The City of Phoenix honored Arizona-based rapper Willy Northpole with a Friend of the City designation for his work with at-risk juveniles during a ceremony last week at Doc's Place in the state's capitol.

"I love the city," said a blinged-out Northpole during an interview with The BoomBox after the ceremony. "They love me back. They honored me for my community work. I go to a lot of the juveniles and talk to them.

"I was incarcerated as a teen. I go and I talk to youths. I have community functions. I have eating events -- barbecues. I bring jumpers out for the kids. I just give back. Whenever I'm in town, I'll always think of something to do for the community. People get a chance to know you. They get a chance to touch you. They get a chance to be around you. It's different when you hear the music. When you meet the person, it's more official and they feel that now they really have to support that guy. I know him personally. 'That's my boy.' It's real. It's not an act. That's the kind of person I am."

The City of Phoenix's representative was District 8 Councilman Michael E. Johnson, Northpole's uncle. Johnson said the City took notice of Northpole's activities of reaching out to at-risk youths to give them a positive role model.

Northpole's honor came on the eve of the release of his debut "Tha Connect." Northpole, who is pushing the first single "#1 Side Chick" with Bobby Valentino, signed to DTP Records after catching the attention of multiplatinum rapper Ludacris, the label's CEO.

"I went inside a Best Buy store today," Northpole said. "I said, 'You got the Willy Northpole album yet?' They all looked it up. They pulled it up. The face pops up. They looked at me. They looked at the screen. They looked at me again. They looked at the screen. 'That's you!' I said, 'I just wanted to see how you guys would react to a customer that comes in and asks for my CD.' It's good that now I have something to direct to the people. I can actually say, instead of 'Coming soon' or 'Pick it up June 23,' I can say it's in stores. Go get it now. That was my whole goal -- to put out a national album, to say that I've done that under a major label. It's just like getting a bachelor's degree. Now it's time to go for the Ph.D."

Northpole said he named the album "Tha Connect" to stress his role as unofficial Phoenix tour guide.

"When you think of Arizona, what do you think of? Hot? The desert? Maybe horses?" he said. "I'm 'tha connect' to show you what goes on out here. We have no urban national. I come from the streets. I come from South Phoenix -- Broadway and 24th street. We don't have any representation nationally. I can show you the more urban side of Phoenix -- what goes on, not violence, not the glorified violence. But we have hip-hop culture out here. We drive nice cars out here. We have fun. We do this. We do that. Everybody's not retired playing golf, riding horses, chasing geckos or geicos -- one of those guys. It's my job to actually go out there and put us on the map."

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