Thursday, November 11, 2010

Two From Twist

Today we're going to look at two singles from San Jose's own MC Twist. Most people know him, if they do at all, for his period on Luke Records in the late 80's with The Def Squad. But today we've got two of his later period singles from when he came out on the indie label Lethal Beat Records, who also put out Ground Zero, a group I was a fan of for a short while in my youth (we'll get to them another day).

These records are harder, more street and less dance oriented than Luke's Twist. Now, MC Twist was never really a great MC, by today's standards or back then; he wasn't bowling anybody over with his skills. But he came hard, angry and conscious on these joints, which is always an appealing combination to a true hip-hop fan.

First we'll look at "A Step Beyond" - that's the picture cover at the top of this piece. Klu Klux Klan, burning crosses, nooses, newspaper headlines of violent crimes... and MC Twist standing shirtless but in an African medallion on the bottom right corner. If ever a picture cover said "aww shit... it's on," this one does.

Now, I'm not sure if the song quite lives up to the cover - what could? But Twist, who also produces all his own material, certainly tries. The beat is big and hard, but with a funky bassline. The hook consists of a nice pairing of vocal samples by Too $hort and Rakim, and other parts of the song feature sampled, stuttering speeches. Unfortunately, Twist's voice and simple delivery don't manage to keep the promise of the instrumental. This is the kind of song that calls for young and angry Ice Cube, and Twist isn't that. He does grow on you with repeated listens, though, as you get used to his sound. And he at least comes off as determined and sincere in what he's saying - he's got a strong "fuck racists and stay up despite life's hardships" message that he clearly believes in.

The song comes in Clean, Dirty and Instrumental versions. But more interesting perhaps than even the song itself is the strange bonus track, "1-900-KKK." "1-900-KKK" features the same music as "One Step Beyond," but instead of rapping we here Twist briefly explain that racism is as prevalent as ever, and he wants us to listen to this crazy KKK phone message he found. We then hear a completely crazy racist tirade some KKK nutjob apparently left on his answering machine... a real, on-going rant against white women who date black men (though he uses some different terms, as you can imagine), George Bush and "gooks." Finally, Twist comes back on and actually gives us the number so we can call it ourselves. I'd print it here, but this many years later, I can't imagine they're still in service.

Next up we have "S-M-O-K-I-N-G C-O-K-E," obviously an anti-drug song. The beat is basically a stripped down version of Gangstarr's "Knowledge," with some well chosen samples from songs like Too $hort's "Girl" and NWA's "Dope Man." This is one of those from the days when anti-drug songs were as hard and street as any pro-dealing gangsta record. Yeah, he has a message again, but Twist doesn't like coke addicts and doesn't feel compelled to tell you in polite terms. There's nothing on here but Radio and Club versions of this song, but who cares? They just don't make music like this anymore.


  1. Nice post! I remember buying the first MC Twist cassette back in the day and really getting into it. And, oddly, I actually wrote in to his fan club (hey, I was 13) and got what was my first hip-hop autograph back, an 8x10 glossy. Still have it.

    I dropped Twist a note on Myspace a few years ago, but never heard back from him. He is still around and kicking, though.

  2. Cool to find this post! I bought Twist's "Bad Influence" LP back in the '90s (BET used to air the 'Step Off' video). Listening back to it as an adult, it's interesting to hear the contradictions between a song like "Smoking Coke," in which, as you mention, he looks down on it, and another album track such as "Cocaine Bizness," in which he boasts about his game selling the stuff and his ways of working around law enforcement.

    It would be really interesting to know more of his story. Although he might not have been the best rapper around, his diction was tight and he seemed to be savvy about including a combination of street-smart tracks and more commercial ones on both the 'Bad Influence' CD and the later 'MVP'...