Hip-hop is a lot like boxing. Lyrical pugilist duke it out every day for the title of the best there ever was, the best there ever will be. There’s a lot of training involved. And every time an artist steps out of the shadows and into the hot spotlight at the center of the ring, eager fans cry out for blood, sweat and hard-hitting rhymes. Some may have counted Paul Wall down for the count, but the Texas trunk rattler is ready to knock ’em out again with his forthcoming release, Heart of a Champion.
Ever since Paul arrived on the national scene with “Sittin’ Sidewayz,” the Grammy nominated artist’s been expanding his empire with Grills by Paul Wall and his Expensive Taste clothing line. But now it’s time for him to step back in the ring and deliver the rhymes. XXLMag.com caught up with the Houston rapper to chop it up about everything from gun control and civil right son Africa to squashing beef with Chamillionaire and why Eminem comparisons are irrelevant.
XXLMag.com: What’s the inspiration behind the title of your new album?
Paul Wall: I feel like I got the heart of a champion so never count me out. I’m always gonna grind and do my thing. It’s mostly grind music and motivational music. It’s about the fact that we are in a recession and people give up easy, but with the heart of champion you never give up until you’re successful. So it’s motivation to never give up and let someone count you out.
XXLMag.com: Do you think there needs to be more music to address the real issues everyday people are experiencing now?
Paul Wall: It goes both ways. Sometimes if you make music about the struggle they can relate and feel the pain and release a little. At the same time you don’t want it too depressing. You gotta have that motivation in there. It’s cool to have music about not wearing jewelry but I’m motivating if you see me shinin’ ’cause then you know you can get it too. The public needs someone to look up to. So you don’t want to look up to someone who’s broke.
XXLMag.com: You and Chamillionaire had a longstanding beef. Where did the tension start?
Paul Wall: He beat me out and won the Grammy. I think there was a lot of jealousy there but you can’t compare your success to another person’s success. My own walk of life is a lot different than his. So to see how far I’ve come and made it is a huge success no matter who I compare it to. Regardless of who you are there will be somebody who is doing it bigger and better and more successful. It took some good friends to tell me that and call me out on things.
XXLMag.com: Is that how you guys were able to get over that?
Paul Wall: I had to be real and recognize I’m my own success with or without an award. It doesn’t define who you are as a person, a man or artist. I give credit to Pimp C calling me and Chamillionaire out on the song “Knocking Doors Down,” and then talking to me and Cham separately to help us put our differences aside. That helped a lot to have somebody I respected and admired to sit down and tell me that I am tripping and need to snap out of it. It helped us put the differences aside and then we started talking again, making music and now we are on tour together.
XXLMag.com: What is the nature of your relationship now with Chamillionaire? Do you two still have the same rapport?
Paul Wall: We were apart for five years and it was an unspoken hatred we had for each other and we didn’t speak to each other. That was nonsense and bickering and things that built up. Now being that we were away from each other for five years we grew up and are men. Now we are both two different kinds of people. We both have more patience. We have a different understanding about life. At the same time we are better off ’cause we don’t argue every five minutes and we can be patient ’cause we’re grown.
XXLMag: What are thoughts on the new Texas movement with artists like Chalie Boy and Dorrough?
Paul Wall: It’s great to see different places than Houston in the spotlight. For too long Houston has been the only place getting love and it’s about time they get some love, too. I love the Dallas style of music. It is so different in Dallas with the lifestyle and music. So I’m happy to see them get their shine on.
XXLMag.com: You went to Africa for the MTV documentary about blood diamonds, Bling: A Planet Rock. Afterwards you said you wanted to return and create a soccer field. Did that ever happen?
Paul Wall: No. We went to sit with the government and they want us to invest in hotels. We were like, “We are not here for this.” We told them we were there to make the situation better and not for personal financial investments but nothing came of it.
XXLMag.com: That’s so disappointing that there are not only external issues but also internal ones that prevent many African countries from progressing.
Paul Wall: Every region of Africa has their different struggles. The way I saw it was every man is for himself. People look to the government when they can’t help themselves but the government won’t help you. So it’s like what do I do? That builds anger and hatred among the people and then they rebel. There was a civil war from 1991 to 2002 and I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw that the civil war in Sierra Leone gets kicked back up. All the problems are the same and the situations are the same. Nothing has changed and no one is doing anything about it to help from outside or within. So what do you expect?
XXLMag.com: Word is you and your wife hang at the gun range often. So how do you feel about the news that Pres. Obama is trying to strengthen gun policies across the nation?
Paul Wall: I carry a concealed handgun and I’m member of the NRA. Being in Texas I support the right to bear arms. Everybody owns a gun in Texas. Some trucks have shotgun and rifle racks in the backseat. So it’s different everywhere you go. I feel it’s for personal protection and also for fun, especially in Texas since so many people go hunting.
XXLMag.com: You’re one of the few white rappers not compared to Eminem, Vanilla Ice or any other predecessors. You pretty much bypassed the whole “White rapper” initiation process. Why do you think that’s the case?
Paul Wall: Everybody raised me to believe I was a kid and an individual. So me being White or any other characteristic didn’t define who I was. So I didn’t carry myself as a White person. I am who I am. I also think I’m wise enough to know you can’t compare me to Eminem due to his success and style. Also my sound was different. Coming from Texas there’s a large Mexican and Jamaican population so it’s multiracial. So my fan base is extremely multiracial so that has something to do with it, too. —Souleo