Paul Wall, 'Heart of a Champion' (Swishahouse/Asylum)

7
Heart of a Champion
Critical Mass
Label: Swishahouse/Asylum

by Ben Detrick

This famously grill-adorned Houston rapper has experienced diminishing returns since his platinum-selling 2005 major-label debut, but there's no desperation here. Wall cruises along with his usual simile-packed musings about wood-grained cars, fat pockets, and jewelry resembling "snow cones." Production-split capably between blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and duo Beanz & Kornbread-conflates rumbling 808s, sawing synths, and chopped-and-screwed hooks. Over the melancholy horns of "Live It" (alongside Raekwon, Jay Electronica, and Yelawolf), he raps modestly of material success: "No more ramen noodle spread / No more struggle and strife." A veteran rapper without bitterness is a treat.

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