Paul Wall laughs easily—even through his customized silver grillz, a staple for the Houston-bred rap legend. His laid-back demeanor, approachability, and obvious humility have made him “The People’s Champ,” a rapper and entrepreneur who isn’t afraid to admit his shortcomings and deepest insecurities. It’s a refreshing quality, especially in hip-hop where bravado and ego often go hand-in-hand. So, the fact that he wound up collaborating with fellow rapper Termanology, aka “Term,” on their new album Start 2 Finish couldn’t be more fitting.
Term could be “The People’s Champ” on the East Coast. Equally as humble and always one joke away from breaking into a smile, the Massachusetts native has built a reputable name for himself in the underground hip-hop world, working with everyone from Wu-Tang Clan and Erykah Badu to Statik Selektah and Christina Aguilera. Together, the unlikely duo has delivered a Southern gumbo sprinkled with classic New York boom bap, effortlessly bridging the geographical gap between their two regions.
But today, Wall and Termanology are far from home in Los Angeles where they’re doing several events in support of Start 2 Finish, an album that was released on April 8, 2022 and came together rather organically over the course of a year.
“Covid happened and then with Covid happening, Paul hit me up like, ‘Hey man, send me something. I’m in the studio. I’m hungry. I’m trying to rap.’ type vibes. So I sent him Thailand and he sent it right back, if I’m not mistaken, the same night or if not, within 24 hours. And I said, ‘Man, this dude is real. He’s humble. He’s a dope MC. He’s trying to get it popping.’ When he sent it back, he’s like, ‘Yo, you got something else? Send me something else.’ I’m like, ‘A’ight cool. I’m going to have two Paul Wall features on my album.’”
Those two features turned into three, then four and before they knew it, it was a full-blown album. Hopping on a Zoom call from their hotel room, they look happy to be surrounded by palm trees, the warm sun and Pacific Ocean—or it could be the good California weed they likely just smoked. Both artists are known cannabis connoisseurs and have been rapping about it since the onset of their careers. At this moment, they are filled with anticipation for people to finally hear their newest album.
“We’re excited,” Wall says through his giant grin. “Everybody we let hear the project is deeply impressed, which makes us feel good because it lets us know, OK. We were on the right track with how we were feeling when we created the music, so we’re just so excited to get to share it with people. We’re excited for the other things that this is going to lead to. We are already talking about doing part two and who’s going to get on part two, that type thing.”
The thought is fleeting, as the conversation quickly turns to the topic at hand—weed. Paul Wall was 12 years old the first time he tried marijuana, and he admits it wasn’t exactly the most pleasant experience. As he explains, his biological father was a drug addict and the thought of turning out like him was a paralyzing prospect.
“I felt a lot of nausea, it being the first time smoking,” Wall recalls. “Like, ‘Am I going to throw up? Am I inhaling too much? Am I choking?’ I was a little paranoid. I remember walking through the door, and it wasn’t too late, but my parents were asleep, and I was afraid they was going to smell me.
“It wasn’t a bad experience, but it also wasn’t a super good experience either. It was just something I always remembered. When I smoke weed now, it’s not like my first experience. I enjoy it a lot more.”
As for Termanology, he had a smoother introduction to weed smoking at 14 years old, right as he was really getting into making music.
“I used to do these demos in my boy Prophecy’s basement,” he says. “His dad was a big weed smoker, so he would always steal the weed out of the ashtray, the little roaches and shit.
“And so, I smoked. I started smoking with the homies and shit. I used to just get silly, just laughing, laughing, and laughing, getting the munchies; the classic stories.”
Naturally, life has drastically changed over the last 30 years. Both Wall and Term have children, established careers, and other responsibilities that force them to maneuver differently.
“I don’t smoke around my kids, so if I got my kids for the weekend or whatever the case, then I won’t smoke,” Term says. “But it’s not something that I need. I’m not one of those people that’s itching to burn. If I can’t burn, I’m not going to freak out. But I’d just rather be high, so I do like smoking.
“I’ll wake up, light up, go do my thing, hit the studio, light up again, go about my day, come home, take a shower, light up again, go to sleep, repeat. It does go with the day. If I’m with the homies, then we might fuck around and light 20 up.”
That has happened numerous times during studio sessions with Wall. If they’re not paying attention, suddenly they’ve smoked 10 blunts between the two of them.
“I smoke a lot of Backwoods,” Wall says. “Actually, that’s all I smoke is Backwoods. So, when you have that leaf on there, there’s a tobacco buzz that’s added to it, but then it clogs you up. It’s a little dirtier of a smoke just because it’s the fertilizer sometimes still left on leaf, and the fact that it’s just a leaf as opposed to smoking it out of a bong, where it’s just straight weed.
“Also, man, there’s people that got high-concentrate bullshit, too. Just because it’s some wax or a dab don’t mean it’s fire or don’t mean it’s not going to give you a headache. I prefer smoking out the Backwoods, but I definitely dab a little bit.”
Wall doesn’t smoke weed at all times. If he has a packed schedule, he might wait to puff until he’s checked off the boxes on his list.
“Sometimes, I got a full day,” he explains. “And it’s like, ‘OK, I got to really focus on this or that, so let me just maybe not smoke, or maybe smoke just to get in the zone or whatever.’ Then sometimes it’s like, ‘We going to be smoking all day.’ But there’s some times where I’ll avoid smoking if it’s somewhere where I want to be clear headed.
“Other times, my mind will be foggy, and I need to smoke to clear my head. It just depends. I definitely smoke every day though.”
Anyone familiar with Paul Wall’s journey knows he’s come a long way. As he often rapped about in his music, he made sippin’ on sizzurp a second occupation. The drink—which is a concoction of cough syrup containing codeine and promethazine mixed with a carbonated soft drink—was often used as a recreational drug in the early 2000s, and it could have killed him.
“I used to sip syrup every single day, and we’d be in the studio every day smoking and drinking, smoking and drinking,” he recalls. “But I didn’t know how to roll up. So, I would just buy the drink and I’d pour it up, and they’d have some weed. I’d hit it every now and then when it would come my way. Then it got to be where I’m like, ‘Hey, man. Roll it up.’ I’m asking them to roll it up. Then it got to be where it’s like, ‘Shit, I got to learn how to roll it up. I got to roll my own.’”
Quitting syrup proved to be a pivotal point in his life. In 2010, he opted to have the gastric sleeve procedure, which reduced his stomach to the size of his thumb and eliminated the part that produces hormones causing hunger. He admits years of ingesting syrup, Xanax, and Vicodin, combined with diet pills severely impaired his metabolism.
“When I stopped sipping syrup on a daily basis, I had surgery on my stomach that saved my life and helped me lose weight,” Wall says. “That’s when I didn’t have any appetite. I went from being 300 plus, 320, almost 350 pounds, to a 2Pac weight. I went down to 165. I literally don’t get hungry no more. Now, if I go the whole day without eating, I’m going to have a headache and I’m going to be grumpy.”
That’s where weed comes in. He says he would sometimes go 12 hours without eating and once he’d smoke, the munchies would kick in and remind him to get back on track.
“We were raised to look at [weight loss surgery] as being a vain procedure or something,” he says. “But that’s not the case. This shit is something that saved my life and completely changed my life when I had that surgery.
“But then, the results of when I lost all the weight was, I’m never hungry. Consciously, I’m like, ‘OK, I definitely don’t want nobody thinking I’m an addict like that or I’m sick and about to die.’ So, I had to gain a little weight. That’s when the weed really helped me. That’s when I started smoking daily.”
Up until that point, Wall would only smoke at the studio or when he was partying with friends. But once he brought his eating issues to his physician, he was given a prescription for medical marijuana.
“When I had the surgery, I went to the doctor and the doctor said, ‘Hey, man. I’m going to prescribe you some cannabis. It’s going to give you your appetite, you going to be able to eat.’ The next thing you know, I’m walking around here looking good now [laughs].”
Term, on the other hand, has always smoked for recreation. But the days of rolling his own joints or blunts are long gone.
“My man’s got the machine where he makes the pre-rolls, so I just buy the pre-rolls 100 at a time,” he says. “I got them at the crib. I grab one a day and I just smoke it. I’ll have a few in the trunk of the car in case I’m in a party or session, or in case one of the homies want to smoke, I’ll just pass him his own.”
Being a well-known rapper doesn’t hurt either. Any time he does a show, someone is bound to toss him a few nugs.
“I got this big chest in my house full of weed,” he says. “A dude done gave me eight different flavors. People come to my house and they’re like, ‘What you got today?’ It’s funny, man. I really don’t have to roll up anymore. I ain’t rolled in a long time because I don’t have to [laughs].”
Wall and Term have decades of fond memories from their weed-smoking adventures. Term will never forget going toe-to-toe with cannabis king B-Real of Cypress Hill, while Wall will always remember his first experience with Satellite OG.
“We were in the studio in L.A., me and a couple of my boys, and we were just smoking some good-ass weed,” Wall says. “All of a sudden, my boy rolls up with Satellite OG. I hit it and immediately was like, ‘Whoa, what is this? Is this like a sherm stick or something? It’s some wet in there? What’s going on?’ He’s like, ‘Nah, it’s just that Satellite OG,’ and I’m like, ‘Damn, this shit is weed?!’ It wasn’t even concentrate, wax, kief, none of that—it was just straight weed.”
The “Sittin’ Sideways” rapper only hit it a couple of times and had to book it to Los Angeles International Airport shortly after—but he was in an entirely different world.
“I’m just looking out the window on another level,” he continues. “I remember some music coming on the radio, and I remember telling my boy, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah. This that new Mary J. Blige, ain’t it?’ He like, “What?! That’s Ne-Yo!’ I was just tripping out of my mind.’”
By the time he got to the TSA line, he couldn’t figure out how to get his identification card into the machine, and paranoia quickly set in.
“I remember trying to get it in the hole and it wouldn’t fit in the hole,” he says with a chuckle. “I’m like, ‘Shit!’ This is ’05, so everybody’s staring at me, and I’m like, ‘Shit, is everybody staring at me because they like, ‘Oh, there go Paul Wall,’ or everybody’s staring at me because they like, ‘That dude high as fuck.’ I’m just trying to keep my composure to get on the flight because keep in mind too, in Texas, they catch you high, they taking you to jail.”
Asked if he ever smoked Satellite OG again, he replies without hesitation, “Every day.”