Ice Work If You Can Get It

Rapper Paul Wall's diamond life

Otherwise, Wall's lyrics are usually pretty amusing. His track "Internet Going Nutz" from The Peoples Champ jokes about checking e-mail, posting on message boards and finding strangers to bang. The title track from Chick Magnet is a horned-up playa's refrain that's more thoughtful than grody. Wall sags on "Girl" from The Peoples Champ, a sobby breakup lament that is the wrong kind of "Paul Wall slow jam." Wall's part in the excellent Lil' Keke track "Chunk Up the Deuce" off Loved by Few, Hated by Many is an expected blingathon (I mean, he's with his boys; he's got to impress).

Get Money, Stay True (released March 31) features a new roster of producers such as Jermaine Dupri, KLC and Mr. Lee, as well as a certain hit, "Break 'Em Off." He's also been working with Travis Barker (ex-Blink-182—yeah, I know) and "Skinhead" Rob Aston on a rap project called Expensive Taste, which is different, harder and definitely good. But no matter what this elfin figure touches, it inevitably turns to ice.

The death knell of hip-hop is derivative, unoriginal music, the sort local scenes tend to cultivate after the collective peak has been reached. Not that Wall is in much danger of bending to blandness; as a pop-culture character, Paul Wall already embodies an intriguing brand of weird, a genuine presence above- and underground. I remember seeing Wall for the first time—more specifically, his big face and sparkly grin filling up a TV screen for the first time. His Swishahouse gang, whose collective is as lo-fi indie as it is a think tank for hot Southern rap, are more focused on mix tapes and whatever sounds dope than conforming to the more established artists' standards (quite the opposite—more than a few Top-40 types have been helping themselves to Houston's flavor). He's got a wife (singer Crystal Wall) and a son. He works fast. Whatever sound shapes H-Town or Southern rap next will be partially the result of Wall's efforts.

 

PAUL WALL'S TUES., APRIL 10, SHOW AT THE HOUSE OF BLUES IN ANAHEIM WAS CANCELLED AFTER THIS STORY WAS PUBLISHED.

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