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. With the release of his highly anticipated major label debut LP, The People’s Champ 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 24-year-old Houston, Texan. “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. ”
We interview Paul Wall!
HIP: I didn’t hear you on Howard Stern, how did it go?
PAUL: He’s so crazy. He’s so funny. You can’t take what he says personally because I knew he might say something that might offend me. But I’m a fan so I have respect for what he does. It’s just comedy for me. Just like when you go to a comedy club and get ripped on. You just have to take it for what its worth.
How has the experience been on a major record label?
Off the chain. It’s been amazing right down the list. Everyone is excepting of me and it’s been beautiful. It’s great to be a part of the Texas movement that is happening right now.
Where did you get the nickname “The People’s Champ”?
It’s a nickname one of my homeboys gave me a few years back. He told me I was the people’s champ because I showed love to people. It’s all about love. It’s something that founder of Swisha House, Michael Watts, taught me. If you show love they’ll keep showing you love back. If you stop showing love for whatever reason they’ll stop showing love back.
So you believe in karma.
Some of it is karma but it’s also something I grew reading in the Bible. It just all made sense. If you humble yourself you are going to be exhausted. And if you exhaust yourself you are going to be humble. I just took that and ran with it.
When did you decide that being a hip-hop artist was what you wanted to do?
This was always a huge hobby of mine. I’ve been in love with hip-hop for a long time, but like I said it was a hobby. Mike Watts taught me how to take it from a hobby into a career. When I started making money off it I decided to make it full time.
Was your style natural?
Yeah. I’m just a product of my environment. I’m a product of the Houston culture.
When you were doing it for a hobby what were you doing? Writing rhymes? Making beats?
It was just something we did. We’d freestyle on the school bus or at the lunch table. Then I’d write a rap and hear a song on the radio and rewrite it. We would also come up with our own songs.
Did you bring any of the old songs on to this record?
Well this is my fifth album so I’ve worked the kinks out. But this is all 100% new material except “They Don’t Know”—but we remixed it. We did that because we got a huge response.
Is it funny that some fans will think you are a new artist?
A lot of people think that. That’s how they look at it. They think I’m a new artist. That is fun but I wish they would look at my other albums because it would increase my paycheck. (Laughs) This is my major label debut and that is phenomenal.
Do you like working with other artists?
I like it because I get to work with other artists. Some have different work ethics and other ways of working. So I like to see that.
I think the best tracks honestly are your solo tracks. It seems a lot of artists like to get back up from other artists because they don’t have the skills.
Thanks, that means a lot.
How do you put together the songs?
Sometimes we have a concept but some other times we have a beat before the concept. It just pops and you know. You do have to work it but it’s always different.
“Internet Goin Nuts” has a wild sample, how did that come together?
The producer who made that beat came up with the beat and the hook so from there we worked. It was his idea. Other times like with “Riding Dirty” with Trey Songz, Trey came up with that hook. I told him ‘we got to use that.’ So I made my boys make a beat around that hooks.
It has to be powerful to know that you can have someone write a hook and you can drop a good rhyme and make it work.
It is. But we’re just having fun with it.
Does it get easier?
It’s work. It’s always going to be work, but its fun. You have a job and you treat it like a job then you’ll be successful at it.
Did Howard ask about the teeth?
Yeah. I told him I was going to make him a grill. (We both laugh)
I read that you make them. What did say about that?
He was real curious about it like how I make them and how much they cost. He’s cool.
That’s the same thing I’d be wondering.
Do you take a mold of someone’s mouth?
You just go to the dentist and they make a mold of your mouth and they send it to us through the mail. It started off as a jewelry store and repair shop. We started creating our own jewelry and we would make people a grill.
How is it to wear?
You get used to it like a retainer or braces. You get used to it.
You got that entrepreneurial side in you.
I’m trying to get it baby. (We laugh) I’m trying to make my money.
Does it bug you that you will get compared on color not on skills necessarily?
People are going to compare you but sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad. I’m Paul Wall and that is all I can be. When I’m compared to others I’m usually flattered. I’m just me.
+ Charlie Craine