The New Diamond District: An Interview + Recap with Mr. and Mrs. Johnny Dang x Paul Wall
Saturday was the day that the who’s who in Houston hip-hop all descended on one location; that location, 6224 Richmond Avenue, housed something that the world had never seen before, the “World’s Greatest Jewelry Store,” Johnny Dang and Co.
The fourteen thousand square foot facility houses some of the finest jewelry found in the Bayou City, not to mention the world famous grills of “TV Johnny.” The man behind the ice gave us a tour of his $4.5 million facility that not only features high-end bling but also high-end threads. The tour began in the main lobby of his store where you are immediately greeted by two beautiful chandeliers that hang from the second-floor ceiling. Glass cases line every wall holding everything from engagement rings to iced out Rolex watches. Next was the “King’s Office”/VIP room that looks like something out of the Spanish golden age, with the plateresque interior design with Vietnamese influences, a nod to Dang’s heritage. While touring the room, Johnny stated that most of the cost of the renovating the building were tied up in this room, Paul Wall commented that “Oh yeah we got flood insurance, we about to cash out if a hurricane comes.” In the back, is where the magic happens; there Johnny has his manufacturing facilities where he and his employees process the diamonds and gems that adorn his iced out custom creations including his calling card product, grillz. The second floor is dedicated it to a collection called “Size by JBees,” it holds various high-end street wear brands for men, women, and children. The walls are adorned with shelves that hold limited release shoes from various brands. JBees is actually a Chicago-based store, and this is their first store in Texas, although they hope to expand into other metropolitan markets in the Lone Star state. The day was not just one of new beginnings for Johnny, but also for his wife, who introduced her luxury jewelry line, Fashcino, which has products for not only men, women and children, but for pets also.
After the red carpet, I had the chance to ask Johnny Dang and Paul Wall a few questions, here they are below:
MLM: What has it been like getting to this point, basically building this store from the bottom up, this is the first of many locations right?
Johnny Dang: Right, right,it’s been very blessed. It’s really a dream come true, I have always dreamed of having my own place. The dream has come to reality, it’s happening now. I have been building this building for a year, I have put a lot of energy, a lot of money. I spent $4.5 million to make it happen. It’s just like custom jewelry, everything is unique, the same thing I (did) for this building. Of course, I hope we have another one in the near future.
MLM: So from my understanding, you’re not only a jewelry store, but you’re also a high-end clothing store now. So what do you think that adds to the Johnny Dang and Co. shopping experience?
JD: I feel like I created something like a small shopping mall, mini-shopping mall. All of my clients, a lot of the time I can see, at first they stop by my jewelry (store) and buy stuff, go to the mall buy clothes, buy shoes, why don’t we make it a one stop shop? That is why I have 14,000 sq ft spot for making custom jewelry. We not only sell jewelry we actually make it in the back of the store, because it is 14,000 sq ft and then on the second floor we carry high-end shoes, clothes not only for men for kids so that convenient, it’s a big service. Hopefully I know, I believe it’s going to be a success it is going to be big because you have never seen any store like this.
MLM: What is your favorite piece that you own personally and what is the favorite piece that you have made for a client?
JD: Most of my favorite pieces are the grills, I created a grill for Von Miller, I got a phone call from him yesterday, he wanted to congratulate me, and he wanted to order another piece. So maybe next week I fly to him and make him another brand new grill, that’s custom jewelry. Also, the diamond necklace, like this, I create and make for Floyd Mayweather and a lot more pieces, because it’s all unique. That’s what I like
This question is for your wife, what is it like getting your jewelry line up and running in your husband’s store?
Mrs. Johnny Dang: With Faschino we just carry fine custom jewelry for male, female, kids and even for pets because we want to make every one a beauty and happy. So whoever come to our store, Johnny Dang and Co., we have our collection you know, we have variety, consistency. Actually, Faschino, we would like to create the trend, we don’t follow trends of fashion.
MLM: So this is your 9th full-length solo album. How was your approach to making music change since your first release? Do you feel you have matured as an artist?
Paul Wall: I definitely have matured as an artist. There is a lot that goes with that when you do your first release, you are trying to do a song for every element, or aspect of every style just so you can showcase all of your abilities. From that, I have grown to know every time I put out an album I try to keep each album or mixtape with a central theme or uh just you know it all ties together with a central theme, a main, general topic with your title.
So for instance with Houston Oiler, it is just another old school Houston type feel, you know when you hear music it is music you can feel as well as listen to. I just want to bring back some of that nostalgia and some of the things I grew up with, things that made me fall in love with the Houston culture and the Houston hip-hop scene. So now when I do an album it is not, it is more organized as in terms of, I’m in the zone, or mind frame but what I actually try to do now is only work on one album at a time.
When I was on Houston Oiler, I was working on about 3 or 4 albums at a time. Houston Oiler being one, Diamond Boys me and C-Stone being another, also me and Donnie Houston have a project we are doing together and then I have my next solo album that is called Nolan Ryan, it is already finished as well. I am just waiting to put it out. Right now I got about, at least 50-60 songs recorded for the next projects that I am just kind of weeding through, just putting together, picking the best songs for the next project. I am kinda of putting it all together and the next projects. I try to keep a central theme to each project
MLM: So it would seem complacency isn’t even in your vocabulary?
PW: Yeah, not at all man. There have been times in my career where I felt like that I didn’t really know what to do next because now that I accomplished the goal, that I set out to accomplish, what do I do next, but now it just a continuous process where I am in a real comfortable zone with musically everything. This is the best sound of music that I feel like I have ever had, where I feel like I am really in a great place and just in control of the direction I want to go in and where I am going.
MLM: So like on this album, you deal with a lot of issues, a lot of real life issues you know, on the opening track you talk about, “I make a lot of money but money doesn’t make me,” so you know like that dealing with the corrupting influence that money has on people?:
PW: There is something that a lot of people will see me talk about the, jewelry, the money so much and we are very proud of our successes and sometimes people misinterpret that and think that that is our drive and our motivation. Money is definitely a huge motivation for us because that allows us to do a lot of things that we want to do for ourselves, our family, our community, our business and endeavors but the money don’t make us, the money is just one aspect of it
MLM: It is the product of it, and so you also talk about the lack of loyalty and my favorite song, as I said earlier, “Things are Crazy” is talking about the craziness, like what is the solution to all of this craziness that we are experiencing today in our society?
PW: It’s tough to say, you know because really it is like there is no one really clear cut simple solution. I wish there was, but it’s just we live a complex world, where there are so many underlying issues from the past that drive us to the future and to point us in the direction of, sometimes we don’t really realize where we are going, or we are not going in the direction we really should be, or in a healthy direction. It’s tough to say man but definitely I think admitting there is a problem is a big part of finding a solution.
MLM: That’s always a great step to a solution so do you feel like with your platform you would need to spread a message of positivity and help people release. Usually for a lot of people it is their only release and so do you feel as though your music is supposed to be a release for all your listeners?
PW: Definitely man, you know we think there is so much that comes from music, sometimes its inspiration, sometimes it stress relief, sometimes it is something that you listen to turn up and go out and have a good time, or working out in the gym or something or shake off some bad vibes or you put whatever. Music is strong therapy on so many different levels for so many people, I don’t take any of it for granted, I’m just trying to fulfill my in all of it. I know that many people listen to my music to be an inspiration to their life but as well as whatever they are going through at the time. So I try, trying to take all of that in, and in turn, put out better music that I can fulfill all of those responsibilities with.
MLM: Alright, so you brought Le$ on the album for “Showroom Ready” another song I really enjoyed, so he is part of this younger generation of Houston Rappers, you kind of considered an elder statesman in Houston rap lore, so do you think that you kind of have to put on these younger guys?
PW: I’ll never forget how it was in my earlier years when Bun B came to the studio and we couldn’t believe he was at our studio that we were rapping in everyday, spitting a verse on the same mic, in the same booth. He used to give us a lot of encouragement , direction, and enrichment all of those things I take in and he was not the only one too, Lil Keke also, Big Pokey, there’s so many artists here in Houston that helped us and showed us the way, so these are things I take a lot of pride in when it comes to younger artists.
One of the problems is in the entertainment industry and in the rap game, there’s so many people that are self made that a lot of times they don’t want to take your advice cause they feel like they got all the answers. Man those are the ones that I pray for the most because they feel like they already got it figured out, when none of us do, you know, this is a constant change, it’s a fluid process and you’re always constantly evolving, adapting, changing. The artists like Le$, there’s lots of artists that really do take it in all of the advice we give and they really care about that, when someone opens up to me and ask me for advice or help, I give it my all, cause this is the future of our city you know.