Twista: 5 Albums That Changed My Life

Twista: 5 Albums That Changed My Life

Twista’s rhymes can still keep pace with Speedy Gonzalez but the Chicago rapper, who dominated airwaves in 2004 with the hits “Slow Jamz” and “Overnight Celebrity,” won’t let himself be pigeonholed. Instead, he’s using his platform to pave the way for rap’s up-and-comers like Blac Youngsta, The Boy Illinois and YP as heard on his latest album Crook County.

The 13-track set finds the Windy City rep (né Carl Terrell Mitchell and formerly known as Tung Twista) all about his hustler mentality. Highlights include the money-grabbing bangers like “Stackin Paper” and “Paper Chasin,” the Jeremih-assisted number for the ladies “Next To You,” the anti-frauds anthem “Hollywood” and the smokey joint “Happy Days.”

Despite his hasty flow, Twista admits that he took a laid-back approach while recording, even squeezing in a few naps and tokes in between songs. During a recent visit to TIDAL HQ, Twista shared his five life-changing albums and spits the realness about his latest album.

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Eric B. & Rakim: Follow The Leader

One of the first albums that changed my life was Follow The Leader by Eric B. and Rakim. Rakim is my favorite rapper, first off, and I had heard [the duo's 1987 debut] Paid in Full, which has also changed my life, but on Follow The Leader, he had really come into himself. The tone of the voice, the songs, the element, everything he was rapping about was what really kind of paved the way for me to really, really want to be an MC.

A Tribe Called Quest: The Low End Theory

When I heard that album and the purity of the production, the mannerism, the tone, the energy, the way Phife and Q-Tip went back and forth with each other, the way they respected their DJ—just the whole vibe, the way they was on that roof [in the video] when they was doing “Check The Rhime.” It’s just the whole album that really put me in a mindset and gave me a certain type of energy to make me believe that I can do it and I really went hard at it. I even tried to pattern a couple of songs after what they was doing, but that didn’t work. I had to keep it up with the fast flow.

Bob Marley: Legend

It was a combination of different songs from him that were on one CD and it was like, the best, or what everyone thought was the best and purest. I would play the album over and over all the way through and it kind of kept me in a positive mindstate through a lot of hard times in my life. Then, when I started to get on the right way and I got to enjoy the album [while having] success, it just turned it up to a whole ‘nother level. The Bob Marley Legend album is one of my inspirations, one of the reasons I try to dabble sometimes [in my music] when I go into that whole vibe. One of the reasons that I got a song with Elephant Man [called "Jook Gal"].

LL Cool J: Bigger & Deffer

That probably changed my life more than all of those albums because he gave me the whole blueprint of what it was to be an MC. This b-boy vibe, the whole little thing he was doing like the way he moved when he performed, he had his homeboy on the side, E-Love, that would express the mannerisms as an ad-lib. Just the whole tone, every song on the album. The “I Need Love” song is one of the reasons I’m able to come with a song like “Emotions.” Then just me wanting to go real hard with my super fast style when I heard him going to certain flows. I was like, nah, I can’t have nobody out here like taking my style or doing what I do better than me. So LL doing his thing with almost every song on that album was an inspiration for my career and it affected me in some type of way.

Slick Rick: The Great Adventures of Slick Rick mixed with The Art of Storytelling

When I heard “The Moment I Feared,” I sat there and pictured that story. [With The Art of Storytelling],  I just remember going to school, telling my friends about “La Di Da Di” and everybody learning the words. I remember wanting to stay a beat boxer then I heard Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick do “The Show.” Slick Rick and those albums were an inspiration for me. If i had to have a sixth man, Gang Starr’s Step In The Arena album is it.

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Let’s fast forward to the present and talk about your latest project Crook County. You’ve always repped your Chicago roots but what inspired the title? 

One of the reasons why I entitled my album Crook County was because I wanted a true depiction of the city. I wanted to just give it to them raw. A lot of people use the term “Chi-Raq” but I had already used the term “Crook County” before. I wanted to bring it back with a different vibe and meaning. It’s a county of crooks and you just want to bring attention to it. It’s a subliminal way to bring attention to it so that people can make changes and pay attention but at the same time, it’s also a way to let you know, this is where I’m from, this is my city.

What do you feel is the biggest misconception about Chicago right now?

That it’s just all violent. When you think about the championships, [Michael] Jordan and the Cubs, downtown and the Sears tower, the places to eat, the pizza, the chicken, it’s a lot of things about the city that you should really have the common sense to know that there’s a whole lot goin’ on in the city that’s more than just the violence. There’s a lot of history. If you go there looking for that, it’s very, very easy to find. Sometimes [the violence is] hard to dodge, but it would be as hard to dodge as it would be in any place.

In comparison to your previous projects, how did you switch up your creative process for Crook County?

Just wanted a different vibe, to not go so dark on this album and go to a lighter, laid-back vibe, smoking vibe, party vibe. I worked with different young guys in the city and in the Midwest. I was a fan of their music whether they were already popular or not. My guy, Sonny Woods, who’s an up-and-coming DJ, keeps me in tune with a lot of the guys who just vibe [with me] really. I wanted to take what I was listening to and present that to the people, and be a part of it. That’s why Crook County is what it is.

Any crazy studio anecdotes that you can share?

I got a lot of creative people on the album like Blac Youngsta, YP, Boy Illinois, Supa Bwe. We just really got it in. It’s always a feel-good vibe in the studio. We always smoking and just entertaining each other. Sometimes I be playing Madden while I’m thinking of my verse. Sometimes, the homies might be playing basketball in the other room, ’cause you know we got a big entertainment room, like a man room in the studio so the guys might be playing basketball or playing pool. Some of the guys might be riding around on the balance wheel or whatever you want to call it. You could just be in there turning up having fun and being creative while we recording at the same time.

What would the Twista of today say to the Twista of Adrenaline Rush, which turned 20 last month?

I would lay out the blueprint of everything that may go wrong so that by the time I got to this [album], I would probably have four to five times the money I got now. It would be a lot of corrections and “Don’t sign this deal,” “Wait a little longer for this,” and “Don’t do that.” It would be a whole lot of do’s and don’t’s but overall, I would say even though you are friendly with everyone and everyone is friendly with you, and you got a lot of people in your life you like to chill with, make sure you keep a certain type of relationship with the ones that aren’t grinding hard, and keep a certain type of relationship with the ones that are grinding hard.

In terms of your flow, you’ve always been known for rapping fast but is that something you’re still conscious of while you’re recording?

Nope. I get pigeonholed, put in a box—everything. I try to step out of it and the fans be like “Nah, nigga, nah” so that’s where my thing come from. I’m comfortable being who I am.

You also had tracks like “Overnight Celebrity” and “Slow Jamz,” which came out over a decade ago. Are there any regrets that you have about those singles?

Nah, those are like two of the biggest singles of my career. Like I’m real proud of those songs and very thankful to work with somebody like Kanye West on those songs. It was real dope. I have no regrets on those songs. The only regret I do have is I wish I was able to unify my deal the way I wanted to and be a bigger part of the Roc-A-Fella [situation].

Do you still have a relationship with Kanye nowadays?

I haven’t talked to him in a while but we don’t have any bad blood. I probably need to just call him like “Waddap.”

Fresh Kid Ice from 2 Live Crew recently passed away. Do you have any memories with him or of listening to their music? 

Yeah man, and I’m mad to even say this but we was walking through the lot one day. I might have been in Miami. Me and Fresh Kid Ice were walkin’ through the lot. We looking at each other like, “I wonder why he lookin’ at me like that.” Then we both had to go ahead and say it. He said, “Man, people be saying I look like you”. And I said, “People be saying I look like you too, dog.” Fresh Kid Ice was my homie.

[2 Live Crew] definitely helped breed a sound of music. They got into the energy and were making music that put the South on, mainly Miami, Florida. With what they were doing on tour, they were able to feed people, like families, which was a big thing and the sound was definitely dope. Just like them, N.W.A and me, a lot of artists use explicit lyrics so I kind of got past that cause that’s hip hop. They made a certain type of dance vibe with their music which was accepted in hip-hop. 2 Live Crew is dope.

What do you hope to accomplish with Crook County?

I’m just proud of the project. I look at it as Twista bridging—with this project being 80 percent young artists from Chicago—the gap between the OG artists and the young artists. Sometimes, they don’t understand each other. Here, you have Twista effortlessly getting together with [young artists], making good music. This is how it’s supposed to be. Everybody link up, stop hating on each other. The OGs, stop defining rap as something that’s negative and not understanding it. The young ones, stop saying F the OGs, and learn your history so that those elements can better your music. Let’s do this music together.

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