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."
Thanks largely to his dynamic third verse behind fellow H-Town pro's Slim Thug and Mike Jones on 2005's hottest single, "Still Tippin'," Paul's nimble flow, clever wordplay, and molasses thick Texas drawl have been embraced by hordes of new fans in recent months. Yet truth be known Paul Wall's been laying the groundwork for his breakthrough moment for a full decade. Like many folks of his generation, Paul dreamt 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 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.