Recording information: GL Productions, Houston, TX.
Photographers: Sandi Gagne; Bryan Anderson.
After his 2010, Warner Bros effort Heart of a Champion -- an innovative effort for the rapper, produced in part by blink-182 drummer Travis Barker -- failed to put up the usual Paul Wall numbers sales-wise, the People's Champ took the back-to-basics route with this 2012 mixtape. Big trick here is that Wall doesn't show any wounds at all after his fall from grace, and while No Sleep Till Houston lifts him out of the rock-rap category and returns him to that deep Texas street music, the rapper presents this journey back home as a celebration of his hood and not some career-minded, calculated reconnection. Mentioning his "threesomes with twins" and rocking with the royal Bun B, the opening "I'm Real, You Fake" makes it feel like he never left the streets of H-Town, as a simple loop hypnotizes and pounds the hook into the listener, just like it was 2005 all over again. "2 Cups" with Swishahouse boss DJ Michael 5000 Watts feels more like 2002 when Wall was working the indie circuit and packaged with Chamillionaire, and if Trina or Gangsta Boo were added to the strip club anthem "Bad Bitchez" it would be certifiably Golden Age, working that underbelly with H-Town grit, as if Odd Future, Yelawolf, and even Travis Barker never happened. Three bits of worthy, modern glitz are skillfully placed toward the end of the album with "1st Time You Say No" bringing in Wall's wife Crys for some pillow talk while "She Know It" closes the show with some radio-friendly gloss. Still, its "That's the Way Luv Goes" that becomes the standout, utilizing the melody of the similarly titled Janet Jackson tune while the rapper plays it sweet and innocent, macking on the ladies from behind the counter of the Swishahouse malt shop. Not bad at all, but be aware that the No Sleep Til Houston mixtape exists in underground and official versions, with the underground version running a mighty 16 tracks although interrupted with the usual shout-outs from the mixtape's host, DJ Drama. ~ David Jeffries