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"The People's Champ"
Champions are usually crowned based on the number of times they emerge victorious in competition. Being the people's champ, however, requires something entirely different, but equally tough - possessing the kind of personality that wins the hearts and minds of the public. Rapper Paul Wall affirms his status as one of the most appealing and charismatic young voices to emerge from hip hop's Southern hemisphere.
"My music is about hustling, not just hustling in terms of the block," explains the Houston, Texas, native. "It's music that inspires you to go out there and get it - doing whatever you gotta do. As far as being the people's champ, I've always treated people with respect whether you work in the mailroom or you're the president of the company. And the people in general have really just embraced me for that."
Paul Wall laid the groundwork for his breakthrough moment for a full decade. Like many folks of his generation, Paul dreamed of one day rapping professionally back from his days as a teenager growing up on Houston's Northwest Side. "But just recognizing that it was an uphill battle I thought of trying to work my way into the industry in various other ways," he recalls. Shrewdly, at age 14 he began doing street team promotions in Houston for record labels like Def Jam, Cash Money, and No Limit, while honing his rhyming skills on the side. Eventually by 1997 his circle of street team clients came to include Michael 5000 Watts, impresario of local mixtape juggernaut Swisha House.
"Michael knew I rapped," says Paul. "But I finally got down with him on the music side in 1999 when I did an intro for his radio show. And he showed me a lot of love from that, and put me on the tapes. And I got a huge response. Honestly, the response was so big that people just started asking, what's up with that dude? So he started letting me get on more and more mixtapes."
Inspired by the "Screwed and Chopped" musical innovations of Houston's own legendary DJ Screw (who pioneered the art of slowing and pitching down records and chopping and repeating lines of lyrics to mesmerizing effect), Paul Wall further ingratiated himself to the regional music scene by developing into an accomplished DJ in his own right. With these dual talents in his arsenal he launched an underground recording career that saw his first four independently released albums for the Paid In Full label - "Get Your Mind Correct," "The Chick
Magnet," "Controversy Sells," and "How To Be a Player" - each chart for at least 15 consecutive weeks on the Billboard Rap Chart. Paul still marvels at his initial success: "The style of music that we were creating in Houston and Texas
was just so different that I never thought that the rest of the world would embrace it the way that they have now. A lot of my music is based on the Texas culture and Skrew culture."
"Comin' up as a rapper from the South my inspirations and pioneers were artists like UGK,
Lil' Keke, Fat Pat, Screwed Up Clique, and Street Military," says Paul. "People that were in Houston just doing it on a local scene, and that I saw represented our culture and the day to day life I saw in Houston. They
represented the way we talked, the way we act, the type of drugs we used, the crease in the jeans, the kind of car we drive, the way we fix our cars up. All the things they were talking about when they were rapping were things that I was living."
"It was terrible," Paul admits of some of those rough early years. "But I've never been the type to make excuses. I just try to find a solution. I just deal with it and move on."
Such fortitude and perseverance hasn't only formed Paul's life and music, but helped spur other aspects of his career as well. Creating nearly as much of a buzz as his music amongst his rapping peers is Paul's skill at designing custom made gold fronts and grills. What began as a side promotional hustle of Paul passing out flyers for a local jeweler at age 17 has now evolved into TV Jewelry, a company that proudly counts rap superstars
Lil Wayne, Kanye West,
Lil' Jon, Master P,
Nelly, Slick Rick, and many others amongst its growing clientele.
It's difficult to imagine a more appropriate secondary business for this most enterprising, dedicated, and endearing of artists. Paul's future stands to shine as brightly as the rocks that festoon his wide smile. Yet his focus forever remains being just Paul Wall.
"It's just now starting to get on a national level," reflects Paul, "but I don't get caught up in all the bullshit in being a celebrity. Even locally I never got caught up in a my-shit-don't-stink-type attitude. And because of that there's people that weren't even fans of my music, but when they meet me and see the type of person I am, they go back and listen to the music and are like, you know what, man, that shit is jammin'!"
Spoken like a true people's champion.
Hit songs include --
- Break 'Em Off
- I'm Throwed
- Sittin' Sidewayz
- They Don't Know
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