Life’s best surprises often come from unlikely places. Twista knows this better than most.
The pioneering platinum rapper put Chicago on the rap map and made the double-time rap style a rap staple. Despite selling millions of albums and popularizing a delivery incorporated by everyone from Jay-Z to Eminem, the Windy City rapper remains largedly unheralded by the uninformed. That’s why he’s named his new album The Dark Horse.
“Knowing my personality, that I’m laid-back and low-key and there’s not a lot of rah-rah, I’m usually the one that people least expect to stand out,” he says. “I’m not just talking about being on a track. I’m talking about when I’m in a room with the big dogs. I’m usually the last person expected to do something. My name also gets left off the Top MCs list, so I took on the mentality of where feel like I’m looked at as a dark horse in the industry. I like to just come out unexpectedly and shine on them.”
Twista does just that on The Dark Horse selections “For Me And You” and “Scale The Wall.” Produced by longtime sonic partner The Legendary Traxster (Do Or Die, Mariah Carey), these two songs add new installments to the pair’s classic collaborations. “I think those two songs in particular are going to make people feel like, ‘Damn, this boy ain’t lost a step. This sounds just like ‘Adrenaline Rush’ or ‘Death Before Dishonor’ Twista,’” Twista explains. “The people that want to hear that dark, bass-hitting Twista sound with me snapping, I’m definitely going to satisfy them.”
The same can be said for the Tech N9ne collaboration “Psycho.” Although the pair has worked together over the years, this song showcases a new, dramatic dimension to their material. “It’s done in the way that I envisioned a song that Tech N9ne and I would do,” Twista says. “Sometimes we’ve done songs where I haven’t really hit that style that I want to hit with him. There’s a certain type of vibe that I wanted to hit. By me being the one that picked the beat and being able to tell him how I want to go in on it, it’s exactly how I wanted a Tech N9ne and Twista song to sound. We’re going in so hard and in such a way that people can see that we’re pretty much the top ones doing it.”
Twista shifts gears on “Throwin My Money.” The future strip club anthem features Twista freaking fast and slow flows and sharing the mic with fellow Chi-Town musical titan R. Kelly. “It’s got that Twista swing to it,” Twista says. “When I let R. Kelly hear the song, he thought it was a monster once he heard the hook and the vibe of the song. When I heard the finished product, I was like, ‘We’ve got to throw this out there.’ Songwise and vibewise, I felt like it’s a good song and people will rock to it.”
Then there’s “Next To You” with crooner Jeremih. The soulful selection features Twista adopting a suave approach and delivering his raps in a distinctive way. “It doesn’t feel like a normal song,” he says. “It has a tripped out cadence to it to where I’m doing the Twista style, but it’s not in the average way where everybody can bite it like they usually do.”
Elsewhere, pays homage to rap elder statesmen Run-DMC with the stylish “a.d.i.d.a.s.” He got the idea for the song when he and his friends were vibing and listening to beats. “It put me in a Run-DMC mindstate,” Twista says. “That’s what made me be like, ‘Let me go ahead and do this.’”
From the first time Twista rapped, people wanted to hear him do this. He broke through in the early 1990s as Tung Twista, earning acclaim as the fastest rapper in the world, even holding the Guinness World Record title for the distinction.
But it would take a while for people to catch up to Twista’s trailblazing rap abilities. When he reemerged in 1996 with Do Or Die on the landmark “Po Pimp” single, the rechristened Twista amazed fans and critics alike with his remarkably smooth rapid-fire raps. Twista then became a rap king with the release of Adrenaline Rush, his 1997 album. The collection’s mind-bending vocal performances, terrific storytelling and supreme lyricism placed Twista among rap’s premier artists.
“I think I helped offer in a new vibe, a new style to what we already had in hip-hop and rap music,” he explains. “Even though you had a few people dabbling in it, the level that I took the double time style to helped contribute to there being another style that you could do your music.”
Twista became even more popular in 2003 and 2004 when he teamed with fellow Chicagoan Kanye West and Jamie Foxx for the smash single “Slow Jamz.” Twista’s 2004 album, Kamikaze, earned him his first platinum plaque. Since then, Twista has remained one of rap’s premier practitioners and in-demand collaborators. He’s appeared on albums from Mariah Carey, Pitbull and Jay-Z, among others, and released a string of acclaimed albums and mixtapes.
Beyond music, he’s spread his wings as a pitchman. One of his newest ventures is his partnership with Tease Vodka.
But for Twista, it all comes down to the music. It’s the reason he’s remained one of rap’s top talents for two decades. “It’s the love of the music,” he says. “I do other things and I have other business ventures that I do, but my love is really with the music. I keep doing it and staying in it because I love music. I still get excited every time I hear a beat or think of a different flow.”
Now with The Dark Horse, Twista brings new life into his music by recreating his classic style and building upon it, too. “I try not to break what I know is already cool or what people want from me,” he says. “People want to just hear that fierce Twista stuff that they know and love. The main thing I’m doing with this album is staying true to what people know that I do.”