Paul Wall was huge, both metaphorically and physically, at the peak of Swishahouse days back in the mid-2000s. The Houston native had already gained a huge buzz from his underground mixtapes with Chamillionaire, especially after releasing the independent album Get Ya Mind Correct. Soon after, Swishahouse was everywhere—Chopped and Screwed, candy paint, slab riders; Houston's sound and culture made the jump to mainstream, and in the center of all of this was a young Paul Wall who worked himself up to being No. 1 on the Billboard 200, with The People's Champ.

But as time went on and his contract was up, Paul found himself without a label, without any knowledge of how to put out music, and weighing more than he ever had. Lost, he went back to his roots and started over. With the help of fellow rapper and friend, Slim Thug, Paul learned the intricacies of being the head of a label and how to operate independently, hopping back in the lab and making records he actually liked, resulting in his album #Checkseason, which dropped on Dec. 10. While he was in New York, Paul swung by the XXL offices to talk about his weight loss, his label situation, #Checkseason and the nervousness that comes with being independent. —Emmanuel C.M. (@ECM_LP)

XXL: You've lost a ton of weight; you have to tell me your secret.
Paul Wall: The number one thing is you've got to exercise, eat right and all of that. You've got to limit the poison you put in your body. Whether it be smoking, drinking, whatever, you've got to limit it. You've got to know when to say when. But after all of that—I tried all of it—I still ain’t lose no weight. So I cheated. I took the secret way out and had surgery. It saved my life. It took me to a whole 'nother place and it really saved my life. The doctor told me if you're really 50 pounds overweight, it takes 15 years off your life. I was almost 140 pounds overweight.

I dedicated myself full-time to try to lose weight. I did everything I said with diet and exercise, but I think the years of partying [and] excess caught up with my metabolism and it didn’t work out. So my last resort was surgery. And I did it. It changed my life. I feel so much better. I have so much energy. As a person, I’m much more happier, too, so I'm glad that I did it. A lot of people would be embarrassed or ashamed of having surgery like that, but to me, I’m proud. It changed my life. I’m not ashamed to say that. After surgery it ain’t no doubt in my mind I wouldn't be here right now. It'd be a "Rest In Peace" interview or something. I’m happy to say that God led me out of being morbidly obese and put me to where I’m at now, and feeling healthy.

Paul Wall in his heavier days

paul wall heavy

Paul Wall, a new man

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At your heaviest, how much did you weigh?
That last time I stepped on a scale I was over 320 pounds. But my girl always be teasing me saying, "You know you were at least 350." [Laughs]

What's your record label situation like now?
I’m just independent; I’m just putting it out underground. Back to where it all started, back to the basics. I’m really following my brother Slim Thug's lead, what he doing now, putting his mixtape out. Same thing, just piggybacking everything he’s doing. Taking it back to the underground. There’ve been a few offers from labels, but people want to see what you can do on your own before they get behind you. We basically just have been back underground, developing our fan base back [to where] it all started; putting mixtapes out, selling them myself, doing meet and greets, showing love to the fans.