Paul Wall

Paul Wall
Paul Wall

The 29-year-old rapper has had phenomenal success with his own recordings and in collaboration with Chamillionaire, Mike Jones, and others. He has recently become president of the Texas chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences—the people who give out the Grammys—and is releasing his fifth album, Heart of a Champion (Swishahouse). He lives in Houston with his wife, Crystal, and their two children.

The advance copy of your new album has a song called “Codeine” that’s a pretty tough look at drug addiction. You got your start in a hip-hop scene where cough syrup was the drug of choice and was central to the music. What prompted you to write the song? That was actually my wife’s idea. It’s a remake of Dolly Parton’s song “Jolene,” but where Dolly Parton was saying, “Jolene, please don’t take my man,” we’re saying “codeine.” That’s something we were going through, me and my wife, my family. I was addicted to codeine, and it was stealing me away from them. To be honest, though, I don’t think we got clearance [for the song sample] in time, so we might have to save it for the next album.

Can you tell me a bit more about your experiences with codeine? In the hip-hop community, it’s kind of cool to take codeine; it’s kind of like marijuana. When you smoke weed, people don’t look at it like you’re smoking drugs—they think it’s cool. But codeine is an actual narcotic; it’s like liquid heroin. It was a real hard thing for me to kick, especially because people didn’t treat it like it was a real drug. When you’re sipping on codeine, you get a little lazy, you get fat—but that’s something people accept in Texas, because we’re one of the most obese states in the country. All my friends are fat.

How did you manage to kick the habit? My biological father was addicted to heroin, and he left me and my sister when I was about four or five years old. That was always my main fear: I don’t want

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