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Working with others works well

October 16, 2005|Soren Baker

Paul Wall

"The Peoples Champ" (Swishahouse/Asylum/Atlantic)

* * 1/2

YEARS of working on Houston's independent rap circuit made Paul Wall a celebrity there. Teaming with labelmate Mike Jones this year on the hit "Still Tippin' " set the stage for this major-label debut, a solid, satisfying effort that shines when Wall unites with other famous rappers. But when he raps on his own, his limited vocabulary and lyrical scope limit his effectiveness.

His confident, straightforward delivery is most effective when paired with someone who raps in a more dramatic fashion. "I'm a Playa," featuring the sinister Three 6 Mafia, for instance, starts the collection on a muscular note, while the gruff "Trill" rings harder thanks to guest vocals from the clever and chilling Bun B and the gangsterish BG.

Fortunately for Wall, all of the music on "The Peoples Champ" is intoxicatingly captivating, whether the thick keyboards and drum hits of "So Many Diamonds" or the stylishly smooth sample of Leroy Hutson's of "Never Know What You Can Do" on the sex-centered "Smooth Operator." Thanks to the stellar music and hard-hitting guests, Wall's album is better than he actually is.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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