It’s been easy for critics to argue that artists like Slim Thug and Paul Wall are simply holding onto the coattails of fellow Houstonian Mike Jones. The success of Who Is Mike Jones? and the colossal, groundbreaking popularity of the lead single “Still Tippin'” are unavoidable and a detriment to the credibility of the MCs that follow the “featuring” in the track’s title. However, like G-Unit, nearly every member of the crew outshines the frontman – Lloyd Banks and Young Buck destroy 50 Cent just like Slim Thug and Paul Wall dominate Mike Jones.
Most people are still trying to wrap their heads around Slim Thug recruiting the Neptunes to produce his album. Somehow, this mix-tape colossus was able to get the most sought-after and talented beat-makers to work on his album, elevating his flows and breakthrough release to new heights. Although Paul Wall doesn’t have this same firepower, The People’s Champ is still filled with tight, aggressive lines and the archetypal Houston demeanor.
Hailing from the screwed-and-hopped-world of DJ Screw, Paul Wall represents Swisha House and Houston with a mass of minimal beats and top-down, seat-back rhymes. The first single, “Sittin’ Sidewayz,” is driven by hi-hat taps and a morphing bass line. Big Pokey drops his grave flows to finish the track in true dirty-South style.
Platinum rapper T.I. screams Southern pride with Wall on “So Many Diamonds.” Although it’s a solid track, Wall sounds like an imitator next to the street-hardened T.I. The laid-back style of the Rubber Band Man makes Wall’s rhymes sound a bit aloof and out of place. Conversely, the self-proclaimed “People’s Champ” comes off as a veteran of the game on “Ridin’ Dirty.” The catchy, melodic, albeit soft, chorus of Trey Songz creates a perfect dichotomy.
Even the radio-friendly, rich kid Kanye West makes an appearance on The People’s Champ. “Drive Slow” has an identifiable West beat A– a melodic keyboard line with jazzy horn bursts – and his lackluster rapping style. The money-cash-hoes attitude of the track makes Kanye’s catalog all the more laughable, as he rhymes with Wall about all of the debauchery he chastises.
If anyone from the Swisha House crew was doomed to fail, it was Paul Wall. The white kid – let’s face it, he looks awkward next to Slim Thug and Mike Jones – with the iced out mouth is laughable at first glance. The People’s Champ isn’t Already Platinum, but it would be nearly impossible to catch the freight train that is Slim Thug right now. Paul Wall isn’t the savior of Southern rap and far from the best thing to come out of Houston, but he and Slim Thug are forcing everyone to wonder: What exactly is in the water in Houston?
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars