Hannah George | 29/12/2023
Although still feeling rather tired and slightly jet-lagged from my trip over from the UK I was thrilled to be able to sit down with internet famed rap artist Paul Russell in his home territory of LA.
We got straight into it, discussing the beauty that is LA, far from the miserable weather I've returned to in London, Paul began to tell me that he hadn't always lived here and that he actually grew up in Texas. I half-joked about my perceptions of Texas mainly consisting of cowboy boots, line dancing and all around folky vibes but Paul told me there is some truth to it all and funnily enough his early introduction to music was through the folk scene in Dallas stating
“I remember growing up, I would go to places where they'd have a show at night where it was some, folk musician, and they would have like some guitar playing guy, sometimes they'd have an even bigger band, some horns and I would just sit there and go to all of these shows. I definitely feel folk music, the writing is a very important part of it. But it doesn't really matter if you can sing that well. It's just like, oh, are you telling a story And so I think from that, it made me want to start making music. I never felt like, Oh, I'm a great singer or anything, but I was like, you know, these people are up here just like telling the story of their life, and I can do that.”
Explaining more about his early experiences with music, Paul tells me for him it all started with a ukulele, making songs in high school being where his drive to create began...
“ I went to college and met a guy who was trying to build up his resume in the music industry. He had heard some of the stuff that I made in high school. After that he just started booking me for these little coffee shops and places where I would go and play the ukulele and songs that I made in high school. As time went on, I started experimenting with new stuff and it grew, over time into more hip hop and pop.”
Talking of this emergence into the pop and hip-hop scene, I wanted to know how he found his success, coming to fame on TikTok and being ‘viral’.
“I've been making music for years, but it wasn’tuntil recently that I said I actually want to be a musician. Since it feels like I blinked and then everything happened, but obviously, building an audience on TikTok was a huge part of what led up to the ‘Lil Boo Thang. I started posting videos in 2020. A college kid was raving that I needed to be on TikTok, and I should be way bigger than I was. And so we would meet up, and we'd film little videos where I would take a song that already existed, and I put a rap verse on it. I kind of fell off and stopped doing it for a while because I wanted to release more music. And when it came to making ‘Lil Boo Thang’, to me, it was like, oh, I'm gonna go back and make a video like when I first started on TikTok.”
It was these videos that made his single ‘Lil Boo Thang’ viral on both TikTok and reels earlier this year, peaking at number 23 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Paul went on to tell me more about his rise to success and how it felt for him, especially after his recent performance at the Jingle Ball.
“I was performing there, and I would see people who I’m a fan of walk past and onstage, and I remember talking to my manager saying, my gosh, I’m on stage with that person and how, one day I need to go and like, say hi to them. And he’d remind me bro, you're performing on the same line you can just walk up and be like, hey, because they know who you are because they read your name on the line-up. But to me, it's like, they're super famous and I'm just like a regular guy sitting in his eye, which is true. I mean, we're all just regular people, but, it's weird.”
The realities of creating and touring as a musician interested me, Paul had a bit to say on this as he has recently been here, there and everywhere for various music-related things, even heading to London soon, mostly out of intrigue I asked him if there was anything he was looking forward to on his upcoming trip.
“I feel a bit of the American media of the UK, is the like pub culture. I have this image in my head of walking in somewhere and I have a beer in hand and like everybody's singing along to some song and we're all like hugging each other”
Although not quite as idyllic I reassured Paul that UK pub culture is rather great … as well as his upcoming trip to London Paul went on to tell me some of the other exciting places he is performing at in the coming weeks
“We’ve been on the road basically until a couple of days before Christmas. Then a break until New Year. I had just a couple of La shows back to back which was fun. I just did a headline show in LA and before flying to New York for a few more shows and another Jingle Ball.”
After the success of ‘Lil Boo Thang’ Paul goes on to tell me more about his upcoming ventures outside of performing, I ask him if he has anything in mind for release anytime soon, telling me ...
“I have a bunch of songs that I've made recently. I mean, after ‘Lil Boo Thang’, I was just doing a bunch of sessions, I went from working by myself and then now with a producer that I work a lot with, did a bunch of sessions with him and made some more music. And then after that, when I signed with a label, they had so many contacts. It’s been cool working with, a bajillion different producers over, a few months.I’ve gotten to make a lot of stuff and kind of figure out what the lane and what the vibe is. I'm super excited about the next step. I have a single coming out probably early next year, we're trying to figure out the exact date. But there’s a lot of stuff that I'm excited about. Making music that feels, nostalgic in some way, but it still feels modern, and like a sing-along bubble has always been the goal.”
Sounding like a very hectic schedule and a bit of a whirlwind I asked Paul how he remains grounded with it all, especially as it all happened with such rapid pace.
“I mean, I think for me, it's remembering how this all happened. I’m definitely a firm believer that, God set my story to go this way. When I look back it’s not that I sat and planned out everything, and it went according to plan, everything was organic and random, and it kind of came from this unexpected place that I never expected. So remembering that, as I go through this new phase of my life, and my career is good, because, I don't have to make everything work, or I don't have to have everything figured out in my head. It’s already planned out perfectly. I just have to be authentic to me and continue to trust in it.”
On that uplifting note, Paul wrapped it up telling me “I'm excited for 2024 I, things that are booked shows, songs that I have coming out, planning to release an album. It’s all that stuff that I feel really good and excited about. I'm pumped.”
And we are certainly pumped too, very excited to see what 2024 has in stock for this budding artist.
Words Hannah George
Creative Alice Gee
Photography McLaren Ray
Stylist Lady Maximo
Hair & MUA Tatyana