DTP rapper (finally) puts Phoenix on the map
On June 22, members of the Phoenix government honored hometown rapper Willy Northpole for making it in the music business and for making a difference in the lives of inner-city youth. Tha Connect, the first major label hip hop release of anybody from PHX, drops today. Yeah, all certainly seems OK in AZ these days. But chat with William Adams for longer than a minute and the heady 28-year-old will tell you that all of this newfound attention comes after some agonizing times. On a personal note, Willy's sold dope, served time and seen recording dreams dashed. But here he is, undeterred by life’s roadblocks and desert heat, ready, with Ludacris' help, to raise Arizona from urban music obscurity.
12:00PM ET June 23, 2009
Contributor: Hip DeMarco Williams
Publisher : Rocky Williform
How'd you earn the name?
"North Pole" was a drug term. That's what I used to go by. It was, like, a codename for "snow" and "cocaine." Where you get the snow from? The North Pole. Then I started realizing I had a bigger fanbase than just niggas on the streets. Kids started running up to me, asking what Northpole meant and I didn't want to explain it in those terms, so I flipped the whole meaning of it. I always want to go against the grain. So, a lot of MCs say they hot. I'm a cold MC comin' out of a hot state. You feel what I'm sayin'? That's what it is. People gotta understand it's more than just Willy as far as me being in the music industry. I’m not gonna cater to just one crowd. I gotta cater to everybody. If not, I'm just wasting my time. It's different then just playin' your music for a couple of homies that's gonna feel it. If you can't play for somebody who's looking up to you, if you're not setting some type of example, I think you’re in the wrong business.
How'd you first connect with DTP?
I had a situation with G-Unit. I was signed to that label but things didn't work out. My manager (Tiffany J) felt like I had other options I could go for if that didn't work out. So, she was already on it. She already had some things in the works with a couple of other labels that she had presented me to: Jazzy Pha and Sho Nuff, Disturbing Tha Peace and a couple of other labels. Chaka [Zulu, DTP co-founder] flew me out to L.A. That's when I met Luda and everybody else. We sat in his hotel suite and just played the demo. We just ran through it. From there, we've just been trying to make this history right. It sounds easy. It sounds like it was what it was. I bumped into somebody, bam! What people don't understand is that I've been doing this for a long time. It takes a lot to even be in that situation, for me to get in the 50 [Cent/G-Unit] situation. I’ve been recording since I was 12, 13-years-old. It's definitely a grind, a struggle, to do what I'm doing now. Actually, I'm still on that grind.
You're witty and funny. But then again, a lot of cats can claim that. What's gonna separate you from the crowd?
As far as what's going to separate me from the crowd is that people are going to see that my consistency is going to be the best. A lot of people can rap and I'll give'em that. But as you can see from the way the generation is changing and the times, people are gonna see that I stay on top of mine. What's gonna separate me, I don't care if it's freestyles or anything, it's going to be straight from the heart. I think that's what kept a lot of artists around to this day. If you think about it, Pac's music is still around because he did music from the heart. The same thing with Big. So, I think that's what's really gonna separate me from the rest of the artists that's out right now. I'm not saying that nobody comes from the heart, but as far as me… all I know is what I do. When I'm in that room, nobody knows what I'm thinking. Nobody knows what I'm putting into my music. It’s a lot of passion behind it. I think people are gonna be able to see and recognize that.
What kinds of things are Ludacris telling you in that booth to help you get over the hump a lot of artists can't?
When you say "hump," what do you mean?
That hump that artists like Papoose and Saigon face where they have street cred but it's yet to translate into a full album.
I really don't know their situation. I know I'm signed to a label that's going to put me in a situation to where I'm gonna have the opportunity to be the artist that pops or crossovers or whatever you wanna call it. I have a record deal. This is what I got signed for. The only thing [Ludacris] tells me is to get ready. It's really no artist development type thing. They signed me because they felt I was ready.
Most folks don't know about Phoenix. What can you tell them?
I come from South Phoenix. Where I come from, it's the same story of the ghetto child growing up and things like that. We got our poverty. We got our ups and downs. But Phoenix is a beautiful city to me. I think it's one of the best places to live. You don't have to worry about the volcanoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, anything of that nature. It's hot one part of the year. Once you get over that heat, you're good. The way that the sun sets over here is exciting. It's culture out here. You got the black part. You got the Hispanic part. You got the Native American part. It's definitely diversity out here. It's a good place to live, in my opinion. I wouldn't live anywhere else.
Growing up, were you heavy into the L.A. sound?
When I was growing up, that is what I was listening to. It's not just 'cuz Arizona's on the West that we're listening to West Coast music. Arizona's actually the Southwest. We are the wild west, original gunslingers and things like that. But as far as music, you had options. You could either listen to southern music or... I grew up listening to NWA and Too Short and Ice Cube and things like that. Even the Geto Boys from the South [got my attention]. I was into that type of music. Compton's Most Wanted and things like that. That's the path that I chose. I'm not saying that was the sound that was out here at that time; that's just what I was listening to.