Screwston, Texas

Solving the Number Theory Behind Paul Wall's The Houston Oiler

Paul Wall is an American rapper, jewelry magnate and a man I once compared to Stone Cold Steve Austin because The People’s Champ is also one of the few people in Texas who are both immediately recognizable and gracious enough to hang with you, one of the biggest compliments in the world. He has spent exactly 13,022 days on this Earth, which is the same number of days as LeToya Luckett. If one were to go by the numbers of Paul Wall’s most recent album, this month's The Houston Oiler, one would not get to 13,022 but you would still have a solid listening experience.

You would also have the closest analog to early Paul Wall projects when he was still passing out flyers at the University of Houston and rapping on Color Changin’ Click mixtapes. There are six numerical points that outline this.

Point 1: Up until this year, Paul Wall held the distinction of being the last solo rapper from the city to have an album hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart. Of this, he is only the fourth rapper to have been born within city limits to hold that distinction and the third solo rapper to have reached that pinnacle, joining Scarface (1997’s The Untouchable) and Travis Scott (2016’s Bird’s In the Trap Sing McKnight). The other would be Bun B, who along with Pimp C earned UGK's lone No. 1 in 2007 with Underground Kingz. This is not to say Paul Wall’s career is an outlier in regards to Houston rap. It is to say, however, that Paul Wall is a pretty big damn deal in regards to the history of Houston rap.

Point 2: Paul Wall has nine official albums. The first seven, beginning with 2004’s Chick Magnet, all feature his face on the cover. The last two, including Slab God, do not, substituting examples of Houston iconography. Last year's Slab God featured an idle slab resting under the dark hues of night. You could still see it because of the candy paint. It may have been the one signifier to Anthony Bourdain that he needed to come to Houston to see the car culture for himself. This year, The Houston Oiler sports a white background and the familiar symbol of the Houston Oilers, the professional football team in Houston that preceded the Texans. The greatest numbers of that team are the number 34, for Earl Campbell and 1, for Warren Moon. Moon is the franchise’s greatest quarterback, Campbell its greatest player. Paul Wall owns a Warren Moon jersey, hence a common reference to being the No. 1 quarterback in the city.

Point 3: There are 16 tracks on The Houston Oiler. By attribution, five are related to cars, beginning with “Caught Ya Lookin’” and ending with “Swangin’ In the Rain (Muddmix)." That makes the album's percentage of songs about cars 31 percent. Three of the 16 songs could almost be yearbook quotes — “Money Don’t Make Me”; “Real Shit, Fake People”; and “Stop Cryin’, Start Prayin." Each of these sounds like a perfect thing to write right after you finish listening to Before Da Kappa 2K1. They are so astute and succinct for one-liners, much like Paul Wall metaphors about bending corners. His favorite jumping point for any metaphor is crawling, a way to emphasize how slow he’s going just to make sure even if you miss him the first time, you can’t miss him the second time.

Point 4: The most disgusting line on The Houston Oiler comes on “Han Solo On 4’s.": "Slabs so pretty, a homeless man saw it and beat his meat” is preceded by 328 words attributed to Paul’s perfect slab. The 12 words that fit into “Slabs so pretty” and are hammered home by a homeless man convinced to masturbate there on the spot? Shades of early-2000s Paul Wall wordplay. The silliest word on The Houston Oiler? Shortening jealous to “jello" on “Why Is That." The People’s Champ actually says it twice on the song and thankfully never again.

Point 5: Mike Dean, Houston rap producer extraordinaire and weed enthusiast, has a song dedicated to him in “Mike Dean." It is preceded by a song called “Dying Breed." Dean produced two songs on the most popular rap album with dying breed in its title. The length of those songs combined? Ten minutes, 57 seconds. Paul Wall’s ode to Mike Dean? Three minutes, six seconds. There is also a noticeable contradiction between “Mike Dean” and “Save Me From Myself,” featuring J-Dawg. While Paul dismisses fake sippers on “Mike Dean," he almost succumbs to his own logic and vices. This is probably because he’s rapping next to J-Dawg, who is Houston rap’s closest connection to DMX in that way. J-Dawg will pray for you. J-Dawg will admit his faults. J-Dawg will also scowl and probably rap you under a goddamn table because you pissed him off. Do not get on the bad side of J-Dawg.

Point 6: Paul Wall has been about three things for the duration of his career. One is getting money, the major theme of “Money Don’t Make Me” and “Headed 2 The Country." Two is Houston’s extensive car culture, the reason nearly one-third of the album could have also played a part on Slab God. Three is letting everyone in on topics one and two. Of the seven rappers not named Paul Wall on The Houston Oiler, Paul has crafted history with each of them.

Bonus Number Theory:

Point 6.1: Paul Wall and Chamillionaire had arguably the city’s most beloved debut album in Get Ya Mind Correct.

Point 6.2: Paul Wall and Slim Thug appear on the most transformative single in Houston rap history of the early 2000s, “Still Tippin." It is arguably the fourth most transformative Houston rap song of all time, behind “Mo City Don,” “Mind Playin’ Tricks On Me” and “International Players Anthem."

Point 6.3: Paul Wall and Z-Ro crafted one of the more underrated posse cuts in 2006’s “From the South” with Lil’ Flip.

Point 6.4: The Houston Oiler is perfectly made for riding around Houston, which is essentially what Paul Wall does these days. He makes music not to conform to the newer class but to remain essentially him. Which goes back to the number 1. There is only one Paul Wall. And only one individual who both co-owns the largest jewelry store in the city and proudly wore an Intercontinental Championship belt in a music video.

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Brandon Caldwell has been writing about music and news for the Houston Press since 2011. His work has also appeared in Complex, Noisey, the Village Voice & more.
Contact: Brandon Caldwell