22 November, 2005@12:00 am
His name is Paul Wall, he’s the people’s champ. He’s got the internet going nuts, what it do? By now you’ve seen him on T.V., he’s the guy that sticks out like a sore thumb in all of those crunk, dirty south videos, as the only white face in the crowd. But Paul’s race isn’t his gimmick, nor is it a crutch to lean on. It seems that, to him, his race is irrelevant, as the Texas jeweler has other subjects to rhyme about, including important social topics such as grinding, diamonds, Cadillacs with candy paint, flossing, and…. internet pimping?
But that’s the fun of Paul Wall. While many rappers drown themselves in these one-dimensional topics, Wall is one of the few that can pull it off, thanks to his airtight flow and humorous lyrics, with style to spare. “The People’s Champ” is his first major label release after years of grinding independently, and is accessible enough for the casual southern hip-hop fan, and true enough to hold down the die-hard Texas followers.
One major difference in Paul Wall’s style, in comparison to many other emcees in the region, is the lack of “rah-rah” that’s usually associated with down south music. Paul is instead more concerned with being so fresh and so clean, and his music conveys this. Some of his best selections come in the form of smooth Cadillac cruisers such as the incredible “Ridin’ Dirty” (feat. Trey Songz) and “Sippin’ The Barre”, both songs reminiscent of early Outkast material. He holds his own impressively next to T.I. on the equally cool “So Many Diamonds”, which plays with such laid back finesse that getting past the one-dimensional subject is no worry. He dedicates time to his pimp game on the familiar sounding “Smooth Operator”, and takes it up a notch further on the hilarious “Internet Goin’ Nutz”, which tells the true account of Paul’s online pimpin’.
But it’s not all mellow trunk funk, Paul Wall does have quite a few crunk club rockers, however his brand of bounce is much different than say, Lil’ Jon or Ying Yang Twins. The album jumps off with the irresistible “I’m A Playa”, where Wall humorously quips “I got a deep freezer up on my neck / And snow cones up in my ear / an ice tray up in my mouth / I’m looking something like a chandelier”, with an infectious chopped and screwed hook. It follows with the equally addictive “They Don’t Know”, a Texas pride anthem co-signed by hometown hero, Bun-B. Bun-B appears again later, on “Trill”, where he, Paul, and B.G. define their favorite word over sinister synth, trademark thump, and sporadic guitar licks. “March ?N Step” follows suit, a hustler’s anthem with a show-stealing verse from Lil’ Wayne. Yes, Lil’ Wayne.
We find a more introspective Paul later in the album, first on the cheesy “Girl”, which butchers a familiar soul sample, finding the rapper trying to convince his boo to choose him over her friends (?). He saves face however on the album’s final track, “Just Paul Wall”, which finds him opening up, revealing information about his personal life and upbringing, that helps define him as more than just a one-dimensional rapper.
The album isn’t perfect, but at seventeen tracks, that’s bound to be expected. Two notably strange inclusions are the pair of Roc-A-Fella inspired tracks – first, the Freeway featured “State To State”, and the Kanye West helmed “Drive Slow”, both of which do not fit in with the rest of the album (despite the latter being an excellent cut, regardless). Also, towards the end of the album is where the bulk of the filler is stuck (“Sip N Get High”), not to mention a feeling of monotony which begins to set in (“Big Ballin”, “Got Plex”). And not for nothing, but with all the great moments on this record, was the sleepy “Sittin’ Sideways” the best choice for first single?
Coming from a critic that has little tolerance for bullshit, Paul Wall is either the most talented, or at least the most likeable, emcee in his crew (next to Slim Thug and the repetitive Mike Jones). While it may not seem so at surface value, he’s got a true emcee’s swagger, with the production to match. While this record won’t change the way we see the world, and is truly nothing more than an exercise in guilty pleasure, in this case, ignorance is bliss.
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