It's not everyday that a Hip Hop artist gets crowned "The People's Champ." Most of the aliases held by emcees are spoken into existence from the artist themselves. But for Houston rap figure Paul Wall, he truly earned his name from the people. Acquiring his name in a time when southern Hip Hop wasn't so in demand, Paul hustled his way from independence to major stardom.
He has seasoned himself as a music industry veteran with his Billboard topping debut The People's Champ, his critically acclaimed verse on Nelly's "Grillz," and by parlaying his funds into his subsequent booming grill business.
On hiatus since his 2007 release, Get Money, Stay True, Paul returns to independent roots at Asylum, ready to bring in the New Year with a new album, The Fast Life. Headlining a tour of the same name, he sat down to talk with HipHopDX about everything from performing on the road, his longtime friend-turned adversary-back to friend again Chamillionaire and his dreams of performing at Barack Obama's inauguration. There is no doubt that Paul Wall is one of the few Hip Hop artists left that is for the people, by the people.
HipHopDX: How's the tour working out thus far?
Paul Wall: Oh, it's been going real good. I been going to a lot of small towns and cities that I've never been to, a few military bases and stuff like that. The soldiers there been showing me a lot of love and it's been off the chain, man.
DX: Now The Fast Life is your first album since Get Money, Stay True, and being that Hip Hop sales have undergone such a tremendous decline what have you been doing outside of Hip Hop to stay busy?
Paul Wall: I got a clothing line with my boy Travis Barker called Expensive Taste, and the website [click here]. That's something that I'm real passionate about because it's just clothes that we wear on a everyday basis - cutting edge clothes with designs and logos that go against the grain that I'm sure a lot of people are going to ban and a lot of kids are going to get kicked out of school for wearing, but our thought process is we're going to wear clothes that we want to wear and we don't care what anybody else say. It's been real throwed and real off the chain because we been coming up with some great designs. Along with that, you know we still got the grills going too! The website for that is GrillsByPaulWall.com. We sell a lot of jewelry, not just the grills. We got a whole line of watches, me and my boy Johnny Dane.
DX: Speaking of the grill business, how's everything working out with that?
Paul Wall: It's been going real good, it's been going real good! Especially with our new store in [Houston's] The Galleria. We put out a store in Sharpstown too, but you know Sharpstown is a little bit more in the hood, and The Galleria is more where the rich folks go to shop. So we getting the hood money and we getting the high-class money too.
DX: Who is the most shocking person you ever made a grill for?
Paul Wall: Um, probably Brooke Hogan, Hulk Hogan's daughter. We made one for Kendra [Wilkinson] from Girl's Next Door, you know, the Playboy chick. That was pretty shocking too!
DX: With changing times, its imperative that you get to interact with your fans to secure the base. As an artist an tour, have you changed your live shows or interactions much?
Paul Wall: Well the only way I really changed is now I do more songs. When I went on tour with Tech N9ne [click to read] I learned alot from him, because he puts on such a hell of a live performance. I went on tour with him earlier in the summer last summer and I picked up a lot just performance-wise. But I'm "The People's Champ," so I be interacting with my fans like nobody else I ever met, that's just what I do that's just who I am. I think that's one of the key main ingredients in securing your fan base and keeping them happy.
DX: I know that you and Chamillionaire have had some differences in the past. Have amends been fully made between you two, or is there still some salt left in your relationship?
Paul Wall: Nah, amends have definitely been made 100%. We just did a show together a couple weeks ago in Houston, a car show that was pretty dope. So I think amends have definitely been made; ain't no hard feelings at all on either one of our parts.
DX: So should we be on the lookout for a Paul Wall/Chamillionaire collaboration album? Maybe "Get Ya Mind Correct '09"?
Paul Wall: Man that would be a nice thing, it would be a beautiful thing but I don't think its going to happen. Mainly because were on separate record labels, but its something Id love to do. Whether or not he wants to do it, I don't know. But I'd love to do it.
DX: One of the best Paul Wall verses of last year was on Z-Ro's "Paper." In the recession, do you feel that mentality more than ever or are we kind of in this together?
Paul Wall: Thank you man. Well, I think that we all in this together man. That's my boy; I just did a song on his new album, and he did a song for my new album. We do a lot of mixtapes and stuff together too, so him and Lil Keke, they're two of my really good friends; we do a lot of music together. Anytime I'm in the studio with them, it's like an experience that I can tell my kids about later on.
DX: In the wake of Pimp C's passing and with successful artists emerging from other states, do you feel that the Texas Hip Hop movement is as strong as it was three or four years ago?
Paul Wall: I think most of the artists here in Texas got so successful that everybody just took a step back to relax and enjoy our success a little bit. I see my boy Slim Thug [click to read] out there on the grind, Chamillionaire [click to read] definitely on the grind. Now you got new artists coming out like Lil Keke, who used to live here in Texas. You've got Z-Ro holding it down, so its encouraging to see so many people put out good music from Texas still. The fanbase still supporting it and loving it.
DX: I've heard you speak about hustling a few times, and not necessarily the street grind. What, in your opinion ,is the definition of hustle?
Paul Wall: Just getting it. Getting that paper. Whether it's in the streets or its a nine-to-five, you can be hustling in many different aspects. Whenever you ain't afraid to grind and ain't afraid to put in that work, that's a hustle, man.
DX: "Grillz" was a huge national success for you, and "I'm Throwed" was one of the biggest street anthems of '07. Whats the creative process like when you and J.D. get in the studio?
Paul Wall: Man I don't know what it is, but he's just so talented. With the stuff he comes up with and the tracks and with the hooks. The ideas he has, he's not afraid to try something.You tell him you don't like something, he's going to go back to the drawing board and get something else. In the studio, you see his whole resume, all the plaques he's got and all the number-one hits hes had on his wall. He's the type of person, you can't get him to make a track and then send it [as an] MP3. You actually have to go in and sit down with him and collaborate fo'real to come up with a hit. In this day and age, with technology the way it is, that's a blessing too, because as busy as people be sometimes that's the only option you have. But there's nothing like going in the studio with somebody like Jermaine Dupri [click to read].
DX: Did y'all cook up some heat for your new album?
Paul Wall: Nah, not on this new one but hopefully, we can get something on the next one.
DX: Most people that I speak to tell me that before they know what you look like, they think they're listening to a black dude. Do you catch any flack for being a white street rapper?
Nah, not really. It don't make no difference to me one way or the other. I don't think being white defines who I am. That's like me being fat or me having a grill in my mouth thats just a characteristic about me. Know what I'm sayin'? I don't think it makes me who I am. But nah, I don't get any flack for it.
DX: This is the first time in history that we have a President Elect thats extremely in-tune with urban culture. What type of influence do you think Barack Obama has on Hip Hop?
I think he has a huge influence because being that he likes Hip Hop, and listens to it; he's real in touch with what's going down. Also, I feel like we have a bigger responsibility to uphold our duties as Hip Hop icons, musicians or rappers - whatever you want to call it. We got a responsibility we have to live up to now. You got the President of the country thats down! What if he got my CD in his deck right now, or my new song on his iPod? It's something that really might happen.
DX: So you feel pressure to make more "positive music"?
Yeah a little bit man because I voted for Obama. But what if I come out talking 'bout I support Obama this and that, man they going to get on Fox News talking about they got someone like me supporting Obama and I'm talking about sex and drugs and street lifestyle. So I don't know if he wants that kind of support from somebody like me, but at the same time, those same people talking about drugs and alcohol was supporting [George W.] Bush and he ain't have a problem with it, so it's all good. Dude definitely made me sit back and say, "Okay let me make some positive music. Maybe I'll be performing at his inauguration! Bring my grills."
DX: Talk to us about the move from Atlantic to Asylum a little. How did you react to that decision?
Paul Wall: Atlantic
showed me a lot of love, but with Asylum, we put the first album out, The People's Champ [click to read], with them so it's like I'm back to where it started with me. Plus there's a lot more control to do what we want to do. They support us 100% with everything we do, we had a lot of success in the past and I'm looking forward to this new album because I feel we'll have a lot of success again.
DX: Last but not least, what's next for Paul Wall?
Just grind and hustle. Same thing just staying on the road, staying busy, and staying across country on the road. Putting out new clothes and new grills and new songs. Party don't stop, man, I got to keep the ball rolling.