Paul Wall's album The People's Champ comes out on Tuesday, but at a time when that should be his only focus, it can't be. He's heavily immersed elsewhere, trying to aid the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. The rapper has been calling in to radio stations around the country soliciting donations for the cause, performing at benefit shows and rallying his friends in the fashion industry to give clothes to the people who have been left with nothing.
"I have a foundation in Houston called Hope for Houston," Wall said on Thursday. "We've been petitioning a lot of clothing lines I deal with personally. Like Travis Barker got a clothing line called Famous Stars & Straps, and he donated to my foundation 5,000 pieces of clothes — shirts, jeans, whatever. Ecko said they was going to clear out the entire warehouse and Algierz said they was going to send thousands of shirts.
"It's hard because you're trying to carry on a regular career," he added of his personal relief efforts. "I got an album dropping Tuesday. I can't really concentrate on my album 'cause I'm trying to help these people. In my heart I feel like the album, that'll come, but I need to focus on these people and helping them in their situation."
Wall says he came into direct contact with some evacuees (see "Life In The Astrodome: One Family's Story") on Wednesday while shooting his video for the song "They Don't Know" in Houston's fifth ward. Just a few days before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Wall was in Miami for the VMAs (see "Green Day Clean Up, Kelly Clarkson Gets Wet, 50 Rips Into Fat Joe At VMAs") promoting his LP, and explained that the video and the song are just a reflection of H-Town under normal circumstances.
"The next single we are going to push is 'They Don't Know' featuring my boy Mike Jones and UGK legend Bun B," he said. "Basically, the whole agenda of the album is to introduce the lifestyle and culture of Texas to the world. And 'They Don't Know' pretty much sums up the lifestyle and culture into one song. It's letting the world know how we do it in the South, just like they seen on [MTV's] 'My Block: Houston' [special]. It's just the audio version of that."
Like most ballas from his hometown, Wall is well known for his affinity for cars. He goes from parking-lot pimpin' to "Internet pimpin' " on The People's Champ's "Internet Going Nutz."
"It's letting them boys know how it goes down in the chat room," he explained of the cut. "I got a song called 'March Like a Soldier' with Lil' Wayne. That's basically letting boys know, if you gonna talk about it, you gotta be about it."
Three 6 Mafia, Freeway, T.I. and B.G. are among the others who appear on the LP, in addition to Kanye West. Paul can thank a certain men's magazine for the latter collaboration. King magazine tends to bring guys together, usually to discuss the models seen within its pages. Earlier this year, though, the mag started a working relationship as well as a friendship between Kanye West and Paul Wall — while smiling for a photo shoot in King's special spread called the "Coming Kings" in the August issue, Wall and Kanye forged a bond.
"The first time I meet anybody, first thing I tell them is 'you need to get a grill in your mouth,' " Wall said recently in Miami. "I make the grills. I bring the stuff [to make the grill molding] with me everywhere I go. So after the photo shoot and interviews we went outside. I talked [Kanye] into getting a grill. Two weeks later he came to Houston, we hooked up and our relationship and friendship built up."
It wasn't until a little later in L.A. that the two got together and recorded the track "Drive Slow" with G.O.O.D. Music artist GLC. The song appears on West's Late Registration and will also be featured on Paul's album.
"He was like, 'I got a song with an open spot. You wanna get on?' " Wall remembered. "I was like 'Yeah.' Regardless if it made the album or not, I was happy to have the opportunity."
Besides his collabo with Kanye, there's something major in the works with his "boys" the Transplants; and Wall and Slim Thug have been talking about a duets album, as has Wall and singer Trey Songz. Paul also pops on Jim Jones' recent release, Harlem: Diary of a Summer.
The People's Champ track list, according to Atlantic Records:
- "I'm a Playa" (featuring Three 6 Mafia)
- "They Don't Know" (featuring Bun B)
- "Ridin' Dirty" (featuring Trey Songz)
- "State to State" (featuring Freeway)
- "So Many Diamonds" (featuring T.I.)
- "Smooth Operator"
- "Sittin' Sidewayz" (featuring Big Pokey)
- "Internet Going Nutz"
- "Trill" (featuring B.G. and Bun B)
- "Sippin' Tha Barre"
- "Drive Slow" (Kanye West featuring Paul Wall & GLC)
- "March N' Step" (featuring Grit Boys)
- "Got Plex" (featuring Archie Lee and Cootabang)
- "Big Ballin' "
- "Sip-N-Get High" (featuring Aqualeo)
- "Just Paul Wall"
For a feature on Paul Wall and the Houston hip-hop scene, check out "Why Houston?"