After 15+ years in the rap game with countless hits and anthems to cement his stature within the genre, Grammy-nominated Houston, Texas legend Paul Wall is in no rush to take his foot off of the gas pedal with the release of his full-length LP Subculture on Friday, Oct.2.
Given the fact that this will be his third project to be released this year alongside two strong musical performances on Mind over Matter and Slab Talk with Lil Keke, it is clear that the veteran rapper is still in elite rap shape.
Taking a step outside of the comfort of his home studio in H-Town, Paul Wall has made the conscious decision to join forces with Red Bull as the entirety of the 11-track LP was created at Red Bull Music Studios.
Connecting with a variety of producers, writers, and other collaborators resulted in a series of studio sessions like no other as the People’s Champ described the collaboration as, “The most locked in I’ve ever been at the studio.”
On Monday, September 28, I got the chance to have a conversation with Paul Wall in preparation for the album release to talk about his collaborative experience with Red Bull as well as his evolution as an artist and person over the years.
In the midst of the world’s current state, the Houston rapper has made the effort in maintaining a positive mindset, connecting with his family as well as himself. Paul Wall’s ability to do so has ultimately culminated in his highly consistent year of music.
The process of Paul Wall
With the convenience of his home studio Wall has been able to cultivate a constant recording schedule that he has utilized to his advantage to continuously hone his craft and develop his skills from newly discovered flows to rhyme schemes.
While discussing the nature of the high volume in which Paul Wall has released music this year, he attributed his work ethic to his established weekly schedule and heightened focus to upkeep the routine.
Paul Wall managed to reach a place in his recordings where he had enough recorded music for the potential to release 2-3 more projects on top of the bodies of work that have already come out this year.
Although the possibility of being able to break open the vault appeared appealing to Paul Wall for the sake of his fans, the rapper remains to be cognizant of the strategic process that comes with the release of every album.
Aside from the contributions of these factors to the music, Wall expounded on the responsibility he has to himself as an artist to continue to excel in his penmanship regardless of the acclaim and attributes he has received over the years.
“In the last 5 years I’ve had one goal and that’s for me to master the art… To really do research when I’m recording songs, put the work in, focus my brain and be the best me I can possibly be when I’m creating the music.
It hasn’t been on the release rollout, radio or social media promotion for songs, it’s been solely on me making the art and it’s a variety because I got a lot of different colors that I can choose from if I’m painting a picture you know, a lot of colors on my pallet.
Some people don’t like when I use the natural colors and want me to use pastel colors, some people only want me to paint in black & white. So finding my footing on that of what I’m passionate about making at the moment and what other people want to hear.”– Paul Wall
In upholding his respect for the craft of hip-hop and staying true to his roots as an underground artist, Paul Wall remains fully motivated to build upon his discography of continuing to carry out the full potential of his career from what was once a childhood dream.
The adamant hunger for progression that Paul Wall possessed for his craft was brought to the sessions of Red Bull Music Studios that would result in the immense productivity which birthed the Subculture LP.
Why recording Subculture was different
While speaking on the collaboration with Red Bull Studios in relation to his familiar method of recording music, Paul Wall described it as an entirely new and unique experience due to the fact that he was able to lock in and focus on the music being made with an amplified degree of concentration.
Where his normal routine of making music within his home studio has a higher possibility of being sidetracked by different aspects and responsibilities in his life, the situation with Red Bull allowed him to completely dedicate all of his time to making music.
On top of this, the talented group of music professionals from producers, engineers, writers, and vocalists who were collaborating with him during the process sparked even more motivation for Paul Wall to match the energy of the rest of the team to create the best music possible.
The Houston rapper further mentioned that while the original plan going into the Red Bull experience was intended for them to make three songs, the alignment of their collective frequencies during the process drove them to complete an entire project.
To him, the totality of the experience served as a testament to how far he has come as an artist when reflecting on where he was recording music as a 17-year-old until now that highlights his continuous progression which is his main priority over anything regarding the music.
“I’m really proud of the work that we’ve been putting out lately because seeing how far I’ve come personally from when I was recording music at 17, I’m continuing to progress and I’m happy about that. Sometimes it’s not always about getting better in the sense of climbing the charts, but getting better personally.
It serves as motivation for me because I intend to have this as my career until I can’t do it anymore. If you see somebody like Tom Brady or Drew Brees who’s been professional for a long time continue to get better it’s a good feeling so I’m proud of that.”– Paul Wall
The possible future of a collaboration with Red Bull is an idea that Paul Wall expressed he would be welcome to carry out labeling himself a certified Red Bull advocate both with the music as well as the energy drink itself.
Given this fact, Wall felt like the partnership between himself and Red Bull was an authentic connection that was long overdue. When discussing some of the music on Subculture Paul Wall went into detail about some of his favorite tracks that were made during this process and what they meant to him personally.
Diving into the music, past and present
Track #5 entitled “Real One” was the first of the favorites that he expounded on as he claimed it to be one of the more personal songs on the albums. On the record, Paul Wall goes in-depth on how important being a good role model for his children as well as his fans are to him through leading by example and being transparent.
The Houston rapper went on to speak about “Iceman” (Track #3) being the song that was the most fun to make during the process. Stemming back to 2005 on the hit single “Grillz” with Nelly, Paul Wall claimed that he had been waiting to make the song since declaring himself the Iceman in his verse on the Grammy-nominated record.
As Paul Wall’s critically acclaimed People’s Champ album recently turned 15 years old this year, he’s looked back on his career with contentment as the project has aged well within his discography over the years while continuing to maintain his hip-hop integrity considering the plethora of musical trends that have passed through the genre.
Reflecting on his process of recording People’s Champ in comparison to Subculture, he channeled the same amount of focus with the exception of the heightened leg work due to the constant travel from city to city.
As far as the music, Paul Wall claims that those who were fans of the People’s Champ will definitely enjoy the music on Subculture describing the project as well-rounded in regards to the production as well as the lyrical content.
In consideration of maintaining the Houston roots in his music and his everyday being, Paul Wall continues to carry the essence of the culture he grew up on and embraces how it has evolved musically over time.
The legacy of Houston hip-hop
At this point in his career, Paul Wall explained how important it is that the torch which upkeeps Houston’s rich culture remains lit regardless of who carries it in regards to the unique nature of the city and state at large.
For this reason, the People’s Champ went on to discuss why he holds such a strong affinity for the local artists within hip-hop that have used their talents to go global while embodying their region and the significance that these kinds of artists have in contributing to the melting pot that is hip-hop culture today.
“For me, my favorite artists have always been local. Snoop Dogg and Jay-Z are one of the most global artists there are but everything about them is as local as it gets. When you think of Long Beach you think of Snoop and when you think of Brooklyn you think of Jay-Z.
It’s the same thing with some of m other favorite artists like Gucci Mane and T.I. who are Atlanta as it gets or some of my favorite East Coast artists like Sean Price (R.I.P) or Notorious B.I.G are as Brownsville and Bed-Stuy as it gets.
It’s funny because when you come from a local style to a major label they’ll try to globalize you and wash off that local identity so you can crossover even though the local aspect is what makes them unique.”– Paul Wall
Paul Wall went further into detail about having the privilege to see how the music within Houston has evolved over the years and the waves that it has gone through sonically.
Explaining how the era of music production that was prevalent in Houston before his time in hip-hop was more centered around live instrumentation, Paul Wall pointed out how producers today have used these origins as inspiration to build off of through sampling. As time went on and the production eventually became progressively computerized.
Acknowledging that the foundation of Houston’s sound has been set, he went on to discuss how the influence is clearly present in some of H-Town’s finest artists today who have summoned elements from classic sounds like Screw music while performing an updated twist on it.
Embracing the new generation
Pointing to the works of Mike Dean with Travis Scott and many other Houston artists like Sauce Walka and The Sauce Factory, Maxo Kream, Tobe Nwigwe, and many others, he glorified that manner in which they have individually found ways to implement elements of that OG Houston sound to their new school cadences.
The new generation of artists coming out of Houston has been an inspiration for Paul Wall to continue to step out of his comfort zone and experiment with his sound while maintaining the essence of his iconic rap cadence.
“I see the influence still being there as the Houston sound continues to evolve and I’m proud to see that we’re not limited to one single lane, we have a lot of different roads on the Houston map.
You see that with Mike Dean still when he’s producing for Travis Scott, he’s bringing the same production style from when he was working with Scarface and the Geto Boys in that era but he’s evolved with it.
It’s like space-age ancestry where Mike Dean is a prime example of combining the old era with the new generation while keeping it up to date.
There’s also others like Sauce Walka and The Sauce Factory with their whole movement is a new era where the sound is very different but you can hear a lot of the Houston culture all throughout their music.
I’m like the unofficial member of the Houston rapper fan club so to see so many different styles I’m a fan of all of it. Tobe Nwigwe, Sauce Walka, Lizzo, she’s so global with it but when I hear her I can hear the Houston influence in her tone as well.
Megan Thee Stallion she’s so different from each of the people that I named but she’s so Houston. Travis Scott, Maxo Kream, Don Tolliver, Normani, she’s singing in a different type of way but I can tell that she’s from Houston.
I’m inspired to see this because it makes me want to be a part of that, I want to do a song with Maxo Kream, Travis Scott, Megan Thee Stallion, Lizzo, Sauce Walka, Tobe Nwigwe in their styles where it’s still me but I’m venturing into their worlds.”
At this point in his career, it is clear that Paul Wall is still inspired and energized to continue to prove himself as an artist while making music that he is proud of.
As the release of Subculture LP is upon us, it will be exciting to see how the People’s Champ uses the momentum from the creation of this cohesive process for future albums and possible collaborations.
Considering his excitement for the new era of artists within Houston, it will be encouraging to see the bridging of that gap between generations culminate in numerous collaborations.
In the era of hip-hop that we are currently in, the communication and acknowledgment between the old and new generations are as important as it has ever been.
With legendary artists like Paul Wall making the effort to remain tapped in with the current music scene, I believe that the next coming years of music and the decade will be rewarded by a special brand of music.
I want to take this time to give a huge shoutout to Paul Wall and his team for their efforts that were made to set up our conversation and for Paul Wall’s openness throughout.
There’s a reason why he’s been dubbed the People’s Champ. Make sure to go and stream Subculture LP available on all streaming platforms.
Here is a link to the episode of Paul Wall’s Red Bull Studio Sessions released today in conjunction with the album: https://youtu.be/nlrJEG7KAPA