The Peoples Champ

Washington City Paper | October 14, 2005
Hiphop’s had its share of wiggas, but Paul Wall is an extreme case. Even Eminem, at the end of the day, is more comfortable trafficking in white stereotypes than black ones: frolicking with blond porn stars, taking hallucinogenic drugs, bad-mouthing his mama. Wall, on the other hand, is more at home rubbing on black women and dunk riders. He may call himself the “Peoples Champ,” a moniker that also provides the title to his new album, but it’s unlikely that the people he purports to champion are other short, white Texas boys. Despite black folks’ worries that Wall is a product of backward perceptions about race and white people’s concerns that his existence means their kids may not outgrow their rap obsessions, Wall isn’t a controversial artist. His deep, syrupy voice and Southern slang brighten mundane talk of candy paint and his horrible diamond-studded grill, but The Peoples Champ doesn’t spark the discourse that Wall’s image does. To de-emphasize Wall’s otherness, perhaps, the disc often sacrifices flavor in favor of assimilation. Like fellow SwishaHouse artist Mike Jones, Wall isn’t above mining his career-making turn on the single “Still Tippin’” for material. Jones parlayed his most memorable line from the cut into the single “Back Then,” and Wall follows suit with “Internet Going Nutz.” Listening to Wall go on about surfing the Web for “late-night love” on that track is hilarious—and pathetic: “Wine and dine, but not this time/I pick the keyboard, I’m online.” But simple drum programming and a beleaguered bass line from producer KLC drag the whole thing down. Conversely, “Trill,” “They Don’t Know,” and “So Many Diamonds” offer wonderfully sleepy, post-crunk Southern hiphop beats, but their lyrics are throwaway. “Just Paul Wall,” a mellow Grid.Iron-produced track crafted around a James Taylor sample, approaches a happy medium. The biographical track about Wall’s hard-knock life is supported by a formidable beat, but then Wall starts to insist that he’s nothing special, repeating a chorus of “I’m just a regular G” over and over. The album’s first single, “Sittin’ Sidewayz,” with its distinctive bloated, contracting bassline, is the album’s peak—both the production and Wall’s description of parking-lot profiling shine. But the rest of Champ holds too many instances of solid lyrics wasted on a mediocre track or brilliant beats smothered by the milky rapper’s milquetoast compositions.

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