Twista — the rapid-fire emcee who once held the title of World’s Fastest Rapper — has kept relatively quiet lately. Born Carl Mitchell, the Chicago-based artist has been rapping for nearly 30 years, releasing his first album two decades ago and eventually finding widespread fame with his platinum-selling 2004 album Kamikaze and its smash single “Slow Jamz,” which featured Kanye West and Jamie Foxx.
Four studio albums followed, the latest being 2010’s The Perfect Storm, and Twista returns with his Back to the Basics EP, released earlier this month.
“It doesn’t feel like a new chapter, but I will say that the things around me changed,” Twista said. “It’s a new sound just because people haven’t heard anything like this in a while. We’re all human. Every once in awhile, I’d lose sight of who I was. I’d step out of Twista mode and into another mode, and I think my fans think that’s cool, but they want to hear that Twista shit. I wanted to give that original sound for people to vibe to.”
The EP is leading into his upcoming full-length album The Dark Horse, due spring 2014. While the rapper understands he’s not at the front of everyone’s mind as he was 10 or so years ago, it’s that unexpectedness that he’s relishing at the moment, promising the album will help bring him back to the head of the class.
“A dark horse is definitely the person you least expect to come out on top because they are quiet or they’re overlooked or there’s some stereotype about them,” he said. “On one side, you wouldn’t expect Twista to come out on top … maybe you used to think Twista, but right now, I’m someone you don’t expect to take over.”
But it’s not just a personal vendetta; the album aims to inspire listeners to follow suit.
“I wanted it also to let people know they could do anything, that there’s nothing they can’t do,” he said. “The people you might not expect to win can triumph and overcome any obstacles in their way. Underdogs can do this shit.”
The latest peak in Twista’s career jump-started earlier this year, when Lady Gaga handpicked the emcee to be featured on her new album, ARTPOP. He’s no stranger to collaborations (he has been featured on songs by Jay Z, Mariah Carey, Ludacris, Future and many more), but this one felt special.
“It felt like getting recognized,” he said. “It was hard work in the game for all those years, and that’s what she told me — that she wanted that sound from the truest, the realest era of hip hop, and it was an honor to be one of the three guys that helped represent that to her.”
It’s those opportunities and a pure love of the art that has kept hip hop exciting for 30 years and will continue to for 30 years more.
“Music itself keeps me excited. Lots of people are in it for different reasons, and it becomes this timeframe where you do it for a while and then back out to do something else. A true artist is deeply embedded to it. Music will be a part of me forever,” he said. “I love doing it, so it’s effortless to get into the vibe of it. That’s why I’m still here. I can’t wait to see a rapper on stage that is 70 years old. It will probably be me.”