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Paul Wall is one of the more affable and accessible Houstonians. That's saying something. Don't forget: the city is also the home of Mike Jones, who wants you to call him at 281-330-8004 right now, not to mention the Astrodome, the temporary home to thousands of Hurricane Katrina survivors. He tirelessly refers to himself as a mere fan of hip-hop and constantly talks up his unsung heroes. Like most of his fellow H-Town MCs, Wall is a DJ Screw disciple, so he likes his tempos slow and syrupy -- he actually had to adjust to hearing hip-hop at a normal tempo, not the other way around! -- and he fills his rhymes with countless local slang terms (slabs, swangas, candy paint, tippin') that necessitate a glossary for many listeners. His thick but swift Southern drawl had its first spell of nationwide exposure on Jones' "Still Tippin'," one of the best rap singles released from any region in 2005. He's also the grille maker for many a Southern rap star (as boldly indicated on the front of The Peoples Champ) and gave the screwed-and-chopped treatment to T.I.'s Urban Legend. Years before all of this happened, Wall was kicking around, releasing the occasional independent album and mixtape. So, just like Houston itself, it has taken some time for Wall to get the spotlight. The Peoples Champ is a fine break out, led by first single "Sittin' Sideways." Not quite as magnificently woozy as "Still Tippin'," it's still another solid-gold production from Salih Williams, and Wall is as good over the beat as he is on anything else. Granted, Wall's no all-star lyricist -- he's rarely saying anything of deep substance (this is music for driving around and partying, after all), but his flow always fits into the fabric of the track. Titles like "So Many Diamonds," "Drive Slow," and "Sip-N-Get High" tip you off to the range of subject matter. Ever a gracious host, Three 6 Mafia, Bun B, Freeway, Big Pokey, T.I., and Kanye West are just some of the MCs who guest. ~ Andy Kellman, All Music Guide

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