Twista's latest album, Adrenaline Rush 2007, came out last week, and we've been jamming the jams (of which there are more than a few) pretty regularly around these parts, but we knew Twista had more on his mind than new music. We decided to ring up the quicktalking Chicago vet to talk to him about Adrenaline Rush 2007, the Chicago Juke scene, explicit lyrics and the Jena 6. Check the interview after the jump, and if you're planning on participating in the "Let Freedom Ring Weekend" starting this Friday in Birmingham, Alabama, make sure to see Twista at the Jena 6 Empowerment Concert with Killer Mike, Sean P and Lloyd among others on Saturday.
How are you feeling now that your album’s out?
I’m definitely proud of this one. I got the type of response that I wanted to get from everybody from the album. Of course, you want it to be on a larger scale sometimes but me, I’m a longevity artist. I’m here for the big time and I’m here for when it’s just smooth sailing sometimes. I just worry about whether my fans like my material and they love it so I’m happy.
So the reception so far—from what you can tell—has been pretty good?
Yeah. Hell yeah. You know I get the pre-album jitters—but yeah, I’m happy about it. I feel like I’m ready to give them a hell of a show when we go out there on tour and then really start concentrating on the next one.
Did you want to capture the feeling of the first Adrenaline Rush, with the new album? Why did you name it Adrenaline Rush 2007?
Because sometimes I run into problems with my album, like from the perspective of not being on the same page with some of my A&R, we battle a lot. It’s like a trainer, though, I respect my A&R to the utmost. I love working with them and wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s just like certain things like, when The Day After came out right after the Kamikaze record and I definitely wanted to make a big record. So I put a lot of concentration into making songs that I knew had hit potential or single potential, like I did a couple of tracks with Pharrell on The Day After. I felt like, “Man, some of my other songs that I really wanted on the album to represent the right way didn’t get to make the album.” So I was upset about that and it caused an effect. And the effect that it caused was people—especially from the hood that like my music—was like, “Damn, that’s cool Twista but, man, we want to hear that original Adrenaline Rush sound." And so that was my drive when I went into the studio was to give the fans what they wanted. Like, what do people say the most? I’ve grown now, and I love music on all levels. That’s why you’re gonna hear some Jazzy Pha and some R. Kelly and some other things on the album, cause I gotta do me. But at the same time I have to hit them over the head with that raw Adrenaline Rush.
I noticed a Chicago house and juke influence on some of the songs…
Yeah, definitely. I was brought up on the west side of Chicago, that sound was like house music. You know, on the radio there was different things, but in the hood we was going to certain places where we would party like the Factory and the Hole In The Wall and all of this house music was out. This uptempo beat—just “bumph bumph bumph bumph.” And over the years it just got a little faster here, then a little faster there and now we call it juke music. It’s the same sound but slightly faster. It’s the sound that’s always been around. I was like, man, what a perfect time to just represent that sound a little bit. Let me go in and try to put something together. We had to let them know that this is the sound that we created. Like, you got the hyphy on the West Coast and the crunk music in the South, this is the sound that we created, Juke music.
Do you think juke is about to blow up like the south did then?
Definitely. It’s a worldwide sound. It reminds me of the techno sound a little bit. We just came from Russia doing a show—when we was over there we noticed that type of vibe. So I was like, “Man, that juke music vibe would hit it off good over here." I realized that different places move to that type of music in a certain way. I think that sound could move from regional to worldwide real fast.
Do you think you rap so fast because you grew up around music that was faster than everything else?
I think it is an influence. I never noticed it at first until I realized one day you can take every one of these beats—the “bumph bumph bumph bumph”—and if you move em like that, I can just go [raps to beat] and I realized that all of my verses that was considered—like when I was putting a lot of my Twista stuff together—you could take all of those verses and match them up to all type of different house beats and juke beats perfectly. And I was like, this had to be my influence to just really do this.
So have you ever felt like you wanted to move away from Chicago?
You know, I just gotta dip in and out a little bit into an area where people just can’t get to me as much. You know how things are, how people can get sometimes, especially in a place like Chicago, it makes you wanna get the hell out and take a nice vacation every once and awhile. People don’t realize that sometimes you don’t have to up and leave all the way, you can just have a joint in Chicago and then you can have you another joint out there in Cali somewhere. I like to experiment. I’m thinking about getting a spot somewhere, I just haven’t made my choice yet. But where I call home is gonna be Chicago forever.
You also have your crew, The Speedknot Mobstaz on this album, have you known them from way back?
Yeah, we all came up together from maybe like 18, 19 years old on up. Not from like shorties—well, some of us were shorties—but definitely from the teenage days we’ve been getting it in. We got the Mobstaz album that’s gonna drop at the top of the year on Koch records. It’s a Midwest movement.
You still have your own record label as well right?
Yeah. It’s called Get Money Gang. GMG.
What kind of stuff are you planning on putting out?
It varies, we got one artist by the name of Scooter, he’s crazy with it. To me he represents what Chicago should sound like on a hip-hop level. He’s real new school with it, just real cold. We got this one girl by the name of Anya, she makes alternative music. She’s a young white girl, she can dance, she can play the piano, she can sing real good. The music that Toxic has been producing with her has been phenomenal. You wouldn’t believe it. It’ll kill you. You’ll hear it and be like, “What the hell?” It’s crazy that he’s sitting there making something like this.
You’ve been pretty vocal about free speech in rap lately, how do you think rap is perceived by the general public?
You know, it’s a cultural thing. It’s one thing when you talk about fighting dogs and different stuff like that, people don’t understand that—even though it’s illegal and a lot of people think its wrong— there are areas where people are actually brought up to think this was normal. So like with us, with this rap music, it’s like a lot of ghetto music and what hip-hop came from, like that youthful rebellious spirit, it’s the same with rock and roll—that youthful rebellious spirit and cheer—I think sometimes we get misconstrued and misunderstood, and people just think that we’re just saying, “bitch, ho” and they don’t really understand that the music is cultural. We know what we’re talking about and who we talking to and we just get misunderstood a lot. To give you an example, in hip-hop if we battling, just like boxing it’s about who’s gonna hit the next person the hardest. It’s about who can say the craziest shit. So I may love women to death but if I’m spitting in front of this guy and his lines are zanier and crazier than mine, I may say, “Well I’ll grab a bitch and rip her head off and drink blood out of her and kick the bitch down the stairs, old bitch!” You know what I’m saying? And that was more rowdy and raunchy. I just think we get misunderstood a lot. I feel like hip-hop takes the blame. If Don Imus says it…well, fuck, let’s bring hip-hop and let’s whoop hip-hop’s ass. Somebody was fighting dogs? They do that in hip-hop! Let’s whoop hip-hop’s ass. Hip-hop is getting they ass whooped right now.
That’s basically what happened with you getting kicked off the McDonald’s tour, right?
Yeah. I got my ass whooped real quick. Got prevented from doing a nice show for the kids—I can do clean shows. It’s like, I’ve been around since ‘90 or ’91, doing shows, some dirty, some clean. This late in my career, I’m being told by somebody that I can’t do a performance…and you tell me, was it because you looked deep into my music and what I do and who I perform in front of? Or was it because somebody said something that brought you some heat and you didn’t feel I was worth it?
So you were the scapegoat, basically.
You’re a veteran in the rap industry at this point so you’ve seen a lot of things come and go. Do you think with all this we’re going to see a resurgence of political lyrics in rap?
Yeah. I’ve been talking to people lately and one of my comments was that people had to realize that rap was gonna evolve just like everything evolves. We got a chance to be silly and wild and crazy, now it’s evolved to the point where we’re role models and expected to be intelligent and watch our mouth to a certain extent. In some ways, I feel the negativity and it’s like, “How you gonna try to tell us to shut the hell up but you didn’t tell him to not make that movie? You didn’t tell this person to not show that girl doing this. Why would you tell me? Why would you blame hip-hop?” So it’s looking at it like that but at the same time, I feel like we’re role models now and we’re expected to be intelligent on a certain level. At the same time, I feel a little bit of parenting there. I feel a little bit of, “Hey, you guys, enough is enough. Watch your mouth a little bit. We got kids, we got to roll a certain way and present a certain image.” I feel like we’re quick to jump towards the racism thing. But I think, on the other hand, you got those who say it because of negativity, but if you’re a positive person who’s saying it we should tone it down...what they’re trying to say is: “Hey guys. OK. What you’re saying is good. You’re able to make money, you’re able to just rile the crowd up but enough is enough. Tone it down a little bit. I got daughters listening.”
Do you feel like that’s kind of unfair pressure on you, then? It’s essentially asking you to censor yourself.
Yeah, it’s unfair. I’m going to tell you why it’s unfair, because you have a choice. You have a parental advisory sticker on our CD. So just like a rated-R or rated-X movie or anything, you have a choice on whether your child can see this or not. They shouldn’t be looking at anything rated-X anyway, but like a rated-R movie or something else like a video game or anything, a rap CD sitting in the store is the same thing. Once you put the parental advisory sticker on that, it’s the parent’s choice. It’s bogus to say we shouldn’t be able to say what we can say because the parents have the right to turn that TV on or off, to even bring the TV into the house.
You’re also part of a line-up for a benefit show for the Jena 6, how’d you get involved with that?
I just wanted to be a part of it. I heard the story of what actually happened, and got pissed off! I just wanting to do something about it like, “What?!” And hearing Mos Def speaking so passionately about it…the way he called out, “Y’all say all this and y’all all that, man, come out and show for this cause.” Just the way he spoke that. It was those two things really that inspired me to wanna do my part to contribute to the whole cause.