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Wikipedia describes a Category F5 tornado as a natural disaster of epic proportions, sure to inflict “total damage” on the area of impact, and goes on to state that “incredible phenomena will occur.” That kind of lyrical destruction is exactly what fans have come to expect from Twista, a Chi-town legend and one-time “fastest rapper alive” known to tear through tracks like a Tasmanian devil on the loose. Always good for an Adrenaline Rush, the emcee is now preparing to funnel his Kamikaze flow into an eighth LP that may well be his most earth-shattering yet.
The unprecedented creative control Twista is enjoying at his new label home of EMI (by way of his own Get Money Gang Entertainment imprint) has left him free to wreak more havoc than ever, as shown on lead single “Wetter” and recently-featured street record “No Love.” Now, listeners everywhere are bracing themselves for the impact of Category F5, set to hit record stores and online retailers June 16th.
In an exclusive interview with our own DJ Z, Twista steps into the Booth to discuss his “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” approach to scoring big-name guest features, what Midwestern rappers need to do in order to achieve mainstream success in today’s music industry, and whose beats he thinks make him sound the absolute best—Kanye‘s or Traxster‘s?
Listen to the Interview
Twista Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a Chi-town emcee who has proudly put the Midwest on his back for nearly two full decades. Back with a brand new album dropping this summer, and in the Booth for the first time since July of ‘07, please welcome my main man and good friend Twista—how you doin’?
Twista: What’s up, Z? What’s happening, man?
DJ Booth: I need you to get on Twitter! I’ve been tryin’ to follow you on Twitter, but I couldn’t find you—what’s goin’ on?
Twista: I’ve been movin’ so much, man. My manager’s been tryin’ to get me on there. I’m [livin’] it up; you’ll see me soon, so don’t even trip.
DJ Booth: I saw you on Facebook, and I said, “Okay, he’s on Facebook, the next logical step is Twitter.” If you want, I can even set up the account for you.
Twista: Okay, we’ve gotta holla about that.
DJ Booth: [laughs] Okay! Twist, since last we spoke, you’ve made some moves on the business side of things. Your label, Get Money Gang Entertainment, is now releasing its projects through Capitol‘s parent label, EMI. So, is this a great situation, a good situation, or the best on the table?
Twista: It’s a great situation, ‘cause there were other things on the table. It was a choice that I made. And as far as havin’ as much control as I’ve got over my project, the splits, what type of deal it is, it’s one of those deals I can pretty much brag about, as far as bein’ a CEO. As long as I do the right things, everything will be prosperous for me. No more bein’ dictated to or told what to do, or havin’ no control over certain singles or releases or things like that; I pretty much can make it pop, so it’s a great situation.
DJ Booth: It’s interesting that you should say that. I spoke with your new labelmate, Bobby V., not that long ago, and he also explained that, with EMI, you have complete creative control, and the opportunity to truly control your own musical destiny. Was that your number one priority when searching for a new home?
Twista: I would say it fit into the scheme of the whole plan that I had. ‘Cause I don’t mind a label giving opinions, or having some say-so in a song being released, ‘cause they are partnered up with me, and they are in the business of selling a record, but at the same time I feel like, at the end of the day, my opinion should override anyone else’s opinion. One way it’s looked at is that you have creative control, but let’s be real: it’s basically the label telling you, “If you mess up, it’s your fault.” So it’s a dope situation if you know what you’re doing and you know how to sell records, and you’ve got the people to do the right footwork—it’s the bomb—but if you’re just a control freak, and you just wanna have the say-so, but you don’t really have things in place, then you’re gonna bomb.
DJ Booth: Well, with the new situation, you obviously have a lot of responsibility now, moreso than you did before. Do you like having all this pressure on your shoulders, as opposed to letting it be on someone else’s?
Twista: Either way it’s on my shoulders, but I like it this way better, because I have more control. You can be an artist and you can get caught up in the whole idea of, “Hey, I blew up—now you guys have to keep me there! You, as the manager, have to keep me there! You, as the label, have to keep me there!” But in reality, as long as you remember that you’re only as big as your last song, then you’ll be straight and you’ll stay in the studio and work as hard as you need to work. Because, at the end of the day, you need to stay hot, and as long as you’re hot and you’re exercising your talent to the fullest, it makes everybody around you’s job easy.
DJ Booth: Well, I’ll tell you what’s gonna make everybody’s job around you easy: that’s your new album, Category F5. How much damage is this tornado gonna cause when it drops June 16th?
Twista: It’s gonna cause massive damage. It’s gonna cause the exact damage it’s supposed to cause when a Tasmanian Devil rip through and do what it do. And the reason I called it Category F5 was the whole truth of the tradition of the whole Twista legacy, ‘cause the first one was Adrenaline Rush, then you’ve got things like Kamikaze. I wanted to stay on this whole vicious attack twister vibe, so what better to call the album then the highest category of a twister—or the almost highest category, ‘cause the next album’s F6.
DJ Booth: Features on the album, we talked about it in the pre-interview, include Kanye, Akon, Busta, Gucci Mane, and Tech N9ne, among many others. When you went about assembling a cast of characters to accompany your work, how much did a project budget factor into what you did musically?
Twista: Well, it definitely factors in, but for an artist like me, I have the blessing of [having been] in the game for a long time, and having friends and peers that I can call in for favors, and who also feel like I’m valuable enough to have me on their projects. So certain artists I can just call and be like, “Yo, let me get a verse. I need you on this cut right here, and let me lace one of your joints,” and we pretty much can do it like that, and we both can keep our budget money in our pockets.
DJ Booth: Has there ever been a situation where you felt like you’ve scratched someone else’s back, but then when it came time for them to scratch yours, they fell short?
Twista: Would I say that right now? I can’t really say that right now because pretty much all of the features I wanted to come through on this project did. I couldn’t say that there’s something I did for somebody out there, and they didn’t return the favor. People like Akon who are, like, way out of the water did his thing with me and were like, “Man, I’m gonna lace you with a joint,” and he stood up for his word. So it’s a lot of the guys that’s doin’ their thing right now that didn’t really have to reach back to [the extent] they did, and they still did it.
DJ Booth: Speaking of Akon, the song that you collaborate with him on the new album is entitled “On Top.” There is a copy of this song floating around the ‘net that’s not official, because I’m being told that the reference singer on it sounds like Akon, making everybody believe it’s Akon, but the real version will not be unleashed till the album drops. So, wanna clarify anything for anybody?
Twista: Yeah, there are a few things out there. Some of the parts on the record are the actual parts, some of them are not the actual parts, and due to technology and the way things are today, things get leaked out, and it’s something I was definitely prepared for. Was I upset about it being leaked? Yeah. But was I prepared for it, and knew that it might happen? Yeah also. Some of the song is the official song, but definitely, once the song gets leaked, if I still feel like I wanna put it on the album, I’ll do things to change it up, switch it up a little bit, and put a little more spunk into it so that when the album drops, it sounds different.
DJ Booth: You know what’s so good about being who you are? Unlike Akon, who clearly was confused for this “Fakeon,” nobody can come on the mic and pretend to be Twista, and have anybody believe it’s actually you.
Twista: Well, I can’t actually say that—I’ve heard a lot of shawty’s lately that’ve been gettin’ it in real hard, so you’ve got a few out there who can definitely keep up with me. Pretty much I try to keep it unique. If you listen to a few of the flows on F5, you can definitely see that I’ve switched it up a little bit. And a few features that I’ve got out there on other people’s joints—you know, everybody does patterns, and everybody does the Twista patterns, so I felt like it was time to raise the bar a little bit on my wordplay, and how I do my patterns. So when you listen to the album, you’re gonna hear me—I don’t even wanna say it! Just listen to it.
DJ Booth: [laughs] Well, I just put you on an island of your own, and then you ate a slice of humble pie, which I appreciate, ‘cause not a lot of artists do that. Let’s talk about the lead single off the new project, “Wetter,” which reunites you and The Legendary Traxster. A lot of people don’t know about your relationship, your past, how long you guys go back, but what happened behind the scenes that allowed you guys to get back in the studio and make this musical magic happen?
Twista: Bein’ through the things that me and Traxster went through, it’s like, even though I mess with a lot of other producers when I do my thing, and the same with him, he messes with a lot of other artists, me and him know that we’ve got something special when we do worth together. If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it. When we get together, we always make some magic happen. On this album, I know that I’ve gotta give the fans what they want, and every time it’s like, “This time I’ve really gotta go into that Traxster vibe!” So we connected together, started workin’ on a few joints, and actually “Wetter” was one of the first ones that we put together. It’s a blessing that we do what we do, so even now we just continue to work together, because we get it in so hard together.
DJ Booth: You mentioned “what the fans want,” and a topic of conversation on the threads at DJBooth.net is about what producer makes you sound the absolute best. Some said Traxster, some said Kanye—how do you feel about that argument?
Twista: That’s a good one! I feel like Kanye makes me sound good when it comes to the “everybody” audience. I feel like Traxster makes me sound good when it comes to my core, street audience. [Both are] beautiful for me, because Kanye takes me to another place and then, when me and Traxster get it in, we do what we do as a team. They’re two things I wouldn’t wanna switch up.
DJ Booth: They both have their pros. As I mentioned earlier, the single that’s gonna be dropping right around the time of your album is your Bobby V.-assisted, Jim Jonsin-produced “She Got It.” In the song, you state that you hit a female with the “franchise” tag. Now, technically speaking, and I know you know this, that means you’d only wanna keep here around for one year, at the going rate of the average female. So, what would she need to possess in order for her to stick around a little bit longer?
Twista: Man! To stick around a little bit longer, to be that one? You’ve definitely gotta be someone that I would be able to introduce to my mother. You’ve gotta be down, and you’ve gotta be a woman who’s got her own, like my man Jamie [Foxx] says. Like my man Webbie says, “I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T.” Somebody who’s gettin’ there, a real headstrong woman.
DJ Booth: Since our last formal Booth interview, not one new Chicago emcee has really become an all-out mainstream success. Let’s analyze the situation here—what is the problem with local Chi-town talent, and what really is an inability to bring that talent to fully-realized fruition?
Twista: A lot of it, I hate to say it, is that when you choose to stay here it limits you a little bit. With me, you see me out there, but you don’t see me out there as much as you see certain other artists. The reason is I choose to stay in the city, and a lot of other artists don’t know how to do that the right way. It’s cool that you’re from Chicago, but you also have to recognize that all of the labels, lawyers, video channels, everything that you could possibly [use] to promote yourself, a lot of it is on the outskirts. Like, I say we live in a donut—we’re in the middle, so we’ve gotta take a plane to the record label; everybody else can take a train to the record label.
DJ Booth: Considering that it’s more difficult when you’re from the Midwest, ‘cause you don’t have that instant access to a city like New York, or L.A., what does it take to go the extra distance in order to make it happen? ‘Cause, clearly, artists like yourself, Common, and Kanye proved that it is indeed possible.
Twista: Man, the technology today makes it possible for you to do your thing anywhere you’re at, whereas in my day it was a little harder. So right now, when you’ve got things like the Internet, you pretty much can promote yourself to the fullest—not just in the country, but all around the world.
DJ Booth: Exactly. I’ve been tellin’ everybody that for the longest time. It’s a shame that more people have not caught on sooner. Obviously you have, that’s why you’re on the phone with me. Final question: there’s a promotional video for the new album, and it states, “In a time where hip-hop is lost, one man will help find it.” So, two-part question for you: one, when exactly do you feel hip-hop went missing, and, two, why is Twista the right man to lead this search party?
Twista: Okay, that’s a two-part question, gotcha. I would say hip-hop didn’t come up missing, I would say people started thinking hip-hop came up missing. And no disrespect to Nas, because Nas is really one of my favorite rappers, period, he’s definitely in my top five, but when you make statements like, “Hip-hop is dead,” which, he was a genius when he made it, ‘cause he got everybody talkin’ about it, you create things in people’s heads. That started the whole vibe that hip-hop might not have been around, but really it just changes, man. The younguns come in and they do it their way. Then we get used to what they’re doing, and the people younger than them come in and do it their way, and it just keeps evolving.
DJ Booth: Okay, so it’s safe to say, then, that on June 16th, if someone goes out and picks up a copy of your brand new album, Category F5, when they pop it in, they will have definitely found themselves some hip-hop?
Twista: Definitely, definitely! I’m about lyricism, so when you put the CD on, you’re gonna hear hip-hop even on the songs you feel may be radio songs, because of the way I spit it, my wordplay. As long as you’re a true emcee and you’re comin’ with it, it’s gonna be considered hip-hop.
DJ Booth: Twist, give everybody a website or a MySpace page so they can find out more about you and the upcoming release.
Twista: Myspace.com/twista—really, you can see everything when you go to my MySpace: Category F5, comin’ out on Tupac’s birthday, you dig?
DJ Booth: And coming soon, of course, as we mentioned earlier, Twista on Twitta—it kinda has a nice ring to it, wouldn’t you agree?
Twista: Yeah, definitely.
DJ Booth: Well, thank you so much, my friend, for taking the time to join me inside the DJ Booth. The best of luck.
Twista: Okay, man. Thanks a lot for havin’ me.