Twista - Interview

He’s known to spit a mile a minute but rapper Twista recently slowed down long enough to chat with Rhyme Revolution. The Chi-Town emcee talks openly about why he almost quit the rap game, why he isn’t scared to go head-to-head with 50 Cent and Kanye West, and why he’s mad at Vince Carter!

Rhyme Revolution: What up Twista?

Twista: Aw man, chillin’ chillin’. At the crib, can’t complain!

RR: So when are you coming up to Toronto?

T: Ooh man, I’m not sure exactly when, but sometime in August or September.

RR: Now Adrenaline Rush dropped in 1997. Can you believe it’s been a decade?

T: Nah. That’s what made the ride so fun. I looked at what year it was and realized it’s been ten years since we put out Adrenaline Rush! But that’s what gave me the whole idea of titling the new album Adrenaline Rush 2007 because I felt it was something unique I could do that another artist wouldn’t really have the type of career that I have to do.

RR: Now on Adrenaline Rush 2007, you’ve enlisted the who’s who of the rap game. Is there one collabo that’s extra special to you?

T: Really all of them are special in their own right, but the one that’s really extra special to me is the collaboration with Bone (Thugs-N-Harmony) because we are both from the Midwest and we both were supposedly having beef. You see all of these other artists on these other coasts team up and do what they supposed to do and it was just time for us to team up and really let the people have the pleasure of listening to that style of 2 of their favorite artists that do it. So that song is off the chain! And the other one is this song called “Creep Fast” featuring T-Pain because he participated on a song that to me was one of the most Adrenaline Rush-like songs on the album.

RR: You mentioned Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. You had somewhat of a beef with Bone over the whole fast-rapping style, but fast-forward 10 years and Bone is on your album and you’re on their album. And now I understand you guys will even be recording an album together? Is this just a case of brothas workin’ it out?

T: It’s really just brothas workin’ it out and brothas being fans of each other’s music because when we were talking about it, I have grown so much as a man. I’m able to look Krayzie (Bone) in the face and tell him, ‘Look man, I’m a muthaf*ckin’ fan, let me be an honorary member of Bone so we can do a project!’ And he was with it. As soon as it came out of my mouth, I think it kind of shocked him and we all sat and pondered over it and realized that it’s gonna be real hot!

RR: Cool. In your bio, you talk about watching other rappers gain mainstream success while waiting for your own time to shine. Seeing (age) 30 come and go and not knowing what’s going to happen. And then Kamikaze dropped. At any point, did you ever consider quitting rap? Take us back to what was going through your head at the time.

T: Definitely man, definitely. Really at the time when I was talking about quitting rap was a few months before I did the “Po’ Pimp” record. I was sittin’ up like, man, we gotta come up with something to make some money or I’m gonna have to start doing something else quick. So people don’t realize, like when I tell this story it kills them because people don’t realize I pretty much had put rap to the backburner and got a regular job and by the time I had made “Po’ Pimp” I was into the stage of quitting rap. So the first people to hear “Po’ Pimp” were my homies on the train on the way to work.

RR: Now after Kamikaze put you on the pop culture map, were you disappointed The Day After didn’t have the same critical or commercial success?

T: Definitely I felt a little a little yeah, I was pissed off! I was like, ‘Man, why ain’t this album doin’ what this album is doin’. You know, I’m a student of the game so I sit and I try to study reasons. With me, one of the simplest things was the whole staff at Atlantic that was there for the past 10 years switched when it was time to do The Day After. So you know, when you trade a whole team off (laughs), it’s going to be a little rough in the beginning. Everybody who helped promote me for the first 10 years, you know, it took some time for the new Atlantic staff to really get it poppin’. So I just happened to be the first album that dropped right when all those things switched over. Along with the fact that the dynamic of the music industry had started to switch over a little bit and the industry started to pay a little more attention to the technology era and being able to download music and put music in iPods and phones and stuff and naturally these types of things would affect Soundscan on the count of just CDs. And then, ‘Hey, the man didn’t drop a record with Kanye West the same way he did the record before. So there are so many things that could’ve factored in to it, but it’s fun to be able to talk about it with you like this and play with it because I’m a longevity artist and one album or one record would never stop my career because I’ve been around so long. The positives out of it is ‘Oh okay, I could take a little hit and not like the way things turn out and just go right back in and give it to them hard. That’s what’s fun about it.

RR: So when the changeover happened, you probably felt like Kobe on the Lakers!

T: (Laughs) Yeah, definitely. That’s a real good analogy of it being like Kobe on the Lakers. But the difference is that I’m going to go hard regardless. Yeah, so you’re right because Kobe went hard. He definitely went hard. So The Day After was Twista scoring 80 and all of these amazing points but not being able to get into the playoffs. That’s what The Day After was.

RR: Now growing up, you worked many service industry jobs – fast food joints, selling shoes, and telemarketing. Were you a good salesperson?

T: Nah, hell nah. That’s why I didn’t last long at any of them! Especially the shoe salesman thing. If I had the mind state I have now, I think I would’ve been a little better. The part I was good at was being a barber. Like people always ask me what I probably would’ve done. My buddies own barber and beauty shops so I probably would’ve been right in the mix with them just chillin’ cutting me some hair.

RR: But did all that fast-talking lead you to your trademark style? When you say the name Twista, people automatically associate you with the fast-rapping style. Are you comfortable with that? And when it’s all said and done, how do you want to be remembered as an artist?

T: Okay, let me answer the first one. I got two skits that I got, I’m trying to slip them in real fast, but it’s just probably too late. ‘Hmm, Twista talks fast as hell. I wonder what he’d be doing if he wasn’t a rapper?’ And it goes off in this dreamy thing of me calling a horse race fast as a muthaf*cka (starts talking like a horse race announcer). Fast as hell! And it goes into another one of me being an auctioneer. So that was just something I came up with to have fun with the things my fans say to me. Younger, when you were trying to be so innovative, you would get mad when they stick one style on you because you can do so many things. Over the years, seeing that my style is so unique that me and Bone and Tech N9ne and E-40, we will have fans until we quit this shit. So that’s the one thing that I love about that style.

RR: One of the dopest things you do, which I’m not sure people are aware of, is write a weekly column in Chicago’s Red Eye newspaper called “Twista’s Turn”. You talk about the serious issues like gas prices, soldiers in Iraq, the Virginia Tech massacre and most recently, the Michael Vick dog-fighting situation. In that column, you also write very passionately about Hip Hop getting a bad rap from the media. Now that you’re a member of the media yourself, what do you plan on doing to help foster change?

T: Speak on it. Speak on it, man. Because I got a different voice now and I didn’t know how dope it was to be one of you guys!

RR: We (journalists) want to live the rapper lifestyle and you want to write?

T: Yeah, it switched up now. I want your job and you want mine! (laughs) So definitely I’m going to speak on it. And I noticed a few things recently when I was watching SportsCenter or Outside The Lines or one of the particular shows on ESPN and they were talking about Michael Vick and the dog-fighting incident and it took a black man to sit right there in that forum and say ‘C’mon now, let’s be real. We know that dog-fighting takes elements from Hip Hop culture.’ Could you believe it? (laughs) So here it is. Now the Michael Vick thing is leaking over into Hip Hop. So me being able to speak without having to be able to rhyme words is very powerful to me. It causes people to listen in a whole new light and I think sometimes when I talk about certain issues, it cracks people up because they don’t realize that I’m as intelligent as I am! So definitely I’m going to say a few things to shake a few people up the way I need to, the right way.

RR: So how is writing a weekly column going to affect your next album?

T: (laughs) Aw man… it’s going to be controversial. I’m used to doing my music to make people move or to people have an adrenaline rush, like ‘Wooh, that song was cold!’ Or ‘Did you hear what he said, that shit is cold!’ You know, people movin’ and groovin’ to the music. But once I started to do the column, it was strictly my opinion or views on certain issues. I was like, ‘Man, I’ve never got as deep into my music talking about how I feel the way I get into this column.’ I just mentally bridged the gap between two different styles or schools of thought so when I do my next album, you’re going to hear the columnist Twista coming out through the music.

RR: So now Adrenaline Rush 2007 is only a few weeks from hitting stores. Are you satisfied with how everything is coming together in anticipation of your big day?

T: Well hopefully it’s dropping in September. We were originally slated to come out in August but I think Plies is coming out on the release date that I had at first in August so we pushed it back to September because definitely I’m one of those artists that don’t want to rush. I would rather it come out right than to come out early. So at this point, no, if it dropped today or next week, it would scare the shit out of me! (laughs) But me being able to get out there for a month, a month and a half and really grind it out and let the country know the album is about to come out when we hit September – the first, second week – I’ll be a little more comfortable.

RR: But in September, that’s when 50 and Kanye are dropping as well. Does that matter?

T: Well, I’ll let the industry worry about that stuff. I don’t worry about that stuff. I got a fan-base. I’ve been doing my thing from before them brothas were around! So everybody can go get the new happy tape, that’s cool. But I got Adrenaline Rush 2007 coming out, my fan’s gonna go get my music, ya dig! You know, I know how it goes. After you seen it and lived with the music for a while and you get past the media hype of it, now the true talent and skills start to come out. My tape is dope as hell so I ain’t worried about none of them guys!

RR: Cool. So what’s the follow-up single to “Give It Up” with Pharrell?

T: Yeah. Right now it’s a choice between this new Kanye joint called “Well It’s Time” and possibly this new R. Kelly joint called “Love Rehab”.

RR: Besides the new album, what else can we expect from Twista?

T: More good music. You’ll see me bridge the gap between the industry and the Midwest a lot more. Like with me, you’re going to hear Twista popping up on a bunch of new artists coming out of Chicago because I do music. A lot of people start to venture out and act and do other things, which I do want to do and am prepared to do and am about to do. But for the most part, I’m a music man and I’m trying to put people on in the city and in the Midwest so the thing that you’re going to hear from Twista the most is constant music.

RR: So are Midwest artists going to come together like the South did?

T: Yeah. They already do it now. It’s just back then when you tried to teach them, it was hard to teach them but over time things get more advanced. We’re a little more advanced in Chicago now, we know ‘He needs to rap with him and they need to get with her.’ We know that stuff now so it’s a little more common in the city now and really, the whole Midwest. Me personally, I’m ready for like me, Nelly and Eminem to get on some shit.

RR: Okay. Is that in the works or is that just in your head at this point?

T: It’s just in my head. When I think about me, Nelly, Eminem, Kanye, Bone I’m like ‘Shit, the Midwest with the exception of myself being the underground, the Midwest pretty much sells more records than the whole damn industry!’ (laughs)

RR: You got to make it happen then.

T: Yeah for sure. I got to get in them brothas heads, catch them at the shows and let them know my idea. We’re just gonna click. I think definitely in the music industry right now, it’s a good time for artists to stick together. With the way things are going, all of us artists in the industry got to work together and pull each other through these times.

RR: Alright Twista, we appreciate the time. We’ve got to see you in Toronto some time, so you’ve got to make that happen.

T: Yeah man. Let me ask you a question. Who the hell you guys got on your basketball team right now?

RR: (laughs) Chris Bosh.

T: Oh okay, that’s right. Y’all got Bosh. I knew it was somebody but I couldn’t figure out who it was. Yeah man, I like Toronto. I was pissed off and I still don’t like Vince (Carter) for leaving Toronto right now to this day.

RR: Yeah, the fans give him a hard time every time he comes back.

T: Yeah I’m pretty sure they do. He should’ve stayed there. He coulda just took the city on his back and did what he wanted to do! He went over there to he went over there to (laughs) aw man, I don’t even want to talk about that one I love Toronto man!