How much lean is too much lean? Commonly sold in “pints” they range anywhere from $250 to $400 in price. In Houston, a pint can sell for up to $1,000, and in Atlanta pints have reportedly been sold for $1,200. Ever so popular in the South, lean has also been known as sizzurp, purple drank or Texas Tea. Though rappers such as Lil Wayne and scHoolboy Q have brought the spotlight to this codeine laced cough syrup in more recent years, this Houston native self-admittedly indulges in the substance 30 days out of the month. Paul Wall, a Swishahouse veteran and one of the originators of the Po Up lifestyle, agreed to let DX follow him around for the day, to find out more about what it actually means to be the Po Up Poet.
Before this chick magnet went platinum, Paul Wall started off as a youngin’ with a serious dedication to diamonds, not only in his chain, but also in his mouth. This “Screwston” native started off traveling city-to-city, selling the two things he loved the most: Grills and mixtapes out of the trunk of his car. With his strong southern influence, he has managed to bring both of these things to the mainstream. Interacting with fans throughout the day, Paul’s actions spoke louder than his words ever could, even with $25,000 worth of diamonds in his mouth.
Many of his tracks have been cemented in our brains as some of the best bangers to come out of the South. His first hit single Sittin’ Sidewayz released in August 2005, reached a level of success so high that Jay Z and Lupe Fiasco reached out and asked for permission to make a remix. Another classic record, titled “Girl,” was released just half a year later and peaked at #35 on the Billboard Hot 100 while making every man put their egos to the side and work things out with wifey. Paul had features so undeniably hot, you could have easily confused the track as being his own. That could be the reason why Kanye West was down with Wall including “Drive Slow” on his first studio album, The People’s Champ. All of this is discussed in the comments section below.
Swishahouse & Slim Thug’s Inspiration
Paul Wall: Well Swishahouse, it started off as just a crew making mixtapes and that’s when I got down with it back in like 1998. It wasn’t a record label at first it was all just for promotion, for fun, and we just had a crew representin’ for our hood. Eventually it turned into a record label but you know, when my record contract came up it was just time for me to get some independent money and get my own money. That’s kind of what Swishahouse has always been, it’s been like an incubator, an independent type of label. Slim Thug came over to Swishahouse then he branched out and did his own thing. Chamillionaire and I came to Swishahouse then we branched off and did our own thing. I came back to Swishahouse but once again went off and did my own thing. But I’m always goin’ to represent Swishahouse, it’s somethin’ that we represent for life, know what I’m sayin.
DX: XXL made it sound like if Swishahouse dropped you after six years and left you without any knowledge on how to put out your own music, then Slim Thug came to save you out of the rut and grabbed you under his wing.
Paul Wall: Naw! I mean it kind of is true in a way because I never wanted to be CEO. I just want to be an artist. I like making music. I don’t want to be the one tryin’ to figure out how we’re going to market the album. I mean I’m good and capable of that, but I would rather spend my time making music and being an artist. It was just my time to do my own independent thing. But no, Swishahouse never let me out like that. It was more like a mutual thing. They actually looked out for me by lettin’ me go down my own independent route, and my contract was up anyways so you know, when your contract is up, your contract is up.
We could of renegotiated for a new contract or somethin’ like that but you know, when you’re doing it yourself and you’re making your own money independently, you’re getting a bigger cut. It’s just a different stage in my career where I’m trying to take complete control of my music. So wit’ the music that I’m making too, I’m making more music that I want to make. I’m making more themed music. #Checkseason was all about gettin’ money. Po Up Poet, we all about leanin’ and drinkin’—that type of music. So these projects and mixtapes we put out are goin’ to have their own theme to it and we’re going to circulate it around these one central themes.
But yeah with Swishahouse there’s no ill will against them at all. They’ve always looked out for me, every single one of them, and they’ve always had my back. Even as I branched out and started doin’ things on my own, they fully supported me.
Slim Thug definitely did take me under his wing though, and showed me different aspects of the game. He had been doing it with his own crew, with his own label for longer than I ever had. He really just motivated me lyrically. I got into a slump in the booth kind of, so going into the studio with Slim motivated me. He inspired me and got me back to when we were growing up on Antoine and what it was like. He inspired me to get back to that stage in my life where we were real raw with it, and he really brought that back out of me, so shout out to Slim Thug!
DX: How did he manage to bring that out of you?
Paul Wall: Well you know just being in the studio with him, just walking down memory lane with your boy and things like that. Being in the studio with him was like getting ready for a big boxing match and we sparring in there! That’s what it was like! We’ve always been comrades, homeboys, colleagues and friends but he’s still someone that I’ve always looked up to, admired and respected. He was out the gate with Swishahouse a little before me so he’s always inspired me, and he’s always been a real leader who I follow. Shout out to Slim Thug!
How Often Paul Wall Sips Lean
DX: Do you still feel like the people’s champ?
Paul Wall: Already! Always! Yup! I’m still the people’s champ and the reason why I still feel like that is because I don’t ever say no to the people. I do my music for the people, for the fan base, you know they’re the one’s that keep me going and keep me motivated with it.
DX: Dope… You’re next album is called Po Up Poet. So I must ask, how often do you sip on lean per month?
Paul Wall: In a month, I mean… thirty times in a month! [Laughs]
DX: So daily! [Laughs]
Paul Wall: It varies but when you over indulge in anything whether it’s cupcakes or fried foods, alcohol or lean you always gotta know when to say when. You can’t take it too far. There’s health risks in anything, even if you’re just drinking soda or drinking lemonade! If you drink too much lemonade you drink too much sugar and you could get diabetes.
DX: Your’e actually going to turn into a lemon! That’s what the hell is gonna happen!
Paul Wall: Yeah! [Laughs] I mean we definitely get muddy but we take a couple days off here and there. We definitely drink lots of water, stay exercising all that kind of stuff. Because you know, those are the kind of things where if all you do is sip lean or smoke all day, and you ain’t doin’ nothing positive for your body, then you’re going to tear your body apart! You gotta do positive things for your body, like be proactive. Drink your water like I said, get your health right, get your eating right, get your exercise right! So that when you get a lil’ muddy or you doing your thang, then you ain’t got no big effect like that on your body!
DX: Does TV Johnny actually listen to Hip Hop?
Paul Wall: Oh yeah! [Laughs]
DX: I was listening to him rap on YouTube and I was thinking, “Wow! He raps exactly like he talks!” [Laughs]
Paul Wall: Yeah that’s my boy Johnny! Wuzzup baby! [Laughs]
DX: How did you guys meet?
Paul Wall: Man, I was a wholesale customer of his. Back in the day he didn’t have a store front he just did wholesale. I would basically just be selling grills out of my trunk. I’d go city-to-city and post up flyers since I’d be selling the grills along with other stuff. I was a wholesale client of his. So we took it from there and we became business partners!
Inside Paul Wall’s Grills Business
DX: How did the whole infatuation with grills start?
Paul Wall: Well they’ve always been popular around my neighborhood, or in Houston or just in the South. They’ve been around for as long as I can remember. It was somethin’ that you know, was just like another piece of jewelry or fashion accessory for when you’re ballin’ or when you get to a certain stature. You know you got certain cars, certain cribs, certain types of girls, you got chains and you got a grill! It’s just another item you gotta have, another item on the check list!
DX: You took grills to a whole other level.
Paul Wall: Well you know, that’s just one thing with a creative mind: When we used to go in to get grills it would be limited because the diamond setting would be very limited. So I kinda pushed Johnny to go a little further with it and asked, “Why can’t we do this? Why can’t we do that? Why can’t we put diamonds on the inside of the tooth and on the outside?” You know, just some crazy stuff!
I remember one time I went up to him and I said, “I want diamonds on top of diamonds!” So you know, just imagination and creativity. Part of what drives us into creative mode too is the customer. Customers always want to be different than the next person, so when they come to us with their ideas that they’ve been thinking about for five, six years like, “Man I got this idea I’ve always wanted this!” That’s where it always starts and we try and develop new techniques and designs.
DX: Have you ever thrown your grill in the garbage and didn’t even realize it?
Paul Wall: Yeah! Which time though? [Laughs]
Paul Wall On Married Life, Offers Industry Advice
DX: You’ve been married for nine years now to your wife Crystal. You also work in an industry that glorifies infidelities and one night stands. What would you say to glorify marriage?
Paul Wall: Well that’s why I always wear my wedding ring. That’s why I’m not ashamed of it. I’m proud. You know, coming from a broken dysfunctional family, you know, it’s something that I always aspired to be—a good husband and a good father.
So like you said, in this culture we don’t really glorify the married life too much, but it’s something that I don’t know why some people would be ashamed of it. When you have a beautiful wife, that’s what you want! You don’t grow up saying, “I wanna be havin‘ one night stands for the rest of my life!” Well, I guess some people do but, not me.
I want to settle down with somebody who’s going to be beautiful forever and I can love her for the rest of my life. I don’t want to just spread my love to a bunch of random people, you know what I’m sayin’? So yeah, I take a lot of pride in that—being a good husband, being a good father.
DX: That’s awesome. Your greatest memory during the time of the creation of The People’s Champ?
Paul Wall: Shit, umm… that might have to be recording “Drive Slow” with Kanye West. Because really it’s his song but he just let me put it on my album too. But that was probably one of my greatest memories off of that album.
Or even just the whole vibe in the studio while recording “Live From The Gridiron” in Houston. We just had a whole bunch of different people working with us that would all come through the studio. Freeway was coming through there, B.G., Lil Wayne! That was real live! There was a lot of good memories from that album man, a lot of good memories!
DX: Dope. Most valuable lesson learned through the industry?
Paul Wall: To keep an open mind. As an artist you get so set in your ways, and your way is always right, and everybody else is wrong. The industry always definitely tries to change you, mold you and reshape you. That can be good and you can grow with it, or it can be bad where it can tear you apart. But I think keeping an open mind is one of the biggest lessons.
DX: Most expensive lesson learned?
Paul Wall: Fighting the record labels! Because you lose a lot of money even if you’re right, they’ll make sure you’re wrong! [Laughs]
DX: So have a lawyer pretty much?
Paul Wall: Nah not even that! I mean like, too many times I seen people watch the Def Jam DVD where they see Dame Dash cussin‘ out Kevin Liles, and they think that’s how you gotta be. That might work for some people, but in that instance where Dame Dash was cussin’ out Kevin Liles, that was a different type of level that was going on right there. Roc-a-Fella was on a different level.
Not every rapper or not every CEO can just go in and cuss out the label. You’re not going to get nowhere like that. But people feel like that’s what they need to do, and that’s how they’ve got to treat their label. Like, “We gotta bogart them. We gotta show them we know what we talkin’ bout!” I think when you do that, you burn a lot of bridges. So, I think that’s a good lesson—not everybody can be Damon Dash! Let Damon Dash be Damon Dash! Not everybody is P.Diddy, not everybody is Jay Z. Be yourself!
Discussing The Obama Administration & White Rappers
DX: You were a big supporter of Obama in 2008. Years have passed. Do you still feel the same?
Paul Wall: Yeah. I mean I know he lost a lot of support over the years from a lot of people but I’ve always been one to look for the good in people because no one’s perfect. I appreciate the good things he’s done, and I know he’s tried to do a lot more. I’ve seen the hardship and the struggle and the politics that go along with it, and he had a lot of support but he had a lot of opposition. There was a lot of people who didn’t want to see him succeed so, there were a lot of policies and a lot of structures he was trying to get passed but he just couldn’t get any ground because he couldn’t get the proper support. I definitely support him. I definitely do.
DX: Would you “po up” with him?
Paul Wall: Already! Yeah man! I’m tryin’ to be like Willie Nelson and Bill Clinton! We tryin‘ to lean on the top of the White House like they was smokin’ on top of the White House! We definitely tryin’ to lean in the White House baby, wuzzup! [Laughs]
DX: You have a song called “First Time You Say No” launched in 2012, and you now also have a song called “No Favors” which is part of your “Po Up Poet” album launching in just a few days. The first song is mostly about being the nice guy and not being appreciated for it, while “No Favors” is just straight up, no more Mr.Nice Guy! Do you think life has transformed you into a different person?
Paul Wall: Well there’s just different aspects to it. “First Time You Say No” is about being under appreciated because regardless of if you said yes multiple times the first time you say no rules out all the times you said yes. You can look out for somebody, you can show people love, do favors and break your neck for somebody. But the first time that you’re unavailable when they ask for something, all the other times don’t mean nothing.
I actually got inspired by Beyoncé. She had a song that was kind of the same way. I just always thought that that was some real shit. She was just sayin’ the first time you say no it’s like if you never said yes.
DX: Now it’s just no favors at all?
Paul Wall: Yeah! [Laughs] “No Favors” is kind of the same thing. “No Favors” is kind of like, people are always askin’ you for a handout or askin’ you to look out for them, or for their kids and stuff like that. But people forget that, yeah you always want to look out for and help out other people but not if it puts you in a bind. You got to take care of your own front and take care of yourself first.
DX: You once said, “I am not a White rapper, I am a rapper who happens to be White.” Could you elaborate that?
Paul Wall: If you label yourself as any type of rapper you’re just hindering yourself and limiting how far you can go. I don’t want to be, “Oh he’s a White rapper. He’s good for a White guy”—or you know, puttin’ me in a category with all the other White rappers, and that’s the only genre I can be in.
I don’t want to be in a genre with a bunch of White rappers. I want to be in a genre with a bunch of rappers like Pimp C, Lil’ Keke or Slim Thug, you know? If any one of them was White, that would be cool too. I don’t care what color anybody is. I want to be in a genre with rappers with the same mind frame, with the same culture I come from. There’s other White rappers too down in Texas, so there’s other White rappers that are part of that crew as well. But you know, when you just think of white rappers and Hip Hop there’s certain rappers you think of and that’s cool… But when I make my music and I step out the door, I don’t say, “Hey I’m the White guy. The White guy’s back!”
I’m Paul Wall. I am White, but I’m also six feet tall and I don’t label myself as, “The Six Foot Tall Rapper” who only hangs with all the other six feet tall rappers. I just happen to be six feet tall, you know?
DX: Speaking of tall, I heard you say you think dinosaurs are a hoax?
Paul Wall: Yeah. I just don’t believe everything they tell me. So, I don’t believe in dinosaurs, man! Don’t believe all the hype, bro!