Something I have learned through the years of being an older sibling in my family is this: you’re always a celebrity to someone. My little brother has been known to copy so many things that I do, including an affinity for Christian rap. I got the amazing opportunity to interview one of the newest Rapzilla Freshmen and Kings Dream signee, Paul Russell.
Paul, though he would never say this, is a celebrity in this space. If you don’t think so, allow me to introduce you to him, and you’ll see…this guy is special.
When I interview people for my own podcast, I always ask them this: “What is your favorite Bible verse?” Paul’s is simple, yet potent: “You will seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all of your heart.”
I know this verse from Deuteronomy 4. He knows this verse from Jeremiah 29. The essence of this verse, though, is the essence of Paul Russell, both the artist and the person. I’ve been a Paul Russell fan for some time now. I was fully expecting to have the typical interview where the artist has been making music his whole life, loves all these different artists and inspirations, and wants to be the next name in the game. Paul Russell is simply not your typical rapper…at all.
Who is Paul Russell?
If there is one keyword that defines our interview, it’s the word “unpredictable.” Paul doesn’t have the typical music story most artists are prone to have. “Making music wasn’t always what I wanted to do,” Paul told me.
In middle school, Paul Russell had his first real taste of rap music. Paul’s first real rap “career” was having rap battles with his friends at school.
“We were doing it so often that the administration actually had to come and shut us down. So we would go home and record them on our phones and text them out to people.”
Paul knew himself, along with other people in his life, that he had a gift for rapping. But his parents didn’t really approve of rap music, he kind of lost interest, and he kept music on the back burner starting in early high school.
Toward the end of his high school career, he was assigned a type of self-exploration project, where virtually everything was fair game. He decided he would make a song for the project, and the rest is history. His people hyped him up, he found his pocket, and Paul was there – he was an artist, almost accidentally. He was still uncertain, though, never committing to the whole rap thing as a full-timer.
“Every so often, I would make a song and post it…people would come back telling me, ‘Paul, you gotta be a rapper’!”
What’s his sound?
“I came into it as a hobby,” he told me, “but I still haven’t figured out where I fit.”
As someone who listens to Christian rap music feverishly, I can’t find where he fits either. Paul has one of the most diverse production line-ups streaming can link you up with. I could try and compare him to someone, but he just has no real comparison. Each and every song he produces – by himself, for the most part, might I add – has its very own sound. You can hear this music-box-type melody in “Feels like a Dream” or a full, throaty driver in “Kimbo Slice.” Whether he sings or raps, he’s the same Paul. He is versatile, yet consistently himself. Every song could be its own single.
At the same time, all of his music ebbs and flows together like he purposefully made one track out of another. There are definitely overtones of things bigger than rap in his music. This isn’t surprising – Paul Russell doesn’t really listen to rap music.
“I feel like we’re in a time where genres aren’t really defined,” he said. “I enjoy music that’s really melodic…I’ve never been a big CHH Head.”
Paul told me that he really clings to soul, jazz, and funk-inspired stuff. His dream collaboration even includes the likes of R&B-Esque artists PJ Morton and Tom Mist.
What’s next for Paul Russell?
Paul is uncertain about a lot of things moving forward. As a recent college graduate who is soon to be married, his music career is a bit ambiguous. Does he become mostly a music writer for others? Does he stick with his CHH niche right now? Does he try and make moves toward other audiences/genres/niches? He asked all of these questions out loud over the phone to me. He doesn’t have those answers right now. But there is one thing he was repeatedly certain about:
“At some point, you have to just move – do something. And I just tell myself, ‘If this is a mistake, I know God can redeem it’.”
Paul Russell is a celebrity. It’s not because he has a ton of Billboard exposure or high-dollar features. Paul is not a celebrity because he has the highest streaming numbers. Paul Russell is a celebrity because he is an artist – even a person – that we all would love to be. His story is as authentic as his sound. Seeing as he doesn’t do this full-time yet (or maybe ever), you can bet your bottom dollar that what he creates is from the heart. Stop reading this now, and go stream Paul Russell wherever you get your music. You won’t regret it.
Listen to Paul Russell Below: