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If asked to name a Chicago rapper, chances are you’d place Twista at the top of the list. Before Kanye received a record contract or Common achieved mainstream notoriety, Twista was doin’ his thang. Before Houston or Atlanta were recognized as viable resources for hip hop music, Twista was doin’ his thang. Now, almost 16 years after he released his first solo album, “Runnin’ Off at Da Mouth,” Twista is preparing the release of his seventh studio album, “Adrenaline Rush 2007.” During an interview with Chicago’s own, DJ “Z,” Twista explains why he could see himself recording into his 50’s, how his beef with Bone Thugs N’ Harmony in the 90’s will help their eventual collaborative album sell and whose at fault for the criticisms that the industry has taken since the Don Imus incident.
Listen to the Interview
Twista Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on ya’ll? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is one of the very reasons I love rap music. From my hometown of Chicago, the man who made me spend countless hours replaying his tracks so that I could clearly hear every syllable of every word – Twista, how you doin’?
Twista: What’s happenin’, man? That’s what I’m talkin’ about. That’s love.
DJ Booth: I heard the single last week at your (album) listening session; it’s beginning to be spun on radio stations across the country. Off your brand new album, “Adrenaline Rush 2007,” it’s called, “Give It Up,” produced by the Neptunes. You’re now seven albums into your career, do you ever plan on givin’ it up?
Twista: You know, sometimes I have those thoughts when I get frustrated every once in a while, but it’ll be hard to give it up, man. I feel like hip hop is so big now that we should be able to be around the same way R&B artists or jazz artists or other musicians be around, so even when we forty, fifty, sixty years old, I’m hopin’ that the music is still appreciated enough that they will still come out and see us do our thing – in a old way, but still do our thing.
DJ Booth: Definitely. Let’s talk about the single and the video; you got Hype Williams to direct. I like the direction, kind what Pharrell’s been doing with the whole, “Ice Cream,” thing. How’d you guys come up with the concept?
Twista: We were just tryin’ to be creative, man. Like get away from what everybody else was doin’. We knew the song was, “Give It Up,” and we knew that the general idea would be, “Okay, let’s see a bunch of girls dancin’ and lookin’ like they want to give it up.” But we wanted to make something real tasteful, so we kinda brainstormed and came up with the idea to make the girls and the images almost look like paintings, and we looked at a few paintings by a few artists that we liked, and we was like, “Let’s make this girl look like a painting, let’s make this particular brand here look like a colorful brand or painting.” So we were just trying to be real creative, and do some thing that was different from normal, and still be sexy, but at the same time not be too sexy. Like, let’s do a girl posed, instead of showin’ somebody all over a girl, or just showin’ her poppin’ a fatty all the time. So we wanted to do something different and be real tasteful. We really brainstormed about that idea.
DJ Booth: Well, I’m sure that day at the video was a lot of fun for you…
Twista: Yeah, that day was off the chain. Especially the way the ladies looked; they looked like they was from the fifties of sixties or something, how cute they was – it was cool.
DJ Booth: Real retro, definitely. You hooked up with Lil Wayne for the cut, “Whip Game Proper.” Now for a while, you were the man people called for a feature verse or a remix, and it seems like now Lil Wayne’s been jumpin’ on everything under the sun. Did you pass on the torch to Lil Wayne?
Twista: Naw, this torch is definitely not passed. You will hear a lot of rappers on a lot of stuff, but you definitely going to hear a lot of stuff from me. I just did three features in one day. I got some new stuff with E-40 about to come out, some new stuff with Mike Jones about to come out, some new stuff with DJ Quik and AMG about to come out, some new stuff with Yung Berg about to come out – I can go on and on, you know? So definitely, it’s not me passing the torch when it comes to the features. I definitely consider myself one of the top-notch feature guys.
DJ Booth: When you were in the midst of recording the bulk of your album, did you kinda close off though, and say, “You know what? I gotta devote my time and my passion to my own project,” instead of lending your hand to everybody else’s?
Twista: It goes back and forth. Like a lot of times, my people say I make better songs for other people than me, and I think it’s because when it starts to rattle, being an MC I’m always tryin’ to impress. The one who impresses the most is the one who’s always on top. So me bein’ a fan of the music, and having the opportunity to work with artists that I’m fans of and to be able to impress them, I tend to go all out. It does kinda play a part when it’s time for me to work on my album, because I try to use some of that mentality to work on things for myself, but when I work on my music for myself, I just go crazy. There’s no tellin’ what I might do when I’m doin’ it for myself, so I gotta contain myself. When the music I’m doin’ is for other people, man, I just go hard like that. It is what it is.
DJ Booth: That’s the Midwest way. Blue collar, gotta work as hard as you can. You hooked up with Bone Thugs on their new album, “Strength and Loyalty,” for the Midwest reppin’ cut “C-Town,” and on your new album for the joint, “We Ain’t No Hoes.” Explain why this is just a taste of something to come between you and Bone Thugs?
Twista: The reason it’s just a taste – because we saw that we was all on two or three features together, where we didn’t actually initiate it, and other people were able to benefit off of it. As well, we wanted to go in ourself and do some stuff, so definitely we decided, “Man, we gotta make sure we have a song on your album. We gotta make sure y’all got a song on my album, but we also got a project working in the future.” I want people in the Midwest to be lookin’ for a Bone Thugs/Twista project. We gonna get it in, and really give them a taste of that Midwest sound on a unified level. We gave it to y’all when we was mad at each other when we was young. Now, let’s change the game, we older, let’s give it to y’all on a unified level.
DJ Booth: Twista, looking back on what happened between you and the Bone Thugs, do you laugh and forget about it or does it still bother you that it happened?
Twista: It kinda bothers me that it happened, but I’m more so laugh and forget about it than it bothering, because we just get to use it as a marketing tool – in this day it doesn’t hurt you. Sometimes when you got a little something out there that as long as you able to still be happy and have two arms and two legs if may have got in a little trouble or something wasn’t too bad, it tends to help you in this day and age, for the market and stuff like that. So us having that experience to be able to talk about, we can use that negative and turn it into a positive, so sometimes I’m not mad that it did happen ‘cause we can flip the script with it.
DJ Booth: It’s always been a challenge, it seems, for Chicago artists to be properly marketed on a nationwide basis. Do you think Chicago will ever properly garner the image of being a hip hop Mecca for up-and-coming talent?
Twista: I definitely do now because of technology. The reason I say that is because [it used to be] about just buying CDs from the store, and the computer wasn’t involved a lot in the whole music process. In Chicago, this is how I say it – it’s harder for artists in the Midwest than artists anywhere else because when you an artist in Chicago, you have to take a plane to go see your lawyer or your record label, or get on MTV, but when you live in that town, you only have to take a train to go see your record label, your lawyer, or get on MTV, and that makes a hell of a difference. So the reason I say new technology is going to help us as far as the Midwest because you don’t have a lot of these companies based in the middle, or the Midwest – the way technology is today, I can talk to you and see you, and see your clothes – we can just fully be into each others’ lives now because of technology and the way we got these web cameras and all of this stuff. I really feel like we’re gonna have a lot of this stuff in the Midwest soon, but I definitely feel like too, it’s gonna be brought about because of technology, and artists in the Midwest bein’ able to get their hands on industry things and being able to be seen as well as artists on the West Coast, South and the East Coast.
DJ Booth: Twista, you mentioned the conveniences and inconveniences of living in the middle of the country. Now, growin’ up in the K-Town part of the West Side of Chicago you rep’ the city well, and you always make sure to rock Chicago sports gear and name drop the city and the landmarks in your lyrics. But you have other Chicago artists like Common and Kanye, and you see them having parties out in New York and they’re recording out in New York. How important is it to you to make sure that you stay so loyal to your hometown?
Twista: I think it’s real important to never forget where you come from in that aspect, but I also think people have different beliefs. Some people say, “Only look forward, never look back,” and some people feel like its good to totally get out the hood. Who wanna be in the hood, all this killing and murdering going on? But you gotta remember where you come from. I think for me, I think to each his own, for each his own. If you wanna move from the city, you got that type of money where you can still have an apartment here or move there – once you become a grown-ass man, a grown-ass woman, nobody can tell you what to do, it’s really none of their business. Me, I got a lot of family here, I was raised on the West Side, and I came up poor, and just my upbringing and my mind state doesn’t really allow me to leave and pack up and go get a house somewhere where I can’t reach out and touch my mom, or go see my grandmother or kids. So I think it’s just important for me to stay at home. This is me, you know? I have to make this my home base, and make out of it what I can, because my family and friends come first.
DJ Booth: Very well said. I couldn’t agree more. You’ve been doing your thing in the rap game for a long time, but just recently you started doing my thing, which is the journalistic thing.
Twista: Yes Yes!
DJ Booth: In your blog in the Chicago Tribune’s Red Eye, you openly criticize President Bush for his recent veto of a bill that would have withdrawn many American troops from overseas. Do you feel like the hip hop community could be doing more to voice their opinion?
Twista: Yeah, definitely. I feel like the chase for the paper – when you know you just an artist in this game, so let’s just call it the chase. The chase can be so intense that it’ll take your mind off of the things that for me are important, for us a people to have a spotlight as big as we have to voice our opinions about what we think, especially because we represent the young society. It’s not like if you get all of these other types of musicians to come out and talk – okay, they represent a part of the people but, the younger generation is mostly represented by hip hop, and I think it’s important for us to use our voice and let people know what we think. Not just, “Oh, let’s be like them, ‘cause he thinks that,” but just, to really see and understand “Okay, that’s what they think,” and now have a reaction from. And their reaction from it be something positive, you know what I’m sayin’? So I definitely feel like back in the day, you used to be able to get away with saying, “Rappers are not role models, rappers ain’t role models!” In this day and age, how far rap has come and how advanced it is, it’s not just loose groupies at the video no more. Its models that actually work for agencies, they come to your video sets. Things changed so much that I think, at this point, we gotta be a little more responsible, and understand that we do have a voice, and that this is becoming like sports now, and you just can’t say certain sh*t and do certain sh*t.
DJ Booth: Let’s talk about professionalism for a second. After the backlash that the hip hop community took post Don Imus, Chamillionare came out and said his new album’s gonna be 100% curse-free. Is that a marketing ploy or a solid move in a direction that’s gonna help the industry?
Twista: I think it’s not so much something that I think helps the industry, I think it’s something that will help society or our younger generation learn things in a better way, from the perspective of the person that believes to take the curse words out the music. Chamillionare might feel like, “Okay, well let me take the words out.” Me, I love my raunchy music! I love that stuff! I love sayin’ “sh*t, motherf*cker!” So I feel like let me get it off my chest because it is just music, so I should be able to say what I want and rant and rave and create an energy and a vibe that only lasts for a moment, and then we go back to being smart, understanding people. So me, my thing is to talk about it. My thing is I wanna be able to make the type of music I make, but do more as far as being able to talk to kids. Have a few more seminars than you usually have for high schools during your promotion. Say a few things different, and make people understand your music, understand that it’s cultural. And there’s nothing wrong with having a ranting, raving moment as long as at the end of the song, at the end of the four minutes, nobody’s hurt, nobody’s bleedin’, everybody’s happy, feels good, vibrant, like you just got a workout. Hey, what the f*ck? Who cares? Let’s say “f*ck” fifty times then! I feel like, “Man, let’s be better parents and then through being better parents it’ll be better education and through better education, a child will have common sense, better common sense!
DJ Booth: And honestly, let’s be real here. You’re rappin’ so fast that at five or six years of age, the kids are not gonna be able to hear it anyways.
Twista: [laughter] Yeah, but, you know, what they be decipherin’ is like, “Oh, he said b*tch, he said b*tch!” They might get excited about it.
DJ Booth: Well, you know what, the parents should be proud of the kids then because if it took them fifteen, twenty listens, that shows their dedication that they took and that probably will translate to the classroom, so there you go…
Twista: And look, let me lay this one on you, and this just me talkin’ as a man, a regular person. You see how a piece of racism came out and immediately got thrown on the back of the hip hoppers when this was an old issue. Let’s just deal with the racism. The reason I say that is because – how did we get fooled into talking about censorin’ hip hop again? Don’t we have parental advisory stickers on our music now?
DJ Booth: It hasn’t been an issue for over a decade.
Twista: Right! So how did we get tricked into making something that’s of course already decided about an issue again?
DJ Booth: ‘Cause it’s easy to just blame hip hop.
Twista: We already took that backlash back then, we already had to accept the fact that we now have to have stickers that may decrease the sale of our music, and we had to accept that. But now, once we have those parental advisory stickers, you now have to put us in a category with any X-rated movie or X-rated magazine or anything. So now, when you say “X-rated rap, X-rated movie- X-rated magazine,” who is the issue pertaining to now? Parents!
DJ Booth: I could not agree more.
Twista: You see what I’m sayin’? Once you attack the rap, in the fashion it is bein’ attacked now, you have to attack every movie director, everybody who funds a movie with a gun. You have to attack every negative thing in society before you figure out, “Wait a minute! When does the parents have to say anything about, ’ No, you can’t go in that store! No, you can’t watch that movie; that’s eighteen and over! No, you can’t buy that CD with that sticker; buy this one without the sticker.’”
DJ Booth: It’s the entire entertainment industry, period. Well, hopefully in the near future people will recognize this and lay off a little bit because it’s getting to the point where, when money is being spent on billboards to publicly defame rap artists instead of using that money to go toward charity or a good cause – well, that’s just ludicrous, it’s absolutely ludicrous.
Twista: You picked one thing out of society that you consider negative to spend billboards on! What about all of these directors who make these movies that teach the kids to go, shoot this? Most kids wanna shoot – you know, I have a lot of Menace 2 Society movies out no more – most kids that wanna shoot right now, they wanna shoot from movies! When I grew up, we wanted to shoot because of Scarface! Then the next generation, they wanted to shoot because of Menace 2 Society. It’s just crazy, man! It’s parenting; all of this is just parenting.
DJ Booth: Exactly, exactly.
Twista: Watch your damn kids!
DJ Booth: Twista go ahead, give everybody a website or a Myspace address so they can find out more about your brand new album dropping this September, “Adrenaline Rush 2007.”
Twista: It’s myspace.com/twista, you can check that out. All the other websites I’m not familiar with because I’m slightly computer illiterate, but you can take your ass to the store and go purchase the actual CD, that effects Soundscan, so I can look real juicy the first couple of weeks. And then, you don’t wanna not treat yourself because it’s, “Adrenaline Rush,” part two. I definitely took my time to make sure that this cut feels like this cut, this cut feels like this cut. So seven, eight, nine songs into the album and you’re going to feel like, “Adrenaline Rush,” so don’t not treat yourself.
DJ Booth: Twista, I appreciate your time and I wish you nothing but the best of luck.
Twista: Okay Z, you too bro.
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