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Photo by Dominique Crespo

Houston’s own Swishahouse rap legend, Paul Wall, faced Austin’s Grammy Award-winning blues-rock artist, Gary Clark Jr., in a four-round battle of the bands on Thursday night. 

With two distinctive artists striving to amplify the beauty of southern sounds, the Red Bull SoundClash was nothing short of a unique experience. 

Each artist had their own stage on opposite sides of the venue giving the massive crowd a perfect chance to take in the best of both worlds. 

Their stages were set with their own hometown feel; Clark’s western red-lit stage featured a replica of Austin’s historic Antone’s NightClub and the iconic 6th Street, while Wall’s stage was decked out with two candy paint slabs, a cut out of the Houston skyline and a massive Houston Oilers logo towering above. A true representation of an OG. 

Round One: The Cover 

Gary Clark Jr. took the stage to start off the night. Photo by Dominique Crespo

The crowd at 713 Music Hall screamed in excitement as the lights dimmed and Gary Clark Jr. appeared from the red velvet curtains. 

Round one, the cover round, consisted of each artist covering a song of their choice with a surprise guest. 

The intro to The Beatles’ classic “Come Together” echoed through the venue and the crowd did not hesitate to sing along. Accompanied by The Suffers frontwoman, Kam Franklin, Clark has the crowd eager to see what was in store for the rest of the night. 

Following Clark’s opening performance, Paul Wall kept the crowd alive with a cover of Texas rapper Maxo Kream’s hit “Big Persona”. Within the first verse, Wall welcomes Maxo Kream to the stage and an accumulation of jaws drop in the crowd – this was only the beginning. 

Paul Wall welcomes Maxo Kream to the stage. Photo by Dominique Crespo

Round Two: The Takeover

The takeover round electrified the crowd when Clark performed his hit song “BYOB.” As an up-and-coming modern rock god, Clark is no stranger to a lengthy guitar solo. The crowd watched in awe as he showcased his musical talents. 

Transitioning from Gary’s soulful country style to Wall’s mix of chopped and screw kept everyone on their toes. What was even better was seeing security bop their heads to the beat. The artists made sure to put on a show for everyone at 713 Music Hall that night.

After Clark’s takeover performance, Paul Wall did not disappoint the Houstonians in attendance. 

As the beginning of Wall’s hit “Break Em’ Off” reverberated through the venue, none other than Houston rap legend Lil’ Keke arrives on stage to perform the classic hit alongside him. 

Lil’ Keke raps “Break Em’ Off with Paul Wall. Photo by Dominique Crespo

Round Three: The Sound Clash

One of the most intriguing rounds of them all; The Sound Clash. 

For round three, both artists got to pick a record of their choice, but with a creative twist requiring them to perform with the style of their opponent.

Gary Clark Jr. performed a Swishahouse version of his song “Numb” while Paul Wall performed a “yeehaw version” of his hit “Swangin in the Rain”.

With both artists from cities with diverse music scenes, this round was nothing less of a challenge. Their smiles said it all while the crowd sang their hits word for word.

Paul Wall laughing after his Gary-style performance. Photo by Dominique Crespo

Round Four: The Wild Card

The wild card round was the final round of the Red Bull SoundClash, and it was the best round of the night. Each artist had to bring out a guest of their choice to perform a hit song.

Clark performed his song “You Saved Me” as hands swaying amongst the sea of people. Not only did his vocals steal the show, but his talented guitar riffs left fans playing air guitars and cheering for more. 

Bringing special guests Riders Against the Storm and Jackie Venson to the stage made for an incredible final performance. 

After Clark’s mesmerizing guitar solo, Wall had to throw it back with a Houston classic to end the show. Performing “Still Tippin,” none other than Slim Thug himself took the stage to a warm welcome from the Houston crowd. 

After the Houston Astros’ World Champion win just days before the Red Bull SoundClash, Paul Wall and Slim Thug made sure to give Houston a performance of a lifetime by throwing up the “H” and repping the city.

Rapper Slim Thug brought Houstonians together during a performance of “Still Tippin’” with Paul Wall. Photo by Dominique Crespo

Concluding the final performance of the night, Wall joined Clark on his stage for one last performance as they received a standing ovation. The finale ended with Paul stating

“There’s no way I won that,” before declaring Gary as the winner of the clash. 

The audience left smiling from ear to ear after Gary Clark Jr. and Paul Wall put on one of the most unique shows and showed out for the state of Texas.

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