Tall Paul traverses south Minneapolis in the video for "Prayers in a Song."
The day after Vita.mn reported a mention of local rapper Tall Paul during one of Dave Chappelle's lengthy local standup sets, Tall Paul himself was in the audience at First Avenue. Although his plan had been to put a CD into the comedian's hands, he found out that wouldn't be necessary. Tall Paul, whose given name is Paul Wenell Jr., had already gotten Chappelle's attention.
"We ended up chatting a few times while he was up there," said Wenell. "One of those times he mentioned that he had downloaded my album. He surprised me when he mentioned 'Protect Ya Spirit.' So apparently he got his hands on my music before I could even get a CD to him." Regardless, Tall Paul did still deliver a disc.
The high profile attention was somewhat new to Tall Paul, who has been active in Minneapolis hip-hop for five years. In that time, he's garnered a loyal underground following that earned over 200,000 views and more than 3,000 likes for his video "Prayers in a Song" on Youtube.
"Overall, I think I have a following because of my skill-set and the substance I bring to the table," he said, referring to his style of thinking man's hip-hop - reminiscent of very early Doomtree or Brother Ali. He added: "I genuinely believe that there aren't many, if any MCs in this scene who make the kind of hip-hop music I do."
Still, his standout style and dedicated fans aside, the young rapper has enjoyed little attention from traditional media, a certitude to which he responded coolly.
"The fact that I haven't gotten any local media coverage might have to do more with local media politics, as well as local music politics. That's not to say I feel that I'm entitled to media coverage. I just think there are a lot of talented artists around here who are deserving of the attention but, in my opinion, don't get it because they're not as likable as the person who does have the attention, for whatever reason."
After the Chappelle namecheck, Tall Paul stands to see some gains in credibility and recognition. Those are two factors which can significantly raise an artist's profile, but he isn't getting especially preoccupied with the potential attention spike. Instead, he's busy helping to organize a December benefit at the Cedar Cultural Center. He was part of the show, dubbed "Cold Flows for Warm Clothes," during its inaugural installment last year, and he's looking forward to doing it again.
"We had several performers," Wenell recalled. "The headliner was I Self Devine, a Minnesota legend and MC who's currently signed with Rhymesayers. This year's headliner will be Big Quarters, and we're focusing on raising money for the Little Earth of United Tribes' Teen Center. They can definitely use the money for youth programming over there."
The majority of Tall Paul's solo music can be heard for free on his Soundcloud page, here.