PAUL WALL BABY WORDS: MATT SONZALA PHOTOS: MIKE FROST Houston is getting a lot more media attention these days. Do you think you’re partly responsible for that? Naw, I just played my role in keeping the torch lit. Even if there never woulda been a Paul Wall, it still would’ve happened. I think a lot of it comes from UGK, with Pimp C being locked up. That has a lot to do with the media and press situation, because everybody wants to know what he’s locked up for, when he’s getting out, what is Bun B doing, and what are their plans for when he gets out. I think that draws a lot of attention to it, and being a positive person, you can look at the positive in the situation. Of course it’s a bad thing that he’s locked up, but it could always be worse. Just looking at the positive in the situation has drawn a lot of attention to what’s going on in Houston. When anybody asks about Houston rap, you can’t mention Houston rap without mentioning what Rap-A-Lot has done with J Prince and the Geto Boys, and of course what UGK has done. You can’t mention Texas rap without mentioning UGK, so naw, I don’t feel responsible. We’ve had everything in Texas for years – our own distribution, sales, and fans, but we never really had the media. Now all of a sudden it’s like a media feeding frenzy down here. Do you think people like yourself, Chamillionaire, and Slim Thug have brought it to the next level? Well, back then we was just on some different type stuff. I was real bragadocious back then. We were all in the Swishahouse. It was just about bragging about how much money we had, how fly we were. It was all about being fly. Of course we got a lot of that from the Screwed Up Click, because the way Lil Keke used to deliver his raps was just so fly. He’d take something so simple and add emphasis to it and change the way it came out. I think a lot of the country is so one-track minded that they never expected this to happen. But when you’ve got sounds like the Hot Boys and No Limit in Louisiana, and you look at what Nelly did for St. Louis, those are respected styles coming from those areas. Not that everybody in Louisiana sounds like the Hot Boys or No Limit or that everybody in St. Louis sounds like Nelly, but you definitely can tell where they’re from. In Houston, you’ve B26
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got myself, Mike Jones, Slim Thug, we don’t all sound the same but you can tell from our slang and our voice that we all come from the same background. That’s what the different geographical regions have done for music. They’ve brought their scene and culture to the rest of the world, and that’s what’s going on in Houston. Houston is dead smack in the middle of the country and dead smack at the bottom. We’ve been living in our own little world down here for so long. We didn’t get any media attention and that was cool with us cause we were getting money. A lot of other people around the country were getting a gang of media attention but they weren’t getting too much money. We’re trying to introduce this sound to the rest of the world. Shouts out to DJ Screw for inventing this.
But you have to admit it’s fallen off a little bit. Ten years ago when these stations were really fighting each other, they were a lot more open to supporting the community. But Houston never had to rely on radio. What’s it take for an independent artist to really infiltrate the streets in Houston? It’s a combination of a lot of things. Of course, your music gotta jam, and you gotta be consistent with your music. You can’t just jam every now and then; that ain’t gonna work. You gotta be consistent with it. It also takes time and patience. Swishahouse been doing this since 1995. I started rapping in 1999 with Swishahouse but I was doing stuff with them in terms of street promotion and DJing since 1996 or 1997. It takes time. If it’s meant to be, it’s gonna be. People rush things too much; they jump the gun or switch their style up. I think the main thing is just being patient. Most people aren’t patient and they want to compete There’s a lot of articles about Houston fo- on the same level as the big boys. You just gotta cused on beef within the city. I don’t really do you and make good music. see that. Artists say that Houston doesn’t show support. Houston is hot right now, but it’s also a close-knit I hear a lot of people in Houston say that. community. How is it for outside producers or laThey’re like, “Aw, man, the radio be hating.” bels coming in and looking for Houston artists? But if you look at the playlists statistically, With the success of songs that have a sample in Houston shows more love to local artists than the hook, like “Still Tippin’,” “Back Then,” “Sitany other city across the country except for tin’ Sideways,” and even “They Don’t Know,” too maybe Atlanta, New York, and L.A Any station many people are trying to do that. They gonna wear in the country is gonna be playing Lil Jon and that shit out. It’s already worn out in my eyes. If T.I., cause that shit’s hot. If you’re in Atlanta you keep doing that shit, it takes away from it. and they’re playing T.I., that’s not the same They think that all you’ve got to do to make a as playing a local artist. Yeah, he’s from At- Houston artist pop is to get a song with a sample lanta, but he’s not a local artist. He’s a na- in the hook. I think that takes away from what tional artist. Houston is the only city in the the city has to offer. Going back to the samples country – at least from what I’ve seen, and we took, that shit ain’t nothin’ new. That’s been I’ve been to every radio station in the coun- going on in Houston forever. When UGK did “Diatry – at any given time, you’re gonna have an monds and Wood,” it was a sample from the Screw independent artist on the playlist in Houston. tape [Grace]. And that’s a classic song. People are They always show a lot of love to local talent. wearing it out now; putting any type of sample ot I really didn’t notice that at first cause I was any type of beat. That shit ain’t working. People caught up in that too, thinking they’re hating. need to just do them. Of course Screw music is the It’s not that they’re hating, they’ve just gotta backbone of Houston, but there’s a lot of people follow protocol. There’s procedures they have who are not coming up in that Screw genre. You’ve to go through and people they’ve gotta an- got people like Chingo Bling – his fans aren’t necswer to. They can’t just play whatever they essarily fans of his because he’s slowed down. Peowant. It’s a system, and you’ve gotta respect ple like Chingo Bling because he’s Chingo Bling. that. If you abide by the rules and you’ve got But at the same time, you’ve gotta respect the some jammin’ music, it’s gonna get played Screw Above all you’ve gotta respect the Screw. though. If you don’t respect DJ Screw and the Screwed Up