Paul Wall: Smile For Me

Paul Wall’s smile costs a fortune. Perhaps he protects his investment in being a man of few words and many blinding smirks. The Houston rapper, who lives at Asylum/ Swishahouse Records,is on the fringe of releasing The People’s Champ to more fans than he’s ever had in his releases. With supporting appearances by Freeway, Screwed […]

Paul Wall’s smile costs a fortune. Perhaps he protects his investment in being a man of few words and many blinding smirks. The Houston rapper, who lives at Asylum/ Swishahouse Records,is on the fringe of releasing The People’s Champ to more fans than he’s ever had in his releases.

With supporting appearances by Freeway, Screwed Up Click, Bun-B, T.I., and Lil’ Wayne, Paul’s discusses the vision for his album. Also the White rapper discusses racial equality, the platinum grill-game, and his on and off-the-mic influences. If the projections are right, Paul Wall’s about to give the world something to smile over… The People’s Champ will be in stores any day now. What can people expect from your first major label debut?

Paul Wall: The whole agenda with the album was to rep the Texas culture and introduce it to the rest of the world in a language that they can understand. You mean in terms of Screw?

Paul Wall: Screw is when you slow down the music; chop it up is when you repeat parts of the word or parts of the beat. Technically it’s not screwed if DJ Screw didn’t do it, but at the same time we honor his legacy by calling it Screw music. By any other name it wouldn’t be right. “Drive Slow” on Kanye’s album sounds a bit like a Hip-Hop horror-movie score. Why is your style so eerie?

Paul Wall: It kind of reflects the lifestyle of Houston because it’s real slow and laid back. We just enjoy life, we ain’t in a rush. It seems like despite its ups and downs, the Houston rap scene is flourishing once again. Slim Thug, Mike Jones, and others have erupted. What’s your take on it?

Paul Wall: We’ve been definitely climbing up the ladder toward the top. The light of the nation is finally getting shined on Houston or what’s going on in Houston. Now that the Houston style is starting to get popular, I definitely see it going up and staying up…we’re definitely making a mark amongst the nation, amongst other rappers and other artists. But at the same time we’re doing the same type of sound and the same style that we’ve been doing for 15 years…so it’s like nothing really has changed. Who did you listen to growing up?

Pall Wall: UGK and Screwed Up Click. I know you’re working with Kanye and Freeway from Roc-A-Fella. Who are you feeling away from home?

Paul Wall: I’ve always been a fan of Freeway because his style is different from the norm. I look at Freeway the same way I look at the Dip Set. They’re rappers who rap about hustlin’ but not from a rapper’s aspect. They rap about it from a hustler’s aspect so I always was a fan of their music. Cam’ron and Juelz, their style is different from the norm too. That’s kind of why I’ve always been a fan of their stuff. What can people take away from this album about you?

Paul Wall: This is my fifth album out and me as an artist…I’ve grown a lot lyrically as a person and on the business side too. I’m not the same artist I was a long time ago, I’ve definitely grown up and that reflects in my music. As we discuss growth, I gotta ask: what was it like growing up Paul Wall?

Paul Wall: My dad was a dope fiend, so my mom raised me alone but she eventually remarried. The struggles I saw her go through and the demons I watched her fight just inspired me to overcome whatever battles I had or whatever hurdles I had. You seem pretty nonchalant about that…

Paul Wall: Like I said, she inspired me to jump over hurdles and keep running. If I fall down, I gotta get back up and just keep running and watching her just really inspired me. So how did Hip-Hop get in the mix then?

Paul Wall: I would rap when I was a little kid at the lunch table, on the way to school, on the school bus just hanging with my homies. Everybody rapped. Somebody beat-boxed or beat on the table with a pencil and then everybody freestyled and whether you say one line and fall off or whatever, everybody had to say something. It was something I had a knack for. I was real clever, I kept people’s attention, I made people laugh, and I just stuck with it. The DJ’ing came around a little later in high school. Progressing from the amateur days, how did you get connected in the industry?

Paul Wall: I started doing street promotions for Michael “5000” Watts. He was one of the main DJ’s on the radio stations as well as he had some hot mixtapes around my neighborhood. He kind of took me under his wing on the street promotional tip and I do a lot of street promotions for him and for the Swishahouse. From that, I kind of earned my stripes and earned my respect on the street promo side of it because a lot of other record labels would come to me to do their street promotions. I did a lot of stuff for No Limit, a lot of stuff for Def Jam, a few things for Cash Money and I did that for a long time in Houston when I was 14, 15; all up until I was 20, 21. I was just doing what I had to do to make my name known, make my presence known. Not just as a rapper but just as Paul Wall as the entity, as the hustle. Whatever the occasion calls for I’m going to do it. Also, being that I promoted so many labels, I had easy access to the records and I had some friends who had some equipment but they didn’t really have the records so we pretty much just teamed up and the pieces of the puzzle went hand in hand. I DJ’d a lot of parties. And you have a radio show, correct?

Paul Wall: XM 66 Raw on Monday nights and Tuesday mornings and it’s going down. As cliché as this may be, did you experience any racism in your career?

Paul Wall: No. It’s not as big in Houston. Of course, it’s across America. There’s bigotry and there’s a little hatred and racism but you especially see it from the older people who come from older generations, but we live in the MTV generation where race isn’t an issue. If you make it an issue, then it’s an issue. But it’s not an issue, especially in Houston. I see it more up North and in the East, and even in the West where there’s a lot of separatism and a lot of division and there’s a divide amongst the races but you don’t see that in Houston. We’re American. We respect you for who you are or whatever you are we respect that but above and beyond all other things we’re human. Tell me more about that jewelry hustle you mentioned earlier…

Paul Wall: We do all types of jewelry but of course we specialize in a custom grill. That started off when I met up with my boy Crime [from New York]. He came down to Houston to do grills and this was the first time I had ever seen anybody do a removable grill in person. We used to see them on the videos like with the Wu-Tang Clan [“C.R.E.A.M.”] but we never had that in Houston [before that all we had was the permanent grills]. I did promotion for him [in exchange for a grill] but I brought him so much business that he ended up having me open up my own shop to do the grills out of. From there, my popularity started growing. Eventually I hooked up with my boy TV Johnny and we opened up a store where he got the workshop and I got the clientele. We got a store inside of Sharpstown Mall [if interested, call] 832-661-5664. Who are some of your celebrity clientele?

Paul Wall: We just did new grill for Diddy…Diddy got like twelve grills. I did Nelly, Kanye West, Chingy, David Banner, Lil’ Scrappy, Lil’ Jon and the Eastside Boys, T.I., of course, my boy Mike Jones, a lot of artists in Houston, Master P, Brooke Valentine…Pretty much everybody in Houston that got a grill. Even the Transplants [an Alternative Rock group], and Travis Barker [of Blink 182]…So it’s going down. Besides your mom, at the end of the day, what keeps you motivated?

Paul Wall: Just the knowledge that it’s all going to end one day keeps me going. I’m a part of something that’s bigger than me. I’m not bigger than the movement the movement is bigger than me.