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Twista Talks ‘Dark Horse’ Album, Hip-Hop’s New Age & Chicago’s Rising Stars [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]

Twista
Photography courtesy of Jimmy Fishbein

It’s been nearly three decades since an adolescent Carl Terrell Mitchell said to hell with ‘School House Rock,’ and what’s up to his 12-year-old speed-rapping alter ego, Tung Twista. By the time he was 17, the Chicago MC was ‘Runnin Off at the Mouth’ on his first album. On that debut release, he lived up to his name with fast-paced verses featuring a whirlwinds of words over the jazzy hip-hop production du jour in 1991. A few years later, he’d drop the “Tung” part of his microphone moniker and refine his style to be as rhythmic as it was rapid-fire. A scene-stealing appearance on Do or Die’s ‘Po’ Pimp’ reinvigorated his career and that same year the new and improved Twista released a Chicago classic in the form of his ‘Adrenaline Rush’ album.

These days we know Chicago’s rap scene as one of the country’s most vibrant and diverse but back in the early ’90s there was just Twista and fellow vet Common blazing the trail for the Kanyes, Chief Keefs and Chance the Rappers that would follow.

Now in 2014, the man once recognized as the fastest rapper in the world is celebrating the release of his ninth studio album, ‘Dark Horse.’ Twista spoke to The Boombox about the album, embracing new artists and of course having longevity in the hip-hop world. “I don’t think [there are] a lot of artists around that [have] gotten the opportunity to take [music] where I’ve taken it,” he explains. “I look up, and I’m like man, I’ve been in the game 20 years. The next album is gonna be my tenth album, [and] I think 10 is gonna be special for me. Let me show [fans] I can still do it and turn up with it too [while] working with some of the younger artists in the game.”

Getting “on” in the ’90s took work. It was showcases, it was open mics, it was auditions at a label. Things have changed. Hip-hop’s entered a new era, and Twista wants his fans to know he gets it. The genre was originally centered on raw lyrical ability and jaw-dropping wordplay, but these days that’s coupled with how Internet savvy an artist and his or her team is.

“[Hip-hop] is definitely different, but I think one of the biggest differences is artists couldn’t showcase themselves. I remember coming up in the time where if you couldn’t get on the radio, you pretty much wasn’t gonna be heard,” he recalls. “Now, all you have to do is open up your laptop or phone, and you can be seen or heard. Artists got the outlet. They’re able to showcase their time and success on many different levels.”

“Some people are looking for all of the glamor and the glitz and the riches, or some people just might want people to hear their music and like [it]. I think that it’s dope … that you can have somebody on the block that’ll tell you ‘Man, have you heard of Childish Gambino or have you heard of Chance the Rapper?’ And you might be like, ‘Man, I never heard of them.’ But then you look up, and these guys got sell-out shows. I just think its dope. [Hip-hop's] in a good place.”

Focused on hip-hop’s current state, and the new crop of rappers pushing the genre forward, Twista is watching Chicago’s emerging MCs and is pleased with what they’re doing for his city. He extends himself to them as a resource of perspective and experience. “I definitely think they [new rappers] respect me as an OG in the game. If they felt like they would need some advice or something, I would be here. But at the same time, I feel like [we should] turn up on this music,” Twista shares. “The same way Nas might snatch up KRS or somebody on the track every once in a while they [new artists] gotta make sure they come get the OG so I can blaze it up for ‘em.”

So who’s Twista checking for these days?

“I like the homegirl Dreezy. I like Stunt Taylor, he’s from Chicago getting his thing in. I got my homie Showtime affiliated with GMG [Get Money Gang], he get it in real hard. There’s another guy I like by the name of Ty Money. He be killing it in Chi-Town. And then definitely all of the usuals.: Lil Durk, Chief Keef, Lil Bibby, Lil Herb. [And] I like King Louie a lot. I feel like King Louie doesn’t get all of the respect he deserves. He comes with a lot of different styles like I do, so I think everybody got to pay more attention to King Louie.”

Looking at the Chi’s new talent, Twista made sure to take a few of them in the studio to cut a few tracks for ‘Dark Horse,’ but he didn’t limit himself to the talent raised in the Windy City. Known for his signature sultry rap tracks like ‘Get It Wet’ and ‘Emotions,’ Twista reached out to former music collaborator Tia London for what ended up being his ninth LP’s lead single. Knowing his own music formula and the sound he was looking for, the Midwest rapper knew exactly what to do when it came to recording ‘It’s Yours.’

“Tia London is an artist who belongs to The Legendary Trackster, who did the [song's] production. She actually worked on my last album with me on a song called ’2012′ so it’s not my first time working with her, but this time she killed it on that track. We kind of knew the formula already, so her and Trackster were in the studio just messing around with a few different hooks and ideas and we just [found it] all in tune with the formula. We just felt like it was a good move for me to use it as a single. So that’s her killing it, and me trusting her to carry the weight of that song.”

Outside of Tia London and Twista finding a way to let every woman know ‘It’s Yours,’ his favorite album cut is actually the spacey three-and-a-half minute track ‘Beast.’

“The song is called ‘Beast’ because of the subject matter. In a world of rap, you got people rapping about so many different things: the cars, the glamor, the glitz. You got a few people that might touch on a little bit of knowledge here and there, but I think on the ‘Beast’ cut when people really understand what I did with that song they’ll be like, ‘Oh, snap!’ he combined science, astronomy [and] some thug s—.”

Now that’s some thug motivation.

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