Yes, yes. Cars and bling. Cars and bling. There’s more to the world than cars and bling — just not for Houston rap’s token white boy, Paul Wall.
Wall is indeed white, despite what you might assume if, say, you’ve only heard his rich southern drawl over the year’s most wicked bass line on the heavy-rotation single “Sittin’ Sidewayz.” He knows he’s white, too, so don’t even think about passing Wall’s steez off as a novelty: The goateed rapper already one-upped Howard Stern by maintaining his composure despite Stern’s incessantly racist “You’re not really white, are you?” and “Why do you talk that way?”
But back to the cars and the ever-so-important bling and Wall’s major-label debut, The People’s Champ, on which Wall shows little concern for anything that doesn’t sparkle in the lights or roll low to the ground and guzzle gas. And why should he? He owns a successful Houston jewelry store that specializes in platinum fronts, and he has little reason to drop verses other than to promote his business, presumably so he can earn enough money to buy more cars. (See how that works?)
Although nothing else on The People’s Champ comes close to “Sittin’ Sidewayz,” the album holds itself together with only the dirtiest of cruising-speed beats and Wall’s surprisingly consistent, slightly bounced verbal assault. Rarely touching on anything more than — you guessed it — cars and bling (he throws in a few rhymes about girls and dollars for good measure), Wall’s verses strike with a flow that conveys his unflinching confidence, something that most rappers’ typical, tired bravado alone can’t accomplish.
Through the gangsta funk of “Smooth Operator,” which adds one of the album’s catchiest choruses, and the Grid.Iron-produced “They Don’t Know,” featuring a memorable everyman verse by Mike Jones, The People’s Champ is united under a hefty dose of Houston’s trademark sound, only faltering when tracks fall out of place — the slow jam “Girl,” the too-close-to-old-school-No-Limit “Sippin’ Tha Barre,” and the Late Registration-featured “Drive Slow.”
Refreshing guest spots from BG and Lil’ Wayne — on “Trill” and “March N’ Step,” respectively — are strong enough to make me wish I were back in Cash Money’s heyday, driving around in my friend’s dad’s cherry-red Navigator, picking up girls from neighboring high schools who were probably younger than they claimed. Ah, to be a suburban white kid with a disposable income.
But I digress. The People’s Champ isn’t a classic rap record by any means. It’s simply a solid release from an ambitious twenty-five-year-old in love with life’s simple material pleasures. And if cars and bling are all that Wall’s giving us, we should feel fortunate that he’s presenting this limited scope with such finesse.