Interview: Twista On Rapid Raps, His 'Withdrawal' EP And Chicago Hip-Hop
Twista shows no signs of slowing down
Twista has his own way with words. Even as a rookie in 1993, he was making history as his Speedy Gonzalez-paced rapping abilities landed him a coveted spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Fastest Rapper. At the time, he rapped 598 syllables in 55 seconds, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Now, the Chicago native born Carl Mitchell shows no signs of slowing down, still spiting quick, insightful tongue twists on his new EP, Withdrawal (which dropped May 19) alongside rap crew, Do Or Die. Inside their wordy puzzles, there’s a bigger message in every sound bite. He says they made Withdrawal in efforts to address the violence that has inundated the streets of Chicago, dubbing the city “Chiraq.” These lyrical passages of reality go hand-in-hand with Twista's collaboration with Voice of The Streetz, a Chicago-based organization formed to help stop the violence.
“We’re not just putting out the Withdrawal EP just to say ‘Hey, let's get back together and put some music out there, we’re also using it as a forefront and as a platform so that we can speak,” he tells VIBE.“Because people are going to ask ‘What you think about Chiraq? What you think about Chicago? So it gives us a voice to able to let people know what’s really going on in the city and how we are trying to curve it and what we can do to stop these problems in every urban community.”
Twista and members from Do Or Die, Belo and AK, recently stopped by VIBE HQ to talk about Withdrawal, rapid raps and the state of Chi-town hip-hop below.
VIBE: You won a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the world’s fastest rapper in 1993. What inspired you to spit bars that quickly?
Twista: Just wanting to do something different. I was a battle rapper, battling in the neighborhood, so I had the metaphors and the punch lines. I pretty much had reached the peak at what I was trying to do. And one day, I decided to not rap the normal way to try to entice the crowd with rhythm in some type of way so I started changing the styles, and the cadences at how I was spitting my flow.
Circling back to your days with Kanye West circa 2004’s “Slow Jamz,” do you still maintain a relationship with 'Ye?
Twista: Of course, that’s my homie. We haven’t seen each other in a nice while and I’m a little self-contained so I really don’t like chasing him down. But if I really feel I need to get it in with him, just to build with him in general, I’ll give him a call. Lately, he’s been way more busier than me, but I’ll reach out to him soon so that we can get back on.
What is the concept behind your new EP Withdrawal?
Twista: It's really the normal Do or Die-Twista formula. We’ve always had the laid-back sounds, and something romantic for the ladies. We didn’t change what we did; what we did was hold truth to our original sound and it sticks out to this day and time. With the “Aquafina” record, it was something that AK from Do or Die brought to the table—he had a nice vibe with it. And then we have songs like “M.I.A.” that Belo brought to the table. So everybody played a key part in making this EP happen and come together the way we wanted it to.
Describe the collaborative process.
Belo: From the writing aspect, it’s pretty simple. You go through other challenges in terms of dealing with different personalities. But I mean it wasn’t hard. It was easy because we all know each other and as far as writing, we can just come together like peanut butter and jelly.
You were signed to Atlantic Records, and now, you have taken the independent route. Do you miss anything about being signed to a major label?
Twista: Yeah, working with a big budget by the big dogs. I miss the pull that they have as a label and when you’re working on a project, they push and do things in a certain way. So you miss that part, but at the same time, when it comes to being a business man, knowing what you’re getting back on a major versus being on an independent, you can see the pros and cons. Even though I miss certain parts, there are still things with being independent and having your freedom that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I see the pluses in both of them, but the independent route right now is the best for this Withdrawal project.
What do you think of the new talent coming from Chicago like Tink, Chance the Rapper and Lil Herb?
Twista: It’s beautiful seeing all of them getting accepted and seeing people like Lil Herb working with Nicki Minaj, or Tink hooking up with Timbaland. Seeing young ones from Chicago be able to get it in, and knowing that you helped pave the way is a very satisfying feeling.
With the widespread violence happening in America lately, do you think artists should be more socially conscious of what they put out there?
Twista: Once you learn that you have a voice, and what you say may affect people, then you start being conscious. A lot of the young cats aren’t there yet; they are just making music for the fun of it. They haven’t realized yet what type of voice they have so it’s only so much you can ask of somebody who is doing what they do for fun. And what they do for fun has elements in it from the environment they were raised in. There is only so much you can do about that, but once you do you lock in and realize, 'Wait a minute, people are paying attention to what I’m saying’ then you probably can curve it a little bit. But I think the responsibility doesn’t just fall on the artist, it also falls on the industry. Because the industry and these radio stations, channels and apps or what have you, they can all make the choice themselves, too, to decide, 'We aren’t going to advertise violence.’
Just recently, you had the heads of BET go out and meet the people that work at BET and basically told them that for all the reality shows, the physical fighting has to come to a halt. Why did they do that? Because the corporate people were losing sponsors—people were paying attention and they didn’t like the violence. That same type of thing should happen when it comes to the industry, the same big dogs of radio stations, and program directors should be responsible. Don’t just blame the children. We can only hear what you allowed to be played. When you were letting us only hear Public Enemy, we wanted to be strong black men, but now you letting all this crazy shit play, that’s all we want to do. Create a balance—that’s all we have to do. We have to curve that by censoring some of the music that’s being played and playing more positive music because we usually emulate what we hear.
What do you think needs to happen for the violence to stop?
Twista: It’s going to start slowing down by itself because now people can see everything. How many times do you think a police officer or somebody that killed somebody got away with it because we didn’t have cell phones or street cameras? You’re not going to be able to get away with that shit like you used to. That’s going to help curve it. As well as urban communities needing money, we got centers and things to do.
What do you think sets Chicago hip-hop apart from other cities?
Twista: The diversity, the styles—we sound a lot different, but now you can see a lot of the similarities with the trap music. When you listen to Chicago and Atlanta, you see some similarities in that aspect. But for the most part, what sets us apart is the diversity. Do or Die does not sound like Chance The Rapper. Chance The Rapper doesn’t sound like Chief Keef. We’re so diverse. And the fact that we stick together. I know other codes ... but Chicago people right now, when it comes to this rap shit, I think we are sticking together and we are going to show what people don’t expect us to show.
Cop Twista & Do or Die's Withdrawal EP on iTunes here.
Photo Credit: Twista.com