By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer, Artist in Business Leadership Fellow 2015
Paul Wenell, Jr. is an Anishinaabe and Oneida hip-hop artist who performs and records under the name Tall Paul. The music video for his bilingual track titled “Prayers in a Song” reached over a quarter million views on YouTube, opening several media and performance opportunities. He’s enrolled in the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe in northern Minnesota, and he’s an artist with Dream Warriors Management and a 2017 First Peoples Fund Artists in Business Leadership fellow.
Paul’s first concept album, G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time), is inspired by the Sac and Fox tribal member Jim Thorpe, a Olympic decathlete and pentathlete and arguably the greatest athlete of all time. Surrounding the hip-hop songs Paul composes are music videos and vlogs — video blogs — he plans to shoot in places that honor Thorpe’s legacy. All this to capture the essence of Jim Thorpe’s greatness on camera with a musical rendition of his life.
In his time, Jim Thorpe, who also played professional football and baseball, demonstrated how Natives are still here — alive, competent and well, the embodiment of Indigenous excellence. Now Paul wants to share that spirit with his own generation. It’s important for him to perform music to the best of his ability and honor the same principles of hard work Jim Thorpe lived.
Paul is using Indigenous artists for the production and graphic artwork. The audio-visual project will speak of the capabilities and talent within Native people, illuminating their value and dismantling stereotypes.
The G.O.A.T project, supported by Paul’s First Peoples Fund fellowship, marks a turning point in his career. This career began with downloading beats from YouTube to create his own songs, to now a string of upcoming shows in Germany. The project is furthering Paul’s economic goals to sustain himself and his family by attracting new event organizers and fans.
But above that, the theme of Indigenous excellence throughout the project will raise esteem in his community and beyond. Paul’s music evokes substance and soul. His creative role in the world is one he chooses not to take lightly. The G.O.A.T. concept album and music videos challenge Paul to be the greatest artist he can be.