Paul Wall is the subject of this week's music feature. Read that right now. Two weeks ago, he released his fifth studio LP, Heart of a Champion. Buy that right now. Go on. We'll wait.
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Now, in that feature that you just read, it notes that the central theme driving the creative process behind Heart of a Champion was to work without a set agenda. During our few conversations with him, Wall mentioned many times that his intention was to just go into the studio and make music. And mostly, that's what he did. There are a couple of moments when the album stalls ("I'm On Patron," "Heart of a Hustler"), but there are more highlights than lowlights.
Hit the jump to read about a few of each.
- "Take Notes": Despite the two "I'm flyer than a..." similes, it's an auspicious start. It's very hip-hop. His most interesting line: "I'm strapped up like a baby in a car seat." That's funny. Guns are scary. Babies are not. Kudos for that. Also, he references both Neil Peart and Pimp C here.
- "Showin' My Skillz": Two songs in and we get our first wonky, Houston rap track. Most unexpected reference on the song: Backyardigans. Most expected aspect of the song: Keke showing up to do that raspy thug flow he's perfected. We interviewed Keke a while back. We were supposed to head out to his house. We were told to call him to get directions. When we called him, the first thing he said to us was, "How long is this shit gonna take?" Gotta love the Don Ke.
- "Round Here": Cham's chorus is good stuff. Very catchy. This is an early favorite for Best Song On The Album. Cham calls himself the King of Zamunda during his verse. That's pretty appropriate. He does look a bit like a tiny African prince. Best line: When Cham drops the "We one notch behind Pimp and Screw but we way higher than you," only he sings the "we way higher than you" part in a very You Know This Is True sort of tone. Good stuff.
- "Im'ma Get It": This is the one track where Travis Barker's production overpowers the actual song. You don't hear Paul rapping over these types of beats too often. He seems to be feeling around in the dark a bit for a groove, but it's kind of nice. The chorus is lame. Bun is Bun. Does little sister think she's Rah Digga?
- "Stay Iced Up": FEATURING JOHNNY DANG! Via Dang: "I'm only five feet, but my money stand tall." This song probably came together very late at night. Dang's verse will be the only thing people remember from it. It's way funny. Living in the US for near 20 years has done little to dull his Vietnamese accent.
- "Ain't A Thang": This is a cool economy of sound track; Paul reaches back a bit in the time machine for this one. What's weird is he kind of sounds like he doesn't like the chorus very much. Jim Jones's out-of-breath rasp is surprisingly effective here.
- "My City": A synthy, semi-wonky Houstoncentric track. This will be more than a few peoples' favorite track.
- "Smoke Everyday": Holy Christ. This is, without question, one of the best Houston rap songs of the year. Beanz and Kornbread (production) are at home, which means they're comfortable, which means this is a winner. Horns, funk, wonk. It's excellent. Paul is excellent here. The urgency of his flow is tapered back even more than usual here. Devin is excellent here. Ro is excellent here. Now, if you wouldn't mind helping us up off our knees, that'd be great.
- "Live It": This song sounds like it'll age to be the most important one. Raekwon. Jay Electronica. Yelawolf. Nice.
- "Not My Friend": It's just funny to hear Paul and Slim saying that if you're not around when they need you, then you're "not my friend."