napier noted.
Napier’s work with music serves as more than a hobby; it is also a way he brings attention to a less-discussed area of interest at the University. “Being at Princeton, where most students go into the ordinary fields of, you know, marketing and law and medicine, or work on Wall Street, I feel like I wanted to do something totally different from anything else that’s been done here before,” he said.
He added that “spreading music, educating people on the origin of hip-hop, and just having a conversation about music in general is something that I strive to do on this campus.”
Outside of the University, Napier works at a record label called G.O.A.T. Life, which he started with friends in Long Island back in 2014. “What we have been trying to do is to pitch being greater. Our motto is ‘be greater’ . . . and for us, we do it through music,” said Napier. G.O.A.T. Life organized an event at the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding on Friday, April 28, which featured performances from the label’s artists as well as work from visiting clothing brands. Napier described the night as an opportunity to “[give] everyone a different platform to showcase their art.”
Music has intersected with several aspects of Napier’s life, including his academics. As a sociology major, he recently completed his senior thesis on the similarities between hip-hop in the United States and Brazil.
As for his role as the student headliner for Lawnparties this year, he explained that it has “just always been a dream of mine since I was a freshman.” He recalled his first Lawnparties headliner, T-Pain. “That was my first Princeton concert, and just the atmosphere at Lawnparties was something that I feel like I’ve wanted to become a part of,” he explained.
Napier has DJed at Cannon Dial Elm Club since his sophomore year, but this will be his first time to take the main stage. When discussing his goals for the performance, he described how he hopes that “everyone remembers Lawnparties spring of 2017, especially the Class of 2017, who are just going out with a bang.”
Some of Napier’s favorite artists include J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and Joey Badass. He even revealed that he will be playing a track from Kendrick Lamar’s new album, DAMN., as part of his set, although the specific song to be played will remain a surprise until his performance.