Inside the World of Paul Wall & Termanology


In the world of media, “running on rapper time” is a common, lighthearted phrase. When you’re interviewing a rapper, expect to do it about an hour later than scheduled. But the phrase doesn’t ring true for rappers Paul Wall and Termanology, who showed up to Inked NYC right on time with immediately evident sincerity. Conversations with them are as refreshing and real as their music – it wasn’t just another meeting with artists, but a genuine interaction with two influential people.

Paul Wall is not only a legendary rapper, but also an acclaimed entrepreneur from the South. Termanology is a majorly respected East Coast rapper and producer, and they both have a connection to deep community involvement. We got the chance to sit down with the pair and talk about their respective journeys, their collaboration and their shared dedication to making a positive impact in their communities, all while navigating the evolving landscape of hip-hop.

photo by quentin challier

Can you introduce yourselves for those who may not know you?

Paul Wall: I’m Paul Wall. I’m a rapper from Houston, Texas. I’m known for selling grillz with my partner Johnny Dang. I’m known for my love of Houston Sports and my work in the community.

Termanology: I’m Termanology, rapper slash producer, from Lawrence, Massachusetts. I’m known for being a great MC and my brand Good Dad Gang, that also does community work.

What was it like growing up for the both of you? Were you always interested in the music scene?

Paul Wall: Music was something that was always a part of my life. Making music, not necessarily, other than being in the church choir or in school. My mom was a teacher, so she wasn’t a music teacher, but she used music as a tool to teach. Like how you learn the ABCs to a song, you know? It helps you memorize it a little bit better. So music was always there. My mom would play records or play music on Saturdays when we’re cleaning the house up. So you wake up early morning Saturday, I’m trying to watch cartoons. She’s like, “Yeah, you can watch cartoons after you clean your room.” And the whole time it’d be, you know, playing or Roberta Flack, or Marvin Gaye, something from Motown. And it was just what we always listened to. And it uplifted our spirits when we were down. It consoled us when we were going through something traumatic. If we were partying, it was a soundtrack to the party. If we were celebrating, we were celebrating to some music. So music was always something that was there, not just as a form of entertainment, but as a soundtrack to our life.

Termanology: Yeah, kind of the same thing that Paul said as far as like, music went with everything in life. So, you know, you riding around with your mom doing errands in the car, you’re gonna hear music. If I was with my dad on the weekends, he used to build race cars and low riders and stuff, so all the guys would always be playing music in the garage. And then when I was a kid, my mom had a boyfriend that was a rapper, so he used to rap around the house, just kind of freestyle. And he’s the one that really introduced me to hip-hop. And so I started rapping around nine years old, just kind of mimicking what I would see in the house. Like seeing my mom’s boyfriend rap at the kitchen table while he’s playing dice and smoking weed and with his friends. They’d be all freestyling about what they doing. Like, “Yo, we playing dice something, something, it ain’t nice. Yo pass me the brew. Not how we do.” So when I would watch him doing that as a kid, I would mimic it. And that was kind of how I got my start in rap. But I’ve always loved music my whole life. All different kinds of music from like Michael Jackson and rock and roll and stuff when I was more little. And then once I got put onto hip-hop, I just fell in love with hip-hop and just been rocking with hip-hop ever since.

That’s great. Was your mom’s boyfriend any good now in retrospect?

Termanology: I think that he was good for that era. That was 1992. I think that you know, considering he wasn’t a professional rapper, he was just a street dude, I think he was all right. I think he would rest in peace if he could see what I became. And if he knew how much he influenced me, I think he’d really be proud.

Yeah, absolutely. So how did the two of you connect?

Paul Wall: We connected through Statik Selektah. We have a lot of friends in common, actually. The longer we know each other, the more we realize that we share a lot of mutual friends. And I think that’s because even though we come from two very different places, Houston and Lawrence, we’re very similar in how we move, how we think, how we treat people. So, naturally, we build a lot of the same relationships with some of the same people, but Statik Selektah and Termanology, they made music for, you know, forever. I got a chance to work with them when I came up here for Summer Jam. And I was like, “Hey, Statik, what’s up man? I’m trying to get in the studio with you.” So we went in the studio and Term came through. And I don’t know if we did something that day, but that was like the first introduction where we got to become friends. And then making music was a mutual respect where we both had tremendous respect for how we approach the craft, for our accomplishments, for our skills, all of that. So working together was a simple, easy fit. You know, we’re just ingredients that go well together, you know what I’m saying?

That’s amazing. What is your favorite project that the two of you have worked on together?

Termanology: Well, we got two full-length albums and to be honest, they’re both our babies. The first one is classic, the fans deemed it classic and the new one has only been out for a couple of weeks. But a lot of people saying they like it more than the first one, which, you know, they have a thing called the Sophomore Curse, right? So you make a good first album and then people are expecting you to make a whack one. And we definitely didn’t do that, but that’s kind of like always looming in the air. You don’t know if you’re gonna be able to make something as dope as the first one. So as artists, we both kind of had a little bit of a worry like, “Are people gonna like it?” And it seemed to be that people actually like this one even more. Which is crazy. I also think that people, as far as our fan base, are getting used to seeing us rock together. In the beginning, it was like a science experiment. It was just like, let’s see if you could take a down south rapper and put him with a Boston rapper over all New York beats, see how that sounds, and to see if it works. And then it’s like, once it works now they’re like, “Okay, we used to that, so what’s next? Who you gonna rock with now? Who you gonna put on a song now? And what producer you gonna get now?”  So since they’re starting to understand this style that we’re creating, it’s really cool to see our fans engaging with us.

Definitely. How about you? What’s your favorite? Do you like the first one or this one more?

Paul Wall: I would say this one definitely. Because you seen the evolution of us working together when we first started doing it. It gave us a lot of excitement. But now that we’re settling in to us working together, you could just really see how comfortable we’re really getting with it. I’ll say this new one we just dropped. Also because all of the people we have on there, the features, you know what I’m saying? These are people I’ve looked up to my whole life. So to finally get to rock with them on a song is very meaningful. It’s something I don’t take lightly. 

photo by quentin challier

How has your working relationship pushed each other into new territories artistically?

Termanology: I think it was like culture shock of me going to Houston. I had went to Houston and done shows at House of Blues, and I had went down there and did videos with Bun B for years. But I wasn’t really comfortable. I didn’t really know the scene and I didn’t really understand the culture of Houston until I started going to hang with Paul. And he started explaining to me the difference between Southwest, East, North Side, these people rock with these people, these people dress like this, these people say these words, these people don’t. And so for me, going down there and just him introducing me to Bruce Bang and different other studios, like now, even if I go there and Paul’s out of town, I know where to go. I know where I should be staying. I know where the mall’s at, I know where the studio’s at. I got friends now down there, I got videographers down there. So it made it mad fun for me because I’m based outta New York, born and raised in Boston area, but I’m based out of New York, so I’m used to doing things in New York way and me going down there to Houston, I was able to tap into different vibes and we shot almost all our videos in Houston. And I think with Paul, we’ve been able to drag him into the New York sound fully. ‘Cause when his music first came out, it was the furthest thing from a New York boom-bap sound. It was more slow. It was more like those beats that you would expect to hear from Swishahouse and all of that. So I would say for me it’s been the culture, learning the slang and learning how they get down there and then him coming up here, he learned how we do it in New York, you know what I mean?

Paul Wall: Yeah, exactly. Everything that I shared with him about the Houston culture, he shared with me about just New York Boom bap or just East Coast hip-hop culture in general, where growing up there’s a lot of slang, there’s a lot of other things that you don’t really understand. It’s just being out here, it has helped me evolve as a rap artist.

What do you feel like your role is in the hip-hop scene? What are you hoping to accomplish through your work together?

Termanology: Well, with me, I never really got to that level of mainstream success. I’ve always just been the king of the underground. People love me in the underground and I think that over the years I’ve been able to fully just take on that role of being totally cool with just being a big independent artist and just doing everything my way and going against the industry rules and stuff. So with that being said, I think that my role is to just keep making good music and keep the music that I grew up loving alive, even though I’m down to try whatever new music comes out and link with new artists. I’m always willing to collaborate and see what else is going on out there. But I think that we should definitely preserve this culture with this being the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. We can’t just let it get away from us and let corporations tell us what hip-hop is. We need to tell the world our story and what hip-hop is. And I’ve been doing that for the last 20 years. So I think that it’s kind of like I’ve taken on the role of it being my job of just keeping my genre of hip-hop official and alive and pure, you know?

The industry is constantly evolving and changing. What’s your secret to longevity? You’ve both been in it for 20 years. How are you adapting with the times?

Paul Wall: I’d say just staying true to yourself is the most important. We’re all gonna evolve and change, our taste buds might change throughout the years. My views when I was a child, they were based on what I learned and what I knew as a child. As you learn and grow, your views kind of change a little bit, but you still stay true to who you are. And I think in the music and in the world, that’s important. Me rapping on screwed-up beats or rapping on boom bap beats or West Coast beats or whatever, I’ve always been me, no matter what. Also, not stepping on your own feet is a big thing. People are so vocal of sharing every thought that comes through their mind, that sometimes, those thoughts can be kept to yourself for sure. You know what I’m saying? I just feel like treating your job like it’s a profession is a huge part of it too. So many people feel entitled. They feel like they’re dope at what they do. So since they’re so dope, they don’t have to show up on time, they don’t have to treat people with respect. They say whatever they want to wherever they go.

I’m moving as if my mom’s watching, as if my wife is watching, as if my big homies in the hood are watching. And I feel every move I make, every word I say, I have to answer for. I only say words that my mama’s not going to smack me for saying. Just being held accountable by people that I respect, that’s a big part of it. So all of those things I think are just key to having longevity in the rap game or whatever career you choose.

I respect that a lot. Can you tell me a little bit about your work outside of music? Your grillz are awesome. I wanna know about that!

Paul Wall: I started off with grills as a customer. I just wanted grillz. I wanted to buy grillz for myself and the best way to get grillz at a good price, the cheapest way you can get ’em is to work there, employee discount. So that’s how I started selling grillz. Really was doing promotions, passing out flyers, but it was only so that I could get a discount for my own grill. Then my homeboy’s like, “I want one of those too.” And then they bring me their friends and then they bring me their cousins who were in town visiting and they bring me somebody else. So it just turns into one after another, I’m only selling grillz because it’s a supply and demand. It’s the demand for it. And I have a connection to the supply, so, alright, I can hook you up. It was never, “Oh, I can make so much money off of this.” Always just taking care of people and giving them a good product and having good customer service. My partner Johnny Dang, he was the one who was actually physically making the grillz, setting the diamonds, casting the gold, polishing it, all of that kind of stuff. I was the salesman a middleman. So Johnny gave me an opportunity that he’s given thousands of people to be a wholesale salesman. But good dope sells itself. So being able to sell grillz is not difficult at all. So I appreciate him giving me that opportunity, ’cause everybody wants a grill. And we just went hand in hand together working with Johnny. Man, shout out to my boy Johnny.

That’s awesome. And you guys both do community work and philanthropy?

Termanology: Yeah, so I got a movement called Good Dad Gang, that’s the movement I started nine years ago. And with the Good Dad Gang, it just started out with us trying to inspire fathers to be in their kids’ lives, inspire fathers to be the best dads they can be. Especially growing up in poor communities and inner-city communities, a lot of kids grow up without a good relationship with their dad or without even knowing their dad. And for instance, with me on my block, it was probably you know, a hundred families, and maybe only five of us had our dad. And if we knew our dad, he didn’t live in the household. So growing up like that, you see a lot of things go wrong because there was no positive male role model in the household, and there was no second parent to give that extra help. So with me having two daughters, I just wanted to be the best dad I could be. And so that’s how it started. And then it turned into a corporation now and a worldwide movement and a big company. We have a hundred fathers around the world that have Good Dad Gang tattooed on them. 

The cool part about that is that they don’t even know that it’s coming from me. They just see somebody else with the tat and say, “Hey, I’m a good dad. I want to get that tatted on me.” And then they go get the Good Dad tattoo, and I have a hashtag called Good Dad Gang Tattoo. If you guys want to check it out, all you do is click on that hashtag and you’ll see all hundred of the tattoos. I love Good Dad Gang, I’m so happy I came up with that, the slogan and the idea. And man, it’s crazy now we got all these tattoos. We got Billboards in Times Square. We got our own sneaker collaboration with Patrick Ewing. We did a collaboration with Diamond Supply Company out of LA. We did a collaboration with DJ Premier from Gangstar. So we’ve taken it pretty far and if anybody wants to know more about it, it’s

Paul Wall: There’s an organization I’m with called Parents Against Predators, Sonya Parker, she started it a while back and she reached out to me to be down with it. We’ve been doing all kinds of stuff from backpack drives to Turkey giveaways, Christmas toy giveaways. We usually sponsor select families or select apartment complexes. Parents Against Predators is an organization dedicated to standing up for children’s rights worldwide for missing, abused, killed, and hurt children. It’s a huge blessing. And me and Term, both are advocates for children’s rights. We both support each other’s causes.

photo by quentin challier

You guys are both doing great work and I love that it lines up with each other. That’s really cool. What advice do you guys have for somebody trying to break into the industry?

Termanology: I would say be professional. Don’t come in here thinking it’s a game. This is a job. Somebody else is waiting in line to take your opportunity. So don’t take your opportunity for granted. If you get an opportunity, you need to go all out and go get it. Be on time. Make sure you look presentable. Make sure you speak to people with respect, general things that you should know, but common sense is not common. I think that a lot of times people just kind of show up to interviews late, bringing too many people, disrespecting the building or disrespecting the whole situation. You gotta carry yourself in a certain manner. I feel like just being professional, being on point, being about your business, being respectful and being genuine would just get you far in this game.

Paul Wall: I would encourage anybody who is aspiring to be a rapper to treat it like it’s a job. Any job you get, if you show up late, you bring your boyfriend, your girlfriend to work, you know, they’re not going to have that. If you are not dressing properly for the job, they’re not gonna have that. If you’re treating your superiors or your coworkers in a certain way that you can get fired, if you’re stealing on the job, they’re gonna fire you. Any rules that apply to any normal job apply to your rap career. And I guarantee you’ll see more success than if you don’t apply those rules. So just treat it like it’s a job. Don’t treat it like it’s a hobby. If you treat it like it’s a hobby, it is gonna be a hobby. You know, if you treat it with the respect and professionalism that accompanies having a job, then you gonna have a career.

What are you guys most looking forward to? What’s next for you?

Paul Wall: For me, just putting out more albums. We already started working on the third one. The next one already. The future is definitely looking bright. We got a lot to look forward to coming up. We plant seeds. The seeds don’t grow as soon as you plant ’em, you gotta plant ’em and water ’em and give ’em sunlight, trim ’em, take care of ’em before they grow into a crop or a tree or a flower, you know. A lot of the seeds we’ve planted in the past are just now starting to grow. 

Termanology: I think me and Paul got an extensive catalog. Like I put out a million albums, solo and collabs with other artists, and he put out a million solo projects and he’s collabing with other artists. So, not only are we gonna drop one of these hopefully every year moving forward as a group, but also we got a ton of solo work coming out too. So we’re just gonna keep feeding our fans a lot of good music, man. And I’m excited for the fans to hear it all.

Paul Wall: We just dropped our deluxe version of our album, “Start, Finish, Repeat.” So we have “Start to Finish,” then we have “Start, Finish, Repeat.” And we have the deluxe version that came out with five additional songs. I have a solo album that comes out later on this year called “The Great Wall” and Term, he also has a solo album.

Termanology: I got another project coming out called “Time Currency” and that’s what’s coming up next. That’s our top of next year.

photo by quentin challier

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