Twista: Staring at My Rearview

A decade ago, it was arguably Twista who first became the cliché “favorite rapper’s favorite rapper.” With his Guinness Book of World Records lightning fast delivery, the Chicago star was a well-kept secret, from the now-defunct Big Beat Records, an Atlantic company. His 1997 album Adrenaline Rush remains a cult classic, that spawned styles in […]

A decade ago, it was arguably Twista who first became the cliché “favorite rapper’s favorite rapper.” With his Guinness Book of World Records

lightning fast delivery, the Chicago star was a well-kept secret, from

the now-defunct Big Beat Records, an Atlantic company. His 1997 album Adrenaline Rush remains a cult classic, that spawned styles in both coasts.

With one of the longest tenures in the company, Twista has always been

affiliated with Atlantic Records. In 2004, by way of his Kanye-assisted

“Slow Jamz,” Twista got the platinum plaque that he rightfully

deserved, and subsequently became a “Joint Chief” in Atlantic’s

rebuilding process.

Since 2004, not much has changed. The Day After

was as uneventful to the mainstream as its title would suggest, and

many wondered if the veteran artist was not only a fluke to the charts,

but a radio-hungry compromise to the fans that touted him.

Like a true vessel for his listeners, Twista has returned with Adrenaline Rush 2007. While skeptics might compare similar recreation albums from Method Man, AMG and Pastor Troy, others value the integrity of a Stillmatic.

As this summer release may likely define the tongue-twisting MC’s stay

on a major, Twista explains his motives, and speaks about the

automobiles he’d like to see himself in – as a result of more success.

At a pivotal red light, Twista is staring at his career through the

rearview. In 2004, Atlantic Records had a campaign of the Joint

Chiefs… their four biggest stars which were Trick Daddy, Fat Joe,

Fabolous and you. But once T.I. popped off, it seemed like the campaign

diminished. Any thoughts on that?

Twista: Nah, really, I think it was something they were doing for the

time being. I don’t think T.I. popping off is what stopped it; I just

think it was something they were just putting together for the time

being, as a quick promotional thing. Tell me about your new album, Adrenaline Rush 2007, which hits stores in August. What can we expect from it?

Twista: It’s really just me giving it back to the fans how I feel they want it. Because I did The Day After,

and I had figured out the formula how to make good music for the radio,

how to be successful and get my commercial success but still be a

lyricist. The A&R was trying to pick most of the songs that were

radio friendly. So when the album came out, I still enjoyed it, but at

the same time, you had the criticism from the fans who were like, “We

want that Adrenaline Rush Twista.”

Then I was like, “Okay, this will be a 10 year anniversary. Adrenaline Rush

came out in ’97, and now it’s 07. And seven is my favorite number.” [I

took] it back to the essence and re-visit that whole style of music I

was doing. Just giving them the Chi-town Twista. For the younger fans, explain that…

Twista: That sound was a new sound coming out of the Midwest,

specifically Chicago. You would have an artist come out and they would

be original, and then, as they go along they might start to sound like

other people. So I felt like Adrenaline Rush

was the rawest, newest sound that was coming out of the Midwest at the

time. The way I was spitting the lyrics with the double time flow. Then

you have people following my lead, like Crucial Conflict, Do or Die,

[and] Bone [Thugs N’ Harmony]. Kamikaze had radio hits and went platinum. The Day After didn’t, why?

Twista: With Kamikaze,

I had the help of “Slow Jamz.” I didn’t come up with “Slow Jamz” until

later when we were about 90% through with the album. So I felt like it

was a little harder edge. Plus, The Day After came out in the

fourth quarter. I was one of the first artists to make a hit when the

industry took a turn. If you look, every artist that came out after me,

when they’re album dropped, the first week’s sale was half of what it

was expected to be. Kanye was the only one who slipped through the

cracks with his album. A lot of artist weren’t selling like they

expected and that was due to downloads and other ways people get their

music other than CDs now. I definitely don’ think it was my fault, as

far as the music. You mentioned that a lot of people are getting their

music from other sources now – does that scare you at all that people

aren’t buying as many albums as they used to?

Twista: I think it would scare you if you didn’t know the way the

industry is turning. For a minute, people were so addicted to cassette

tapes that they didn’t want to accept CDs. So now it’s like you don’t

want to be so addicted to CDs that you’re not accepting the digital

world. Right now people are listening to iPods and music in their

phones. They are getting it so many different ways that it’s not about

the sale of your CD anymore; it’s about the sale of your music as a

whole. A lot of people are curious about Trackster and whether he’ll be on the album with an “Overdose 2”…

Twista:: No. I would have, but me and that brother have problems when

we try to get down together. I really don’t have time for it, so I just

do it my way. It took you some years to gain mainstream success, what lessons did you learn while you waited?

Twista: The lesson I learned while I waited was to make sure my

business was taken care of. Don’t be so into the music that I don’t

want to pay that much attention to the business end. A lot of artists decide to explore other ventures. Tell

me a little bit about the clothing line and the barber shop…

Twista: The barber shop is just something small. The way I’m doing it

now is like – you’ve got some people that feed directly off of what

they do in the industry, but what I’m trying to do is just to do things

on a small scale. It’s not Twista’s Barber Shop. With my shop, I’m

doing the thing with the people I was cutting hair with in high school

who I would have been in business with, had I not been doing music. But

now I’m jumping back toward them trying to link up so that we can do

something together because that was our dream before I started doing

this music thing. I got like the Windy City Angels calendar. I’m trying

to open a communications store. I was telling you about the downloads

and the digital world. I want to jump the gun so I want to start a

communications store and sell my phone, my fresh phones that I’ve

explored around the world. I look at my age and how long I’ve been in

the industry and I know it’s not going to last forever, so I’m just

starting to take my money and put it into things that I know I can

bounce back off of. I don’t want to feel like I can make

$30,000-100,000 a month doing this rap thing, and don’t feel like I can

make $30,000-100,000 when it’s over. So I’m just setting up everything

in case I drive into a tree or hit my throat or due to old age, or big

industry shift, that I’ll be able to have some things to fall back on. What prompted you to start your label, Get Money Gang?

Twista: I just wanted to bridge a gap between the industry and the

Midwest. Because it’s so hard for people from the Midwest to get on. We

never could figure it out. Here it is 2007, and we still ask questions

that should have been answered 10, 15, 20 years ago. I listen to so

many of these young rappers coming out. I like artists like Cap.One. I

worked with him. I want to be able to look up and be like, “Man, I put

seven acts on from the Chi or Midwest.” What is about Chicago that breeds so many talented musicians and artists?

Twista: That’s a good question. I think one of the reasons is because

of where we are located. When you listen to music from the Bay area, it

all sounds different but yet you can hear a Bay sound. Then when you

listen to New York music or the East Coast music, it sounds different

but you can hear an East Coast sound – same thing with the South. But

if you come to Chicago, me and Kanye don’t sound anything alike. Common

and Crucial Conflict don’t sound anything alike. Because we’re located

in the middle and we are a consumer market, all of the acts on the

other coasts come to the middle to sell their music. You’re an automobile enthusiast right?

Twista: Yes, yes. In your opinion, what is the hottest car out there right now?

Twista: The hottest car out there right now is the Maybach coupe. And how much does that run a person these days?

Twista: Between $400,000 to 600,000. What makes it the hottest car in your opinion?

Twista: Because it’s the latest coupe to come out, as far as what I

know. You might have something later, but it’s not as big or

interesting as the Maybach. When the Bentley came out with the coupe,

it’s like the Bentley Coupe took over everything. Everybody was loving

the death out of the Bentley Coupe and no matter what car you came out

with, you couldn’t really fade the Bentley Coupe. And when Jay turned

around and rode in the video for “Lost Ones” that just took it to

another level. I feel like the Maybach Coupe is the hottest car out

there. Okay, so what about for us regular folks?

Twista: Regular folk cars out there – I’m gonna give you a good one – A

Range Rover.

No, No – that’s a truck, let me go down to the car. I like a Benz, no

matter what. You can like a lot of cars, but a Benz to me expresses the

true success of a person when it comes to cars. What do you hate to see on cars?

Twista: Phony Spinners. The phony spinners are the worst thing in the

world. When a car stops, the spinners are still supposed to be

spinning, but the spinners are standing still. Definitely phony

spinners and bogus colors. What are bogus colors?

Twista: Bogus colors like…green; you don’t put green on a car. I’ve

seen like lime green and gray – just crazy stuff. Bogus colors. Or rims

that are more expensive than the car.