I did this interview with Twista (along with the Speed Knot Mobstas) just as he was emerging into the mainstream in '98... He surprised a lot of people with his verse on Do Or Die's first single, and was finally getting a real push from a major label after years of struggling to prove himself as being more than a novelty rapper who had a flash in LOUD Records' pan. He was suddenly getting major media airplay and was also coming out with a new crew (though, if you paid attention, they were also featured on his indie album from '95)...
How did you hook up with the Speed Knot Mobstas?
Twista: The way we hooked up was like some battle stuff. Lif tried to come at a brother... they tried to pull me over in the car. You know, battle me. Basically, we was on some competitive stuff how we met. It turned out, we ended up making a crew back in the days, called the Speed Knots, and we just been together ever since. Just battles, trying to do little stuff, having meetings every week, stuff like that...coming with rhymes. Over the years, it just got to this point.
So, you kinda went away. You started to surface with Ressurection, but then you disappeared again. Now you've made another comeback with the Do Or Die guys. How'd you hook up with them? What's the story behind it?
Twista: Well, actually, Do Or Die, Crucial Conflict, and a few of the groups that are out from the west side of Chicago… we all knew each other before we were rappers. So, one day, on a normal day, I was just kickin' it with Do Or Die. I was in a store called The Flea Market up Madison and Chicago on the west side, we was talkin about doin' a few cuts. And one of the cuts we were talkin' about "Po' Pimp." And we didn't know it, but when we went to the studio and made it, it turned out to be very, very prosperous.
When you first came out, you had a really different style. Not just flow-wise, but lyric-wise, being all about some hip-hop and peace. And now you're on the Mobstability-tip. What do you say to suggestion that it kind of makes you sound like a "studio gangster?"
Twista: Really, what it is, is like, back then, you be kinda lost. Coming from a place like Chicago... not a lot of industry people around, not a lot of people to learn from. You kinda lost. And when you read the magazines and stuff, you be like, "Dag, this is how the rappers livin'. This is how they kickin' it." And you don't realize that sometimes you end up kickin' rhymes that's pertaining to stuff from that persons hood. You might be listening to LL or Run, but the way they rap, or how they kickin' it, would be an east coast thing. And, what it is, after a period of time, Chicago artists just found there selves and realized it ain't about soundin' like this person or this person. We gotta do our own thing. So, in doin' our own thing... Man, in Chicago, you got gang-bangers, you got drug dealers, you got players... Like I say wild shit, hard-times, player cuts, and murder rhymes. Stuff that we on.
So, what's up... I know on your new record you've got a joint coming out at Bone. What's up with the beef between y'all?
Twista: The Bone beef. It's like, basically, to me it was just a little hatin' goin' on. I guess brothers felt like their style was being bit by certain artists from Chicago and stuff like that. And they said a few things on their single, and then came out with the album which said a few things. And, basically, me as an MC, I did just took care of my business. I ain't really dwelling on it, but everybody got a chunk of 'em. Crucial did they thing, Do Or Die did they thing, and I did my thing. Hopefully, it'll just stay on wax.
I think most people really remember more the beef with Naughty By Nature and your record "Suicide." But, listening to it, you were also talking about the Beanuts right? "Intoxicated Demons?"
Twista: Yeah. It was just a little hip-hop thing, back then. I think back then you had a few cats who wasn't ready for the Chicago scene to blow up a little bit, I guess. There was a little dissin' goin' on back then. It was just some hip-hop stuff. I kicked it with Treach today. That was just in all of our younger days. But now, everybody's tryin' to unify and work with each other, stuff like that. It ain't about none of that, 'cause we done lost a few good rappers over stuff like that. So we just tryin' to make sure they keep it on the positive level a little bit.
Earlier, when you did the Resurrection album, that was basically independent… Did you put that out entirely by yourselves?
Twista: Yeah, the Resurrection thing was independent. It was just what we wanted to do after the album that dropped on LOUD records. it was cool, it was cool. We was hurtin' though, back then.
So were you happy with what came out on LOUD Records? Or did you think it was just not really true to who you were?
Twista: I mean, I just chalked it up to experience. We was young back then. I was young, I ain't know nothin'... too much. All I knew was I had a little flow. I just took it as experience. Once we got in the game a little bit, you know. Took it as experience, and went on with the next. Now we on some Mobstability thing.
Mayz: We got Danny Boy on now. We got Shock the World on now, with the Legendary Traxster. So, y'all go get that album 'cause it's the bomb, ya heard?
You're already getting a lot of play from the single now off the Dr. Dolittle soundtrack...
Twista: Right. That was basically an Atlantic hook-up, you know. We was fortunate to get on a soundtrack like that. We sold a lot of units to a lot of people who didn't or might not know about us. So, when they got that soundtrack, hopefully they checked out that cut and it was something that made them feel like it was something that made them want to go get the album.
And, also, a lot of people probably also remember you from that Puff Daddy cameo.
Twista: Yeah, that got us a lot of east recognition.
So how did that happen? Did Puff call you or something?
Twista: He basically wanted to work with me. There was a small circle of artists who wanted to work with me because they liked the verse I did on the "Po' Pimp" song, so I was fortunate enough to get that call from him. Bam, I wanted to put that down, 'cause I knew that was gonna be hot.
And so lately you've been doing a lot of that - appearances on a lot of other peoples' records. You've been on like Ras Kass...
Twista: Yeah, Ras Kass. Ras Kass was like a hook-up of Wendy Day's. Wendy Day had a rap coalition. And me and Ras Kass were like two of her favorite rappers. And she just basically wanted to see us get on a joint together, so we did that.
And you were on Usher, I think it was?
Twista: Yeah, Usher. Usher liked me. He said I was one of the MCs he liked. He just wanted me to jump out on the remix of "Nice and Slow". Like, MJG... I did a couple underground things. A few nice, new people.
Anybody you haven't worked with yet, that you want to do a song with?
Twista: Redman. I like Redman a lot. He needs to jump out; gotta jump out.
Cool. And you've got another solo album comin' out now, right?
Twista: Yup. Right now it's titled Kamikaze. But I ain't even started working on it yet, 'cause, right now, we on this Mobstability thang.
So now a lot of people are gonna be familiar with you, but not the other two members of Speed Knot. How would each of you describe each other's styles for the people just discovering you guys?
Mayz: Ay-ight. I would describe probably Lif. Like, Lif he just the street nigga, the nigga that you gonna run into everyday on the street. The one that's just gonna give it to ya in the raw. And just tell you the real. And if you don't like it, so what? And how he's comin' atcha, it's comin' atcha everytime.
Liffy: With Twista's style, he brought us to a point where... When we first met him, we was just kinda like wild out there. We couldn't count bars or do nothin'. We was just writing rhymes. And he showed us how to break it down into songs. You know, 16 bars, 4-bar hooks and stuff like that we wasn't used to. But, by him bein' in the business, and him knowin' how to lay it down, he just showed us the way. And it was all good.
Twista: Lemme see... Mayz style. He'll bust out on you a couple of times. Mayz might sit back and listen to what me and Lif doing and what he feel like, the cuts don't have, he'll sit up and put his part to like, "Man, they need a little bit of this, or they forgot to talk about this. And cut it tighter on this, so I gotta make sure I do this." So Mayz, on this cut he might do this, on this cut he might say, "Let me come raw," On this cut he might put things into perspective. That's Mayz. He'll put a little swirl on it... A little swirl.
Ok, so going back to the early days… didn't you battle Daddy Freddy for like a 'Fastest Rapper,' title? Weren't you officially considered the fastest rapper of all time?
Twista: Yeah, it was like... I don't even hardly remember, that was so long ago. It was cool. We just battled on stage one time, at a DJ Quik concert. And I got my p's cause we was in Chicago. And the Guinness book thing was he had a little record and I beat his by a few syllables so I got my props from that, too.
Are you still the fastest now?
Twista: Yeah, I'm still fast. I don't know if I'm the fastest. I'm not really dwellin' on the fastest no more; I'm trying to be the largest.
So what's up with you dropping the Tung from your name? It's just Twista now. What's the significance behind that?
Twista: It wasn't really a reason. You know how sometime a person can have, like, a long name? You just call that person the shorter version. People just got tired of saying Tung Twista and just started saying Twista. "What's up, Twista?" It wasn't really a thought-about change, it's just how things came out.
What are your feelings about the Chicago scene in hip-hop? I mean, a lot of people took a long time to blow up, like EC Illa, Juice, and all that.
Twista: Yeah, it took a while. You got different elements when it comes to rap music in Chicago. Up north... You got the heads up north. And in the south, you got the mixture. They might like a little bit of the gangsta stuff, or a little bit of the east coast vibe. And on the west side of Chicago, where we're from, we just don't give up with it. We just puttin' it down like we feel it should be put down for the Chi. That's why we doin' it.
Alright, cool. So you got any last words you wanna say for people reading this?
Twista: Man... I want y'all to check out the Mobstability album comin' out October sixth, because it's raw. We're puttin' it down for the Chi. We feel like it's a new thing that we're comin' with. It's basically raw. I did my thing, and I want people to check the album for Liffy and Mayz because they raw. After this, hopefully, we gonna break off into some solo and expand from there and expand from there. Check us out, 'cause we all the way live. ...Any last words?
Liffy: I'd like to thank you for havin' us. Go get that album, October sixth.
So, that was about ten years ago (wow!) now. Twista is still very much doing his thing... After looking like he'd be a sorely underrated rapper lost beneath the industry, he really found deserved success (go ahead, you rap like him. See? You can't! Ha!) with a long stretch on Atlantic. Yeah, he's put out some flat-out bad, commercial cuts, playing the industry game a la Jay-Z; but he's undisputably talented. Anyway, he's back on the indie tip again, starting his own label with some new music, so go check him out again: Twista.com is his site, and there's a pretty glossy fan site at twista.net... both of those are good but out of date The latest info and new music is, as always, on his myspace. And yes, he's still down with the Mobstaz, who all have myspaces linked in his Top Friends.