If Darnell Robinson looks familiar but hard to place, you may have seen the First Family of Hip Hop star in 2006, when he had his own episode of the now-defunct MTV series My Super Sweet 16 (when he was turning just 15!).
Darnell's version of a quinceañero featured a Coming to America theme complete with beautiful ladies throwing rose petals at his feet — once he'd disembarked off of the camel he rode in on with Rihanna, that is.
"Every prince needs a princess, and I wanted to know if you could be my princess," he asked the then-new pop star Rihanna (which he initially mispronounced as Ruh-hannah) weeks earlier at the Def Jam office, presenting her with a glittering watch he said was worth $7,000. The prince turned up in a crown with Rih-Rih on one arm and a sceptre in the other.
He also paid a studio visit to rapper Juelz Santana and gave him a taste of his own rhyming style, which he later performed onstage at his birthday extravaganza following Juelz's performance of his hit "There It Go (The Whistle Song)."
The party went by in a Grandmaster Flash. "It happened too fast, everything happened so fast and I was so young," he remembers. "I was still in school and trying to be a kid and live a kid’s life, but I knew I wanted more. Just growing up around this you see a lot so I knew that I wanted more. I stayed humble, I stayed regular, I guess." As First Family shows, Darnell is still actively pursuing music more than a decade later; his SoundCloud page features several songs recorded under the alias Darnell Roy.
It may all be a blur now, but the episode was the result of Darnell's initiative to pitch himself to the network. "I stayed up 'til five in the morning writing a six-page letter to MTV, telling them I wanted to have this big, extravagant party and I was going to have tigers and cars." He was scared of the tigers he went to pick out and eventually abandoned the idea when told that New Jersey law wouldn't allow them to roam free.
When he was selected, it was a surprise to his family. "My pops didn’t know nothing about it at the time. They called him, he called me, like, ‘Yo! Is this true?’ I said, ‘Yeah, it’s true,’ and he said, ‘Come on, let’s do it then.’"
On the episode, Darnell said the party cost about $300,000, not including the $110,000 Mercedes S550 that he was gifted at the end.
"Things were crazy for a minute, I’m not going to even lie," he admits now. "Still, like 10 years later, I walk through places and I meet people and they’re like, 'Yo, can I take a picture, I know you!' It’s crazy, that show gave me like 10 years of life within this industry."
Darnell's episode of My Super Sweet 16 is still available for streaming via iTunes and Amazon.