Rapid-fire flows spark a rapid rise from obscurity

    [Part 1 of 2]
    Life is good for Twista. Once crowned the world’s fastest rapper by the Guinness Book of World Records, he’s now challenging 50 Cent for the unofficial title of “World’s Greatest P.I.M.P.” Earlier this year, Twista teamed up with fellow Chicagoan Kanye West on his No. 1 single “Slow Jamz” and dropped verses about droppin’ panties. Not only did his third full-length, Kamikaze, hit No. 1 in the country, but Twista was also seen flossin’ a Roc-A-Fella chain from his neck after he was actively recruited to join the hip-hop dynasty in this post-Jay-Z era. Despite being signed to Loud Records more than 10 years ago and collaborating with some of hip-hop’s biggest headliners, Twista had remained relatively marginalized from wider public recognition. But in 2004, Twista came out as hot and as fast as his rhymes, and he helped bring Chicago out of relative hip-hop obscurity with him. Prefix caught up with Twista and chopped it up about sports, video games and the significance Chicago to hip-hop.



    Prefix Magazine: Where you at right now?

    Twista: Part 1: We’re in the studio working on some music.

    PM: In Chicago?

    Twista: Part 1: Yeah, yeah. In Chicago.

    PM: Is that where you still do most of your work?

    Twista: Part 1: Yeah, for the most part. I usually like to work out of Chicago. Just doing our thing.

    PM: What’s been going on in Chicago lately? Cold out?

    Twista: Part 1: Yeah, cold out. A little nice today, but usually cold.

    PM: Everyone makes a big deal out of the fact you’re from Chicago. Do you ever think you would’ve been bigger if you were from somewhere else, like New York? Do you ever think you’d sell more if you were from somewhere else?

    Twista: Part 1: Sometimes you’ll think, Man, I’d be bigger if I was from here. But, hey, I represent the city. I always had faith that it would crack in the city and that everyone would get their chance. ‘Cause we were the only ones left after the South. It was destined to happen. I’m glad it happened this way.

    PM: What do you think it was that finally made the Midwest explode? Now there’s everyone from Common to Chingy, Kanye, St. Lunatics and you. What brought about the change?

    Twista: Part 1: It was just the South coming out and being the last ones to come out. The eyes just opened for talent to come out of somewhere else. It was something that just happened. Eminem happened to be from Detroit, but he really had skills. He made the jump. Nelly was just a Midwest blessing from the sky. Who is this St. Louis guy rapping with this twang to his lyrics? The way he did it was so much into melody that an average person wanted to hear it. Then me and Kanye come with it in ’04. Now it’s like bam, with the two albums doing well. It’s just a blessing. I don’t know where it comes from, but I think it’s just us being last to blow up.

    PM: What does the Midwest bring to the larger hip-hop/rap community versus other areas?

    Twista: Part 1: Definitely skills. I think the Midwest is going to be the representation of the rebirth of true skills for artists. Everyone’s asking where hip-hop’s going to go now. To the Midwest, and it’s going to be about lyrics and skills and being able to put words down.

    PM: More like how it was 10 years ago?

    Twista: Part 1: You really had to be a real emcee to matter.

    PM: You think it’s go back to that?

    Twista: Part 1: I hope so. That’s what I’m hoping for, man.

    PM: I hope so, too. I like some of the music that’s out now that’s just fun, but the reason I was so into hip-hop was the messages and the lyrics. Anyway, I know you’ve been asked this before, but I think it’s something that people would like to know more about.

    Twista: Part 1: Oh sure, go ahead.

    PM: One thing that a lot of people know you for is the Guinness Book of World Records award for being the world’s fastest rapper. How did that go down?

    Twista: Part 1: At the time I was on Loud Records. I was their first artist back in ’91 and ’92, and one of the guys who worked at the company — they were also a promotions company — happened to know of it. It was a guy named Staze. Staze Donaway used to work at Loud, and he was the one that came to me and said it was a Guinness Book of World Records thing. We went in the studio back in ’92 and recorded it. They had the speech therapist come out to and listen to it.

    PM: Do you still think of yourself as the world’s fastest rapper?

    Twista: Part 1: Not really. You got a couple of guys out there that can do it. I think there’s someone new in the record books from Chicago who beat my record. My thing is not so much fast; I want people to respect me for clarity and word play. It’s just not fast in and of itself, it’s just the way Twista’s gonna spit. You might find a guy who’s faster than me, but who do you enjoy listening to the most?

    PM: Do you think it’s become a novelty more than anything else?

    Twista: Part 1: I think they respect it as a style. I think it’s respected as a form of rap. I think some people even call it bounce music.

    PM: What’s your current label situation? Kamikaze came out on Atlantic, but there have been rumblings that you’re pretty much on Roc-A-Fella. Can you clear the air?

    Twista: Part 1: Early on, the whole Roc-A-Fella affiliation was just Dame and Jay-Z showing genuine love, and they really wanted me as an artist. Or, really wanted me enough to say, “Let’s not get into any beef thing. If Twista is willing, we’ll be willing to sit with Atlantic and make something happen on a joint thing.” Atlantic is a different type of label. From a marketing standpoint, Roc-A-Fella was good for me. We’ve just been trying to get the guys together on the business side. It’s been taking a long time, but now on the record I think they’ve pretty much got the deal done. So now hopefully we should now see the later records pressed up with a Roc-A-Fella logo on them.

    PM: At the recent show in New York City, did you know that Dame Dash was going to go up on stage at your performance and present you with the Roc-A-Fella chain?

    Twista: Part 1: Nah, nah. That’s just how he do. When he came out it crossed my mind. Is this man pulling a chain out? So, I was like, “Oh my god, what’s going to happen?” But I didn’t expect it.

    Man, I just really respect him. He didn’t have to do that. He didn’t do that because I was signed to his label. He did that because he wanted to represent me and respect me as an artist, even if he wasn’t gonna make money off me. That’s why I think it would be a good thing to make it happen on a joint level. But I never would kick up no dust.

    PM: Were you surprised when you debuted at No. 1?

    Twista: Part 1: Yeah man. I was really nervous with the follow-up to [1997’s] Adrenaline Rush album, because I was even getting respect up to the point where people were calling it a classic sometimes. So I was like, I want to make classic No. 2. So I was really nervous about that sophomore effort. I was like, man — it was a total shock to me. Me and my buddy used to have bets over how many records I could sell. My expectations were low even though I was working hard and putting that type of work in. But I just got beat up in the game so much that I just expected something low. When it happened, if it was ever meant for a person that could really appreciate it, it really happened this time.

    PM: How did things change for you when “Slow Jamz” hit No. 1 and then the album came out No. 1? Do you see a lot of differences in your life now?

    Twista: Part 1: The biggest difference I notice is just staying busy, busy, busy. But it’s a happy busy. I haven’t been doing anything since this happened besides working and going out and doing shows. But I’m always having fun; I’m a good-spirited person. I haven’t really had a chance to just ride down the street or be near a school or sit in my car or walk through a mall and have people go crazy. I haven’t really had the chance to experience anything yet.

    PM: You haven’t been getting the crazy calls from girls you haven’t heard from?

    Twista: Part 1: Yeah, the phone will ring off the hook. The phone … Oh man, the phone. Oh god. Back to back, people just calling for all types of reason. That’s something you just expect.

    PM: “Slow Jamz” is definitely a weird mix of artists between you, Kanye and Jamie Foxx. Jamie Foxx is known for his comedy and Kanye is known more for his beats. On paper it’s a strange mix. Did you expect that you guys would work so well together and the song would be that big, the biggest song this year so far?

    Twista: Part 1: I didn’t expect it to be that big, but I did expect it to do well because I was the person that pretty much said it had to be the first single. I just loved the way Kanye’s flow was on that, and I loved how Jamie was on that, and I wanted to represent for Luther Vandross for what he was going through right now. Just making a slow jam for the hip-hoppers. The whole vibe felt right. And every time I listened to the song, it just did something to my heart. But when it happened like that I was like, Okay, maybe that’s why I was feeling that way. It’s a blessing; I just look at everything that’s happening right now as a blessing.