Houston Hip-Hop

Mike Watts and his stable of northside rappers take a southside legend's style to the masses

Incredibly, given the chemistry they exhibited on Get Ya Mind Correct, the normal tensions of spending a lot of time with one person and having to make decisions as a team started breaking Paul and Chamillion apart about four years ago. When they stopped getting along, they kept it together for a while as a business. But soon they determined that wasn't worth it either. After nearly 15 years as buddies and partners, they stopped talking completely.

Chamillionaire formed his Chamilitary label, teaming with another former Swisha House member, OG Ron C, who became his DJ. After his triple CD Mixtape Messiah did big business in 2004, Chamillion signed with Universal Records to drop his major-label debut, late 2005's The Sound of Revenge. After a slow start, the record took off in 2006 and went platinum with the help of the number-one single, "Ridin'." Cham thanked his fans by offering a Mixtape Messiah 2 sequel for free on his Web site. Meanwhile, his official follow-up to Revenge, called Ultimate Victory, was set for early 2007.

Paul stuck it out a while with Paid in Full. He did a solo album, The Chick Magnet, in 2004, and then rounded out the duo's obligation with 2005's Controversy Sells, a Paul Wall & Chamillionaire album that pasted together old and new recordings to create what was, essentially, an imaginary collaboration between two people not on speaking terms. But tensions between the former friends never erupted. "The situation between me and Paul is real personal; Paul is like a brother to me," Chamillion explained to Murder Dog. "Out of respect for that I don't wanna drop a CD dissing him or anything like that. That chapter of my life is done, I'm moving on."

Mike Watts and his stable of northside rappers take a southside legend's style to the masses
Mike Watts and his stable of northside rappers take a southside legend's style to the masses
DJ Screw's taped concoction oozed out of the southside and redefined Texas rap.
Deron Neblett
DJ Screw's taped concoction oozed out of the southside and redefined Texas rap.

After his stint at Paid in Full, Paul landed back at Swisha House, which had now grown from a mix CD operation into a full-fledged label. With "Still Tippin'" bubbling throughout the region, Swisha was about to sign its deal with Warner Bros. and Paul Wall was next in line, after Mike Jones, to drop a major-label release.

Coming five months after Who Is Mike Jones? and two months after Already Platinum, Paul Wall's The People's Champ finally arrived. Benefiting from the attention he'd gotten with his predecessors -- and perhaps aided slightly in his crossover appeal by his skin color -- Paul Wall entered the charts, both pop and urban, at number one. Houston was back on the national hip-hop landscape in a big way -- with far more mainstream appeal than the days of the Geto Boys and UGK. Some even began to whisper of Houston's potential to challenge Atlanta's dominance as Southern hip-hop's center -- though, in truth, the city never came close to having the music-industry infrastructure that allows Atlanta to succeed.

Reprising almost the exact formula used for "Still Tippin'," Paul Wall recruited Austin-based producer Salih Williams to once again draw a hook from an old screw tape and build a new track around it. This time, Michael Watts suggested he use a nearly ten-year-old freestyle by Big Pokey, from DJ Screw's June 27 mix. "I'm sitting sideways, boys in a daze/On a Sunday night I might bang me some Maze," goes Pokey's slowed chorus. Like "Still Tippin'," it referenced Houston car culture: "sittin' sideways" referred to one's hunched posture while swerving a 'Lac or Impala down the avenue. The track, "Sittin' Sidewayz," became The People's Champ's first single.

Oddly, the same thing that made Wall's record successful also made it frustrating. It often plays like a beginner's course on Houston hip-hop, with song titles jumping from one key phrase to another: "Sittin' Sidewayz," "Trill," "Sippin' tha Barre," "Got Plex," "Sip-N-Get-High." And with the album's second single, "They Don't Know," Wall manages to catalog the entire scene in two verses, broken up by a wonderful chorus that collages classic Houston quotes (including Fat Pat's line, "Third Coast born, that means we're Texas raised"):

"What you know about swangers and vogues,

what you know about purple drank?

What you know about poppin' trunk,

with neon lights and candy paint?

What you know about white shirts,

starched down jeans with a razor crease,

Platinum and gold on top our teeth,

big ol' chains with a iced out piece?

You don't know about Michael Watts,

you don't know about DJ Screw,

What you know about 'Man, hold up,'

'I done came down' and 'What it do?'

You don't know about P.A.T.,

what you know about 'Free Pimp C'?

What you know about the Swishahouse,

man, what you know bout the S.U.C.?...

You don't know about chunkin' a deuce,

you don't know 'bout a Southside fade

Down here we be ridin' D's,

but you don't know about choppin' blades

Texas Southern or Prairie View,

what you know about Battle of the Bands?

Down here we got ghetto grub,

like Williams Chicken or Timmy Chan's

You can catch me ridin' swang,

what you know about sippin' syrup?

You don't know about pourin' it up,

purple drank so speech is slurred,

You don't know about the way we talk,

boys say we got country words,

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