Paul Wall / Photo by Mike Frost, courtesy of Paul Wall
Houston is known for riding music. In a city where a car is a necessity, Houston rappers have made it almost priority to craft music that not only dominates subwoofers but also is the soundtrack for a long ride from 45 to 288 and beyond.
Paul Wall’s entire career has been built around crafting the perfect soundtrack to your day. Whether it be from his history as a cartoonish man of wit with his early Swishahouse freestyles or his multiple hustles in riding slabs, selling grills, or pulling off more ways to bend corners than Photoshop, the Houston mainstay and proverbial O.G. knows what makes the right soundtrack to any late night cruise. It’s why he’s created an entire tape, Slab God, to follow the script.
Two decades in as one of Houston’s best, Wall has established a connection with his fans to where they expect him to avoid making music of the moment and instead opt for something far more timeless. He’s adamant in not following trends or trying to play catch up. He’s already got two solid singles off Slab God, the Shalamar-tinged “Swangin’ In The Rain” and “Crumble The Satellite,” a woozy, guitar driven 808 monster with Curren$y and Devin the Dude, premiering today on Noisey.
“You don’t appreciate heaven until you go through hell,” Wall raps with a slow, man on the corner cadence before reminding people he’s forever rocking Johnny Dang diamonds (sorry Zales) and ready to roll up to alleviate stress. Noted weed smokers Devin the Dude and Curren$y join him, Devin offering not only an airy chorus but also a weed through the cuticles double-time flow. “To smoke an ounce a day is natural, I don’t have to try to,” he adds.
After hearing “Crumble The Satellite,” I gave Paul a call to discuss his brand new album, out this Friday, and learn a little bit more about the philosophy behind how he crafts his music.
Noisey: With a record like “Swangin’ In The Rain” and “Crumble The Satellite,” what’s the energy behind Slab God?
Paul Wall: Personally, I think the direction music is going in these days… not to say I’m not a fan of it but there’s a lot of aspects of hip-hop that have been lost and overshadowed by current trends. Lot of artists and producers make their music according to current trends and before you know it, everything sounds the same. When I fell in love with music, particularly hip-hop, I listened to it in the car. In Texas, you've got to drive, and sometimes you wanna listen to something good. Not something that’s loud with a bunch of screaming for two minutes. That’s a different type of music. I want to listen to music that’s going to accommodate my lifestyle, 'cause I don’t even do clubs. I went all the way back to the drawing board and went back to what made me, y’know, me. Bars, hooks. And that’s what Slab God to me is, just getting back to the basics. It took me a couple projects to get where I want to be, and I feel like I’m in a good spot. Lot of good music been coming out the studio when I go in there lately. I’m proud to be 20 years in, still remaining me.
People love timeless raps. You don’t want it to just be in the moment.
Exactly! People get caught up in making music with a trend. You’re time stamping your music and I’m guilty of it to. But, I want to make music where five, ten years from now it brought back a memory or brought an emotion out of them they want to feel. People just make party music, I love party music. But Slab God? I wasn’t worried one bit about party music. I just wanted to make something for people to jam to.
Who is on Slab God?
Devin The Dude and Curren$y on “Crumble The Satellite”, that’s a smoker’s anthem. I got a song with Stunna Bam—he’s an up and coming Houston artist—another one with Le$ out of Houston. He’s making noise right now. Scotty ATL, Propain out of Houston. I got a song with Snoop Dogg and Berner, Husalah from Da Mob Figaz out the Bay, another with Dead End Red and Sosamann from Houston. And I got a couple DJs on there, Big Tho and DJ Mr. Rogers. June James and DJ 5-9 did a lot of the beats on Slab God. Scoop Deville did “Swangin’ In The Rain”. June and 5-9? They came with it, mane!
You & Slim Thug are two of the mainstays from Houston that keep working with the younger guys. Is that why there’s a lot of up and comers on Slab God?
Yeah, we do features all day where people pay us, but this is something I learned from Bun B 'cause he did it with us. Bun would come in the studio with me, Slim, Chamillionaire, Mike Jones and chop it up with us, shit like that. It wasn’t like he would pull out a secret book of Industry Secrets or nothing like that, but he showed us the way and gave us encouragement. That mentorship and encouragement go a long way. That’s the only way we can keep this thing going. We’re a team, trying to bring the whole squad with us. Like big brothers. We've got to show the next generation our mistakes so that they don’t make those mistakes. Some artists don’t want you to be a big brother; they want to do it on their own. And that’s cool, but we don’t want to see Texas culture or Houston fall apart. Put it back in a position where producers, DJs, A&Rs, graphics, video directors are all getting A-list treatment. That’s what we’re trying to build back up.
Brandon Caldwell is a writer living in Houston. Follow him on Twitter.