HOUSTON — Paul Wall's not the type of artist who doesn't like to share.
He's making grills for everyone from Hulk Hogan to Venus Williams, and while many MCs like to lock down the studio during recording, Wall welcomes company — especially his family.
"This is little Will Wall," Paul said with a grin, introducing his 5-month-old son. While Paul's wife, Crystal, sat outside in the recording studio's waiting room with Swisha House artist Lil' Keke, little Will sat in his daddy's lap. Paul sat at the control board, contemplating the youngster's effect on his life and music.
"Man, it's just made me more stable," he said about becoming a dad. "It's been like my anchor. This is what I come home to: a real family. It's just stable. Just having a son is more motivation and inspiration to get out and get on my grind. I got to make sure that he's straight. It's not just about myself anymore. I got to make sure he's straight for the rest of his life — for his kids' lives too. So I'm just going out and utilizing every opportunity I have.
"But if I'm at home, you can't separate me from my son," he continued. "When you look at the baby pictures from when I was his age, man, it's just identical twins. He might come on the road with me. He be hanging out. He be on the scene with me."
Also on the scene at the studio were a few members of Dem Franchize Boyz as well as Juelz Santana, who's slated to appear on a track on Wall's upcoming LP, Get Money, Stay True (see "Paul Wall Mashin' The Gas With Money LP, Adding Sandwiches To His Plate").
"I'm a dime collector," Paul's voice blared from the speakers as producer T. Ferris played the unfinished track for Santana. "You talking about girls, right?" asked Santana, who was in town for the Up Close and Personal Tour (see "Chris Brown, Ne-Yo, Lil Wayne, Juelz Give UCP Crowd Plenty To Scream About").
"Yeah," Paul answered back. Even though he continues to make songs about the ladies, it never gets him in any hot water with his wife at home. She actually encourages him.
"I think a lot of times with a song, she knows she's the inspiration for it, so it's all good," he said. "When I'm on the mic and I'm talking about girls, she knows I'm talking about her. She don't be trippin' off none of it. She might give me an idea on a song, like, 'You got to say
Wall's LP isn't going to drop until early next year, but he's already thinking about the first single. "I Don't Care Anymore," which samples Phil Collins' song of the same name, is looking like a front-runner, but there are still records being made with Mariah Carey, Kanye West, T.I. and Bob Marley.
"This one we did with [the] Phil Collins [sample] is off the hook, man," Wall said. "It's just talking about, 'I don't care anymore if people are talking down.' He says something in the hook, 'We don't play by the same rules anyway.' And that's just how we feel about so many things we've dealt with. So much hate in the city, outside the city, just in the music industry — in the buildings with the executives, with just a lot of different people, man. From day one, we've dealt with so much adversity and so many people just trying to bring us down or tear us apart. They playing by different rules. They playing dirty."
On the album, Wall said he's definitely going to stay true to one of his most popular hallmarks — party music — but he insisted he has much more to offer.
"I think because the song 'Grillz' was so big and so popular, but at the same time I sell the grills, so anytime I say something about grills in any way, I'm promoting myself, promoting my Grills by Paul Wall," he said. "It's free promotion for me, so I utilize that. At the same time, I don't just overdo it. I really try not to.
"I got a couple songs about diamonds and grills," he said with another smile, "but if you listen to the album, you'll see that there might be two songs about grills or chains or diamonds or cars, but then it's 11 songs about completely other, different topics. It might be hustling, it might be real-life stories and situations, some things that people can relate to."
His last album, The Peoples Champ, was recorded when he was the underdog, an MC with regional love who was trying to break nationally. So now that he's a big rap star, how hard has it been to stay true?
"At heart I'm still the same person, but everything around me is changing," Wall said. "So it just naturally makes you mature, makes you evolve as who you are as a person. There's nothing wrong with changing at all. But at your heart, you just got to stay true to who you are as a person, to who you always have been. When you see Paul Wall, I'm always going to be the same person. I might have on a new grill, I might have on some new jewelry. I might've put on some pounds, I might've lost some pounds. You never know. I'm still the same Paul Wall. You still going to see me smiling. I'm going to dap you up. We going to be cool."
That is, unless you disturb him when he's doing his favorite activity outside of spending time with his family or making music.
"I'm at the baseball game yelling at the umpire and people are on the side of me trying to get my autograph and picture, and I'm like, 'Man, we need to win,' " the lifelong Astros fan said. " 'We're trying to get the wild card, we're trying to get to the playoffs. Man, forget the autograph, we need to tell the umpire that was a strike.' It's hard to enjoy yourself sometimes. It just goes with the territory. It's all cool, man. I'm not trippin'."