Rap musician, DJ
Houston rapper Paul Wall is as well known for his custom diamond-laced grills and celebrity endorsed company, Grills by Paul Wall, as he is for his music. Popular in the scene of southern/dirty south style of rap, after years of hustling his music and himself, Wall gained national attention in 2005 with his Atlantic debut The Peoples Champ, which debuted at number one. From his Houston-area neighborhood, Wall grew up making rhymes and listening to hip-hop like all his friends. He idolized hometown hero DJ Screw, who was one of the first hip-hop artists to put the screwed-and-chopped hip-hop style of the South out into the world via his legendary mix tapes. In his countless mix tapes, collaborations with Chamillionare and two albums on Atlantic, Wall has used his music, style, and shiny grill to define himself. "Ninety percent grind, 10 percent sleep. That's our motto," Wall told Toshitaka Kondo of Vibe. "I always knew that if I built my name up as an entity, that would be bigger than me just rappin'."
Before he began selling his own music, Wall learned a lot about record companies and the rap game as a street promoter in Houston. Peddling product for new albums for labels such as Def Jam, Cash Money, and No Limit, Wall began to learn what it takes to become a name in the music industry. For three years he attended the University of Houston before dropping out and focusing on his new custom grill company. With jeweler Johnny Dang, he created Grills by Paul Wall, and began supplying high-end diamond and gold mouth grills for southern rappers such as David Banner and Lil Jon.
As did many future rap stars, Wall initially made a name for himself locally by releasing countless chopped and screwed mix tapes. Signed to label Paid in Full, Wall joined up with rapper Chamillionare as part of the Color Changin' Click for a set of mix tapes. In 2002 the pair released Get Ya Mind Correct.Wall was writing his own rhymes and DJ-ing and touring with rapper T.I., and in 2004 he released his solo debut, Chick Magnet. To keep up on the competition, Wall and Chamillionare released Controversy Sells in the summer of 2005. As the Caucasian half of the Color Changin' Click, Wall was one of the very few white rappers from the South to get any recognition, and that only made him step up his game. "I'm gonna rap the same whether I'm white, black, or Hispanic, I'm still gonna be me," he told Down-South.com. "I got criticized a lot at first, it was hard … because people don't take you seriously."
After his contract with Paid in Full was up, Wall signed to SwishaHouse. Wall's manager T Ferris (also the president of SwishaHouse) hooked up Wall with a guest vocal spot on the new Mike Jones 2005 hot track "Still Tippin'." With his grill gleaming in the "Still Tippin'" video and Wall's distinguishing vocals, the collaboration with Jones gave Wall national attention. "Still Tippin'" hit number 25 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Songs list, and its video was on heavy rotation on BET. Wall then put his rhymes on Kanye West's "Drive Slow" and Nelly's number one Billboard track "Grillz."
2005 was Wall's busiest year yet, as his music career flourished, along with Grills by Paul Wall. Soon the biggest rappers in the game wanted their own custom grills. Prior to Grills by Paul Wall, there were a lot of unflattering grills inside the mouths of wannabe rappers, but Dang's talent and Wall's style created a smoother type of grill. "At the time, a lot of people were doing their grills and they were sticking out far, so people were walking around with buck teeth and horse teeth," Wall told Jordan Chalifoux of Format Magazine. His success as a rapper gave Grills by Paul Wall exposure at the same time.
Major labels were courting Wall, so SwishaHouse signed a deal with Atlantic/Asylum Records. In September of 2005 Wall released The Peoples Champ. His Atlantic debut entered at number one on the Billboard 200 on its day of release, and sold 176,000 copies in the United States in its first week of sales. The songs from The Peoples Champ didn't cover any new ground—with songs like "Sittin' Sidewayz," "I'm a Playa," and "Sip-N-Get High"—but it brought the laidback, cough-syrup style of the South to the entire nation. T.I., Three 6 Mafia, and Kanye West all appeared on the record, whose cover was a close-up shot of Wall's gleaming grill.
In April of 2006 Paul's wife, Crystal, gave birth to their son, Will. Shortly after his son was born, for part of the VH1 documentary Bling'd: Blood, Diamonds and Hip-Hop, Wall traveled to Sierra Leone, along with Wu-Tang Clan's Raekwon and others, to see first-hand the troubles of the war-torn country where many of the diamonds for his custom mouth grills originated. There has been controversy over whether diamond mining in Sierra Leone is the cause, or just a part, of the civil war in the West African nation. After his trip, Grills by Paul Wall were unable to get answers from their diamond supplier about where they secured their diamonds, so the owners switched suppliers to one in Los Angeles.
In the fall of 2006 Wall was featured on the heavily-played single "About Us" by Brooke Hogan (famous wrestler Hulk Hogan's daughter), bringing Wall even more fans. Since 2005, though, Wall had been working on and off on his second Atlantic album. Having a wife and child at home didn't change what he rhymed about, but did give him a different perspective on life. "It's been like my anchor," he confessed to MTV.com's Shaheem Reid, of having a child. "This is what I come home to: a real family. It's just stable. Just having a son is more motivation and inspiration to get out and get on my grind. So I'm … utilizing every opportunity I have."
While The Peoples Champ was recorded more quickly than Wall would have liked, its number one status was something he felt pressure to match. The difference for his new record would be the overall time spent working on songs. After more than a year in the studio working on some 40 songs, in April of 2007 Atlantic issued Get Money, Stay True. The lead single "Break 'Em Off" was just what his fans were hoping for. There were also esteemed guest vocalists such as Snoop Dogg, Fergie, Jermaine Dupri, Lil Keke, and Wall's new rap-rock band Expensive Taste.
Wall's personality and versatility as a rapper and a DJ have allowed him to flow from one genre to the next. With former blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and former Transplants member Skinhead Rob, the trio formed the group Expensive Taste. He sang with Brooke Hogan, and in the spring of 2007 he toured with Fall Out Boy as part of the Honda Civic Tour. "It's like I'm livin my dream day by day," Wall confessed to Down-South.com. "So either I can wake up and it be all over with, or I can keep dreamin and livin this dream. But … the work don't stop. When the work stops the success stops. The love from the fans is what is great, the real people."
For the Record …
Born Paul Slayton on March 30, 1980, in Houston, TX; married to Crystal; children: Will. Education: Attended University of Houston for three years.
Former mixtape master and DJ; signed to Paid in Full; Paul Wall partnered with Chamillionare and released Get Ya Mind Correct, 2002, and Controversy Sells, 2005; released solo album Chick Magnet on Paid in Full, 2004; signed to Atlantic Records, released The Peoples Champ, 2005, and Get Money, Stay True, 2007.
Addresses: Record company—Atlantic Records, 1290 Ave. of the Americas, 28th Fl., New York, NY 10104, website: http://www.atlanticrecords.com. Website—Paul Wall Official Website: http://www.djpaulwall.com.
(Paul Wall and Chamillionare) Get Ya Mind Correct, Paid in Full, 2002.
Chick Magnet, Paid in Full, 2004.
(Paul Wall and Chamillionare) Controversy Sells, Paid in Full, 2005.
The Peoples Champ, Atlantic, 2005.
Get Money, Stay True, Atlantic, 2007.
Format Magazine, June 3, 2007.
Atlantic Records Official Paul Wall Biography, http://www.atlanticrecords.com/paulwall/about/ (September 22, 2007).
"‘Mature’ Paul Wall Still Raps About Girls, Grills With Mariah, T.I.," MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1541889/20060927/wall_paul.jhtml (September 22, 2007).
"Paul Wall Interview: ‘They Don't Know’," Down-South.com, http://www.down-south.com/content/view/38/36/ (September 22, 2007).
Paul Wall Official Website, http://www.djpaulwall.com (September 22, 2007).
"Paul Wall—Putting in Work," Vibe,http://www.vibe.com/news/magazine_features/2005/05/vibe_magazine_next_paul_wall_putting_work/ (September 22, 2007).
"Paul Wall: What You Know About the ‘Peoples Champ’?," Prefix Magazine,http://www.prefixmag.com/features/P/paul-wall/292 (September 22, 2007).
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