Willy Northpole: Putting Arizona On The Map

By Jay Casteel  |  05/09/2008

Willy NorthpoleArizona... what do you think of when you hear about the state? Most may think desert, extremely hot weather, or spring break on Lake Havasu. However, the Grand Canyon State does have a hip-hop scene, and recent Disturbing Tha Peace signee, Willy Northpole, is proof of that.

Willy is Phoenix's leading hip-hop star, who after talks with G-Unit fell through, landed on Ludacris' doorstep and became one of DTP's first artists out West. While it seems as though the rapper has come out of nowhere, thanks to the recent popularity of his track "Body Marked Up," Willy has been grinding for years, and it wasn't an easy road.

Falling deep into the street life at a young age resulted in a young Willy Northpole landing in jail. But, learning from his mistakes, he turned to his longtime love for music, and when he was released, he left the streets behind, attacked the music scene locally, and never looked back.

Years later, he's mingling with rap superstars and grooming himself for success with a constant stream of mixtapes and new music, while he awaits the release of his debut album. Before that though, you have to get familiar with Willy, so we do that for you.

BallerStatus.com: First, let's start off with DTP. You have a new deal in place with the label, so tell us how Luda came across your music and how the deal came to light?

Willy Northpole: Basically, my manager Tiffany Johnson, she resided in Atlanta. She had shopped me around to a few people, and Chaka, Luda and the guys down at Disturbing Tha Peace they kinda caught onto it first. They flew me out to California, and just from there, Chaka sat down with me heard the demo in his hotel room. He listened to about 7, 8 demos, and after that, it was pretty much a wrap. We shook hands, got the paperwork ready, and now your boy's doing interviews.

BallerStatus.com: So, have you been able to hook up with Luda at all?

Willy Northpole: Oh yea, of course. I got a song on his album that we worked on. It's called "The Cause," featuring myself, The Game and Luda. It's gonna be a big record. As far as me, he's on a song on my album called "Eskimos" that we worked on. I don't wanna drown myself with Luda, you know, with Luda everywhere because I'm trying to establish myself as an artist. I'm trying to do it on my own, so when I do bring Luda around, I want people to say "It's Willy and Luda" instead of "Luda's artist." I got a good team around me kinda pushing me as an artist. As far as DTP, they believe what we believe in and vice versa, so they let me do my thing.

BallerStatus.com: Luda hasn't really signed people from outside the ATL, especially from the western part of the country, or Arizona. So why do you think he took an interest in you?

Willy Northpole: Honestly, it had to be my good looks, bro (laughs). Seriously, I'm an artist, bro. I'm not a West Coast artist, a South artist, or anything of that. I'm universal. Coming out of Arizona, it was kind of shocking. I listened to hip-hop growing up, during my whole life. This is really what I was supposed to do. So studying guys like Luda, Jay-Z and these other guys, he saw something in me that I always saw in myself. That's what it was. Plus, I walked through the door with hits man. I walked in with "Body Marked Up."

BallerStatus.com: Now, I understand you went through some things ever since you entered the world. I hear you were actually born on a helicopter due to a flood that day. What's that all about?

Willy Northpole: Yea, I'm glad that happened 'cause it made me special coming out. I was, it was a flood over there in South Phoenix in my neighborhood, and a helicopter had to come pick up my mother. She had me inside the helicopter man, she couldn't hold it man. I became the Helicopter Baby. I was in the newspaper, was on the news. It came and went, but it was news for the time.

Growing up in South Phoenix -- I grew up on Broadway, 24th Street, a real bad area -- I have a lot to talk about. Like you said, since I was born I was growing through stuff. That's another thing I think Luda saw inside of me as the artist I am.

BallerStatus.com: Growing up, I read that you went were doing talent shows and it seemed to be a good path. However, along the way, you got mixed up in the streets, did some jail time...

Willy Northpole: Yea, I got mixed up in the street life. I was heavily influenced by my surroundings. I didn't really have a choice man 'cause I really didn't have a father figure around. Me growing in that type of environment that I did -- I had a cousin that passed away and a couple of friends who passed away -- I had a lot of anger building up inside of me. It forced me to go out and gangbang against rivals and things that. I don't do that kinda sh** no more, but right now, I'm glad I did 'cause it gives me something to talk about in my music. There's nothing fake about me, so anything that comes out my mouth, either I was a witness of it, or I seen it, or actually in it.

BallerStatus.com: And then you started rapping. Where did that come in?

Willy Northpole: I've been rapping since Life Is Too Short came out, back in them days ... 88, 87. My mom used to pop them records in, and them Kool Moe Dee records in, and all that East Coast stuff. I was mimicking, lip-syncing, and talent shows and things like that. I grew up doing that. I've always been around music. It's a part of me.

BallerStatus.com: Was there a certain point while doing the street thing where you were like "F*** this, I'm doing the rap thing?"

Willy Northpole: When I got out of jail. I did three years in jail. When I got out of jail... I was writing in jail, but I always knew what I was gonna do when I got out. I was like "I'm gonna attack this music hard." When I got out, I got the streets, stayed away from everybody, got a 9 to 5, started saving my money, did a lot of studio time, and got my demos recorded. From there, I became a local legend, put in work, got respect from the radio stations out there, and got signed. It's hard work, if you gonna do it, you gotta do it. It don't come overnight. You can't just wake up and say "I'm gonna get a record deal." It's something that had to come from the beginning.

BallerStatus.com: When I first starting hearing about you, I was hearing talks of G-Unit. I didn't know the deal if you were gonna sign to them, or had signed to them. So, can you clarify that?

Willy Northpole: Hot Rod from G-Unit, he had got signed. He had moved from Sacramento to Arizona. I met him and at the time, he was getting signed to G-Unit. So when he flew out to 50's house, he was looking for a crew, so I went out there and worked with him. Unfortunately, things didn't work out for me. Of course, as you can see. I flew back, got back on my grind, hooked up with [my manager] Tiffany again, and she made the deal happen. So that's what it was. I went out there for the G-Unit situation, but everything happens for a reason. It's no bad blood with nobody.

BallerStatus.com: So, why was DTP a better fit for you?

Willy Northpole: Me coming out the Southwest, West area, I'm not used to a lot of hospitality. So me going down there and dealing with all them Southern cats, they are some good dudes down there. I feel like it's more of a family. They treat me like family, and part of the team, so I feel like we're gonna get more accomplished instead of they treated me like a straight artist. I f*** with DTP. That's the label, they family.

BallerStatus.com: You mentioned bring the "Body Marked Up" track when you were signed. The video it out and everything...

Willy Northpole: Yea. The funny thing about the video is I actually got Luda to come down to the hood in Phoenix to shoot the video. He came down no problem, he met all my partners, shook everybody's hand. We had a hood hero parade day out there. If you watched the video, it's a real good look. It shows you what Phoenix is all about 'cause a lot of times they see us as a state of cowboys or just cactus and tumbleweeds. It's really real sh** going on out here, as far as city and life, and people breathing out here. If you watch "Body Marked Up," it'll shut that all up. Everybody from that video is from Arizona; we didn't fly nobody from Cali in or New York.

BallerStatus.com: How is the state supporting the track? You getting love from home?

Willy Northpole: Come on man. How you gone ask me that? They love me out there man, but I love them back, that's why. That's the good thing about Arizona; it's a hard state to break yourself. If you're not reppin' it right, they will not accept you out here. They will not 'cause we ain't really ever had sh**. I'm doing my job, so thus far, I'm getting rotation on the radio stations, and they showing me a lot of love. It's home. When I come home, it's Willy. They don't see the whole Willy Northpole 'cause I've been out doing this for a long time. For me to finally get a deal, make something and get a Def Jam stamp behind it, they really f***ing with me.

BallerStatus.com: What about your name? Obviously, Willy is your first name, but what's the Northpole about?

Willy Northpole: Northpole was a reference to crack cocaine 'cause of the snow, and snow comes from the Northpole. Originally, what it was, I used to serve a little bit growing up, so that's what I used to call it the northpole or the snow. But Jeezy did the snowman thing, Tony Yayo has his name, so I just took the Northpole and ran with it. On top of that, I'm a cold MC in a hot state. It's a lot of things, but that's really what it meant from the beginning.

BallerStatus.com: Tell me a little more about your music, what fans should expect from you?

Willy Northpole: When you watch the "Body Marked Up" video, you probably think that's what you gonna get from the album -- that gangsta all the way through. But my sh** ranges from gangsta to top 40 -- have to be there with some of the records I got. I'm real creative, I'm telling stories, a lot of concepts. I got a couple female records, soul, my experiences growing up, dead homie records ... I touched every marker with my album. I got some South stuff, so I'm really excited about it man. In my heart, I really feel like this album will go down as a classic. I know a lot of aritsts say that, but I really, really mean this because I put heart into this sh**. If you can get someone attached to your music because of the emotion and feeling in it, I really feel like that's what makes you successful. I got a lot of those records. Kinda like how Pac gave you that feeling, with the emotion, that's kinda like how my sh** is man. I'm not tough-guying it all the way through the album either. I'm not killing 100 n****s. It's really just me. Me as a person, me growing, but some of it's talking sh**, some of it is being humble, and some of it is ... everything.

BallerStatus.com: Obviously "Body Marked Up" is an ode to tattoos. I noticed you are pretty inked up. Tell me about some of your favorite tattoos you have and why.

Willy Northpole: Actually, my favorite is -- it's not even finished -- probably the one on my back. It's the one I got ... the biggest one I have that I got before any of this, before I was even heard of. It's my hood, which is Broadway. I got a lot of sentimental things going on. I got angels going on, I got a tombstone of my cousin Salt that passed away, and it's showing my hood, my streets. It's a collage. It's like ... you have to look at it to see. But there's a lot of sh** in that back tattoo. There's so much sh**, I never got to finish it, but I like the way it looks. My esse partner John did that tat on my back.

BallerStatus.com: If there was one thing you wanted music fans to know about you, what would it be?

Willy Northpole: Honestly, that I'm gonna be a f***in' problem. And I'm not saying that on some cocky sh**. I just really want people to know that anything that I do is coming from my heart. My music is my heart.

The sh** that I write and say you gonna be hearing them on mixtapes. I'm doing one with Don Cannon, one with DJ Skee, Green Lantern, DJ Smallz. I'm passionate about this, and my music is gonna be a statement of that.

When you hear "Body Marked Up" ... that was recorded abotu two years ago. It's one of my favorite records, but that's when I was in that zone, and I've grown as an artist. I'm gonna keep growing. I'm gonna get better than this album. My next mixtape will be better than my last. I'm gonna keep elevating. I'm an elevating artist.