Willy Northpole Interview
|Label:||Disturbing Tha Peace/Def Jam|
|Next Project:||Tha Connect|
|Twitter:||Willy Northpole on Twitter|
|Website:||Willy Northpole's Website|
The classic image of an up-and-coming rapper is that of a “Hood Dreamer” struggling to rise above a crime-ridden environment and a painful past to express himself through music. Though many are quick to claim these origins, Willy Northpole counts himself among those who actually experienced it—crack dealing, jail time, and the brutal shooting death of his cousin were all part of his early life in the streets of Phoenix’s South Side. Now, as the sole West Coast representative on Disturbing tha Peace and the first Phoenix born-and-raised artist to ink a major distribution deal, Northpole is preparing to achieve his musical dreams, and, in the process, earn his city a spot on the hip-hop map.
Though most are familiar with Willy and his story by way of his autobiographical, Bobby Ray-featuring lead single, Booth regulars have seen further evidence of his talent on album cut “Drive By Music,” as well as his contribution to our exclusive freestyle series, “The Coldest.” With the release of his forthcoming debut album, Tha Connect, the emcee plans to go national as a rap storyteller whose trials and tribulations will resonate with listeners from all walks of life.
In an exclusive interview with our own DJ “Z,” Willy North steps into the Booth to discuss the side of Phoenix few outsiders are aware of, what he hopes to accomplish in the music industry and beyond, and the awful weave that nearly led to a food fight (yes, you read that correctly).
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Willy Northpole Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a West Coast “Hood Dreamer” who is preparing to unleash his debut album, Tha Connect, this summer. Please welcome the emcee who spit “The Coldest” freestyle in our ongoing series, Willy Northpole!
Willy Northpole: I’m gonna do my own applause sound if that’s all right—you ready? Ahhhh! [laughs]
DJ Booth: That was great. Willy, how you doin’, man?
Willy Northpole: I’m good, I’m blessed man. I just finished my work out here. I’m in Arizona right now. I’m getting ready for this June 2nd date, know what I’m sayin’?
DJ Booth: Absolutely. Your official debut single, “Hood Dreamer,” now available at iTunes. Tha Connect, which is your debut album, as you just mentioned, is gonna be released early this summer. So Willy, mentally, emotionally, describe the feeling of seeing your career finally take flight.
Willy Northpole: Man, it’s a beautiful thing. You know, I went through a lot of trials and tribulations this past year—I felt all my strengths and weaknesses, I lost a lot of my friends, gained a lot of family. I’m starting to learn the difference between real and fake, and I’m really at a point in my life right now where nothing matters but my career and my lifestyle, and the things I want in my life. During this time of recession, I feel like it’s important that [I do] whatever I can do to be an inspiration to people around me—not just fans, but people around me. I can give ‘em that hood dream; that’s why I chose to go with the single “Hood Dreamer” first.
DJ Booth: Well, you couldn’t have picked a better selection; “Hood Dreamer” is just the-
Willy Northpole: Man, I really think right now—not to cut you off—but I think that’s just what the game is missing right now: anybody can make an ass-shaking song, or anybody can make a song about how much money they got. But I can go around girls that shake their asses, have money, and have a “Hood Dream,” know what I’m sayin’? Anybody who has less than a million dollars in their pocket should be able to relate to this song, so I feel like I’m appealing to the world right now, and showin’ people that you can make yourself somebody out of this bullsh*t time that we’re goin’ through right now.
DJ Booth: Well, it’s interesting, because this record, like you said, it’s not just a unique concept record but rather it’s the true story of your life.
Willy Northpole: Yeah, it’s the true story of my life. [After I did the] video, I got a lot of calls from my industry buddies—I talked to Rick Ross, I talked to Young Buck, of course Ludacris, the whole Disturbing tha Peace family congratulated me, everybody saw the video. A lot of people called me, so it’s important that I keep this image, ‘cause now I’m starting to feel—you know, a lot of times, when you get signed to a record deal, you’re at a point to where you don’t feel like you’re quite there yet, and now I’m starting to feel like it’s within arm’s reach, so I’ve just gotta keep reaching so I can go for my goals.
DJ Booth: Willy, with a past that includes dealing drugs, the brutal murder of your cousin and one of your best friends, and serving time in a correctional facility, explain why your life story is so vital to your career as an artist.
Willy Northpole: A lot of the things that happened to me in the past were as a youth, so I was 21 before I was 14, know what I’m sayin’? I lost a lot of friends, and the only reason I keep referring back to my cousin is, I’ve had a lot of close friends that died, but he was family, so when I say him, I’m not just talkin’ about him; I’m talkin’ about n*ggas in my neighborhood in general. I’ve been to over 20 funerals, I have over 20 dead homies in my neighborhood alone. Not counting other friends outside of my neighborhood, but just cats that I grew up with. Just my whole life story in general, my grandfather having over 46 kids—you know, he had 49 kids!
DJ Booth: Oh my God…
Willy Northpole: Yeah. So, my family, I’m not gonna say [it was] dysfunctional, but I guess another good word for “f*cked up” is “dysfunctional.” [laughs] With my story, I feel like I can relate to anybody. And it’s not just a hood dream, it’s not just for people in the hood; it’s for suburban kids out there—you know, they got moms and pops that’s f*cked up also.
DJ Booth: I was just gonna say, whose family is not, at some point, dysfunctional?
Willy Northpole: And I really feel, at the end of the day, f*ck the music—I’d rather send a message any day, before music. And if I can change anybody’s life, or help somebody out [with] my story, just in my lifestyle alone, then I feel like I’ve had a successful career.
DJ Booth: Well, if more artists take that idea and run with it, I think the quality of music in this industry is gonna be far better.
Willy Northpole: Yeah, man; I appreciate that. It’s really important that I just show my dedication to the streets, to where I come from. ‘Cause I’m from the hood, man; I come from one of the worst turfs in the world, I’ll promise you that. And a lot of people don’t understand that, comin’ out of Arizona.
DJ Booth: It’s interesting that you said that. A lot of people see Arizona and they think deserts, they think golf courses—why do you think [they have] this misconception?
Willy Northpole: That’s understandable. Let me tell you why: ‘cause we’ve never had a voice to show the f*cked-up sides of Arizona. I mean, who’s gonna show us? Steve Nash? Amar’e Stoudemire? The government, the [politicians]? Who’s gonna show that? We’ve never had a rapper come out of the Southwest, West Coast area, we never had an emcee to show Arizona, and show what it is. And they don’t report sh*t we do out here; I have homies dyin’ every single day out here—every single day. Every single day, somebody gets shot or dies in my area.
DJ Booth: Willy, I’ve spoken with a few of your fellow Phoenix, Arizona natives, Hot Rod and Juice, and the constant among all three of you is the responsibility of finally putting AZ on that proverbial map. So, with the release of this debut album, it looks as though you will be the first to truly accomplish this goal.
Willy Northpole: Out of everybody, I am gonna put Arizona on the map. Let me tell you why: ‘cause I’m the only artist that’s from Arizona, born and raised. For me to be the first artist to come out, to actually put Arizona on the map nationally, it’s a gift and a curse at the same time, ‘cause there were a lot of people who wanted to fill these shoes. But a lot of people I don’t think were built for this sh*t. It’s a hard job! [laughs]
DJ Booth: The way you’re describing it, it sounds like an immense responsibility. So, how are you gonna handle it?
Willy Northpole: You put God first, before you do anything. My side of the town is painful, so this is nothing. All my friends, including myself, we all gangbanged, so we’ve been through survival tactics and survival stages. But the people around me now, that grew up with me and that have been around that situation, they have families too, and they have things to live for.
DJ Booth: For some artists, just getting signed to a record label is a dream come true, and for others, it isn’t until they release a physical product that they feel like-
Willy Northpole: It’s more than this deal, man!
DJ Booth: Has that moment already happened for you, or do you feel like it’s coming?
Willy Northpole: Let me tell you something, I’ve always felt like I was famous; I just had to get the fame. [laughs] I always felt like I was worth listening to. If there was no such thing as money, I would have this same goal and this same drive. The money, the females, and everything like that, that just comes with the situation. I’m never to the point where I feel like I’ve succeeded. Once I’ve succeeded in rap to the point that there’s nothing else to do, then it’s time to start taking acting classes. Whatever I’ve got to do to keep going, I’m always gonna push.
DJ Booth: So as each dream is fulfilled, another dream simply replaces it?
Willy Northpole: Yeah. I mean, my big dream is me going way beyond expectations. That’s the ultimate dream, and nobody knows what that is, I don’t even know what that is. I just wanna look back and be like, “Yo, I remember when I wanted a f*ckin’ Ferrari—I’ve got seven of them!” [laughs] “I remember when I wanted that f*ckin’ house, where I had to drive around them little robots—I’ve got 12 of those! That’s nothing! What’s next?” As an artist, I’m developing myself to be that n*gga. We’ve got the biggest influence on kids out there; why can’t we rap till we’re 50, 60, 70 years old? ‘Cause I guarantee you, if Jay left the game right now and the n*gga came back when he was 60, he’s be able to run laps around 80 percent of the rappers out there.
DJ Booth: I guarantee the same thing, you’re absolutely right.
Willy Northpole: You know, you do get to a point where you’ve gotta change what you’re talking about—you can’t be doin’ the “Stanky Legg” when you’re 70 years old.
DJ Booth: I mean, if you’re 70 you could do the “Stanky Legg,” but it might not get as many YouTube hits as if you were 17, right?
Willy Northpole: [laughs] You could do the “Stanky Wheelchair!”
DJ Booth: Yeah, exactly. Willy, the title of the debut, as we mentioned earlier, is Tha Connect, and, as is the case for everyone, a connection between artist and fan is paramount. So, how do you plan to connect with your loyal followers, and all the people who like your music, and keep that connection?
Willy Northpole: People say the greatest years of hip-hop were the ‘80s and the ‘90s, right? Do you agree?
DJ Booth: Right—‘94 to 2001 in my book, but I agree.
Willy Northpole: I’m cut from that cloth too, so I definitely agree with that! Definitely, ‘cause that’s when n*ggas was eating, and it was the best music out. When you think of the greatest in hip-hop, who do people say? Biggie and Pac. Why? Because you could relate to them. You’d always be able to relate to them, they always made music you could relate to, and that’s why their music sounds better today than a lot of artists that’s out right now.
DJ Booth: ...‘Cause it still applies.
Willy Northpole: So, that is so easy. It’s not a secret how I’m gonna do it, I’m just gonna do it. Do you understand, for the video, “Hood Dreamer,” I spent over six thousand dollars out of my budget for fashion, and the only thing I ended up using in that video was a Gucci belt? I wore black T-shirts and f*ckin’ jeans.
DJ Booth: You didn’t need to use anything more to get the point across.
Willy Northpole: You see what I’m sayin’? I’ve gotta relate to these people! [laughs]
DJ Booth: It’s good that you recognized that on your own.
Willy Northpole: Yeah, I recognized that on my own. I wore a black f*ckin tank top and a black T-shirt and some jeans!
DJ Booth: Well, that shows you, it’s about the music. It’s not about anything else.
Willy Northpole: It’s about the f*ckin’ music, that’s what I’m telling you! You know, Biggie’s not the most handsome guy in the world, Jay-Z’s not the most handsome guy in the world, but at the end of the day it’s that connection, it’s the music. Who cares if they never even took their shirt off?
DJ Booth: Well, I’m glad that Biggie never took his shirt off—that might not have been the best move for him—but quality music is always gonna transcend sales slumps or whatever shape this industry’s in.
Willy Northpole: Quality music! Let me tell you something: hip-hop’s not dead, it just fainted. That’s my opinion. It’s fallen, but it can never die. How are you gonna say hip-hop’s dead? Music is important to me—this is all I’ve got. If I didn’t have music, I promise you I’d be in the pen, or I’d be dead. I definitely wouldn’t be on this phone talkin’ to you. I’m not good at math, and I definitely can’t shoot a f*ckin’ jump shot, so this is all I ever had to reflect on, and pour my feelings and my emotions [into].
DJ Booth: Don’t worry about the jump shot or the multiplication; I’m not that good at either, so I’m in that same boat. Like I mentioned earlier, we’re gonna jump into a special segment in the interview. It’s called “According to Twitter.” Pretty much, I stalked your Twitter page, took three interesting Tweets and we’re gonna talk about them. The first is, before today’s interview, I read that you hit the gym with a celebrity trainer—when you called me up, you were out of breath—so, on a scale of one to 10, one being ‘not very important’ and 10 being ‘very critical,’ how much do you focus on your image as an artist, and how it relates to the longevity of your recording career?
Willy Northpole: I think that’s the most important part.
DJ Booth: So, ‘10’?
Willy Northpole: ‘Cause there’s artists out there that can rap their ass off, but [they have] no image and they’re irrelevant, you see what I’m sayin’?
DJ Booth: But if you flip it, though, there are also artists that have the greatest image but not the greatest skills, so where do you find that in-between?
Willy Northpole: You asked me, how important was that?
DJ Booth: How important is image, correct.
Willy Northpole: It’s one hundred percent, one of the most important things. Actually, I said “the most important,” didn’t I?
DJ Booth: Yeah, you did.
Willy Northpole: No, one of the most important things—sorry about that!
DJ Booth: [laughs] Okay!
Willy Northpole: We’re all born with the same chance to look a certain way. At the end of the day, it’s where you wanna take yourself, and how you feel about yourself.
DJ Booth: That’s some great advice, and, speaking of advice, another Tweet you left was to Ludacris, after he said to you, “Whatever your heart believes in, go with it,” You said that’s the best advice he’s ever given you. What would you say is the ultimate best advice you could give an up-and-coming emcee?
Willy Northpole: Every time you go to sleep, every time you wake up, the clock is ticking. Anybody’s that’s out there tryin’ to live his dream, live his life, you have to put your money and your heart into it, man. Even if you have less money—I didn’t really have money, comin’ up and gettin’ my name out there. Whatever the current situation is, when you walk in that room, motherf*ckers gotta be like, “Yo, this n*gga is that n*gga.” That’s why everybody’s looking at my current situation like, “How did he do it, man? What did he do that’s so big?”
DJ Booth: Well, now they know; you just laid out the formula for ‘em.
Willy Northpole: Yep.
DJ Booth: Last tweet: I read that you were at a Denny’s, and you considered throwing an omelet at your waitress. So, Willy, what was worse—the food or the service?
Willy Northpole: I really wanted to throw my omelet at the waitress, let me tell you why: ‘cause she had this f*ckin’ weave on that was so stupid. Like, I don’t know if y’all know what I’m talkin’ about, but you know the [stereotypical] weave that we would probably get, as a culture? She had that motherf*cker on! [laughs]
DJ Booth: So you were embarrassed?
Willy Northpole: I was so embarrassed, man! I think she had a spaceship on the left side of her head, and on the right side of her heard she had, like, some balled-up money! [laughs] I don’t know what the f*ck, on the back of her head she had a f*ckin’ Easter basket! The b*tch was wearin’ three or four different hairstyles, and I had a cheese omelet, and I was just lookin’, like, “This omelet would look perfect on that bullsh*t!”
DJ Booth: You should’ve called her over, sat her down, and said, “Look: you can share this omelet with me, and while you’re eating some I’m gonna tell you exactly what you’re doing wrong.”
Willy Northpole: Yeah, exactly. And the thing about it is, she was flirting the whole time! [laughs]
DJ Booth: She’s flirting and you’re thinking, “God, that is the worst weave ever.”
Willy Northpole: Like, “Take that bullsh*t off your head if you wanna talk to me!”
DJ Booth: Well, I’ll tell you what, Willy: you don’t take yourself too seriously, and you know exactly what you wanna do in this industry. I commend you for both those skills; it’s not something that a lot of artists have, man. Give everybody your website, your MySpace page, your Twitter account, so they can find out more about you if they haven’t already from this interview.
Willy Northpole: All right, I appreciate that, man. And like I said, if anybody wanna holler at me on a personal note, my MySpace is myspace.com/willynorthpole, Twitter, same thing, willynorthpole. I’m just getting into Twitter, so bear with me; I’m starting to learn how to answer back, too—is that everything?
DJ Booth: Absolutely, my friend.
Willy Northpole: Then that’s everything, man. And again, I wanna say, shout-out to every DJ who’s contributing to this hood dream; you know, we’re goin’ from the hood dream to the big dream.
DJ Booth: Thank you so much for takin’ the time to join me inside the DJ Booth, and the best of luck, my friend.
Willy Northpole: Man, I appreciate that. Z, keep in contact with me, and whenever you need something, let’s make it happen.
DJ Booth: All right, I’ll make sure to hit you up when I need to borrow one of your seven Ferraris, or live in one of your 12 homes!
Willy Northpole: That’s it! [laughs] All right brother, I’ll holla at you.