Come hell or high water, Paul Slayton is going to ensure he gets his money. Although his contributions to the rap game—which allowed him to reap platinum rewards in 2005—have been less than meritorious as of late, his popularity and personable charm have allowed him to gain revenue in the clothing and jewelery markets without missing a bill payment. Looking to jump back into bed with his first love of Hip-Hop, his fifth album Heart of a Champion is a U-turn in the correct direction musically. Produced primarily by Travis Barker and Beanz N Kornbread, the 14-track LP sports enough trunk rattlers and star power to squeeze a spot in nearly any rotation.
Granted this isn’t the first train on the Paul Wall express so surprises are next to none; hustlin’ on the grind, candy-coated cars and gaudy jewelery still make up the bulk of the content. And with most studio long-players these days, Heart of a Champion is flooded with side artists in hopes to gain the attention of their respective fanbases. Still, Paul Weezy makes it do what it do with some interesting and unexpected pairings. Bun B and Paul exchange Texas hold ’em tricks for the infinite time only to have Kid Sister dance on home plate as the anchor on the rambunctious “Im’ma Get It.” Memphis and Houston split an anthem as Yo Gotti and Wall rep “My City” over bouncy horns and no star-studded guest list is complete without an obligatory weed love letter featuring Devin The Dude as handled on “Smoke Everyday.” Despite it all, undoubtedly the best joint effort is the soulful wailings and meditative undertones of “Live It.” Inviting the purists to rock with him, Raekwon, Jay Electronica and Yelawolf add their regional flavor to smooth out the diversity.
Not every studio effort is a winner, however. Jim Jones and The People’s Champ fail to develop a rhythm on the lazy “Ain’t A Thang” and both Expen$ive Taste appearances deviate from the on-beat flow of the rest of the album. Paul Wall’s style of cramming similes and metaphors to build verses works fairly well when he breaks out his Mead® for haters to “Take Notes,” but the allure gradually wears off by the tail end of the album.
Seeing that it exists on the low key tip, Heart of a Champion likely won’t catapult Paul Wall’s name back in circulation of top-seeded rap acts. None the matter, it functions as a worthy subsidiary for a hustler who doesn’t keep all his eggs in one basket.