Follow My Lead
After scoring the first platinum plaque of his career with his 2004 LP Kamikaze, Twista’s career finally seemed to be heading in the right direction. A year later, though, the Chicago native followed-up with the underwhelming, The Day After. Even though the album garnered a gold plaque, Twista was displeased with Atlantic Records’ decision to replace various street songs for more commercial tracks. Looking to rectify Atlantic’s mistakes, Twista focused on satisfying his hardcore fan-base with his new LP, Adrenaline Rush 2007, a sequel of sorts to his 1997 album Adrenaline Rush. Once again, though, the album was met with mixed reviews and the Pharrell assisted lead single, “Give It Up,” failed to gain any mainstream attention. While on tour promoting Adrenaline Rush 2007, Twista talks to XXLMag.com about his frustrations with Atlantic Records over his first single, the album’s lack of promotion and why hip-hop needs to stand up for the Jena 6.
What was your mindset going intoAdrenaline Rush 2007?
I always got a strategy and plan with each album, but to be honest, the label and me don’t always see eye to eye. They’ll hear my music and try to put out songs that they think are better to sell me as an artist than the song that I’m putting out. They’ll mess up the whole vibe. I love Pharrell to death. Last album, I wanted “Lavish” to come out first, which was one of the hottest songs on the album that he produced. But they ended up going with a different single. Now, with this album, I love “Give It Up,” but I was going in a different direction. On The Day After, all of my street stuff got stripped off the album. The A&Rs took off my song called “If Only For One Night,” where I was talking about if I could have the microphone for one night. I did “Stick ‘Em” over with an old-school flow. I had a song called “Welcome To My Home,” talking about the hood. They took all of those songs off and put all the happy and clubby songs on there. That upset me and was really one of the reasons why the new album is entitled Adrenaline Rush 2007. Some of [my fans] be like, “Man, you should’ve dropped this,” or, “We wanna hear that Adrenaline Rush sound.” So I wanted to let people know it’s the same Twista, don’t get it twisted. And this album I went into it with a certain type of plan, but “Give It Up” ended up being my first record. At first, I wanted “Whip Game Proper” to be my first record.
Why didn’t Atlantic Records like “Whip Game Proper?”
I could’ve got [“Whip Game Proper”] cleared, but I think the label was geared more towards the Pharrell look since they felt like they missed out on the last album. That’s the only problem I have as an artist: the label not really believing in me to the point where they let me pick my first singles and just ride with it.
Are you happy how the album has been received so far?
Actually, I’d be happier if it was doing better. But for the reason that I do music, I’m happy. Somebody else that’s in it for the money, trying to be the number one artist and all that type of stuff, then they’ll be a little bit more upset then me right now. But for me being a humble person and the reason that I got in the game and the type of love that I got for the music, the reaction that I got from the album makes me happy.
Still, it seems like the publicity push wasn’t what it was for past albums.
That’s the upsetting shit right there. You were the only one to ask me that and everyone else would skirt around it. But that’s the upsetting part, when you feel like your label ain’t doing enough to push you. So I feel like a lot of attention is getting spread out so thin at the label that I’m not really getting the same effect as I did when I dropped Kamikaze. We got different people at the top, [so] I gotta get familiar with new people, new faces and stuff like that. It had an effect on me, but I’m going to put out a strong album regardless.
Production wise, this album has a lot of hometown flavor to it. Was that intentional?
Yeah, that was me taking it back to my original sound. It was the simple thing of, okay, the people [at] the label picked a lot of songs to be on the last album that made it seem watered down, where if you took three or four songs that I wanted, instead of three or four they felt were more commercial, then my album would sound the way I wanted it to sound and be a proper representation by me to my fans. But my representation from my album to my fans is always tainted by some of the choices that the label makes with my music. So it forced me to go hard to make people see that I’m still Twista and the best way to do that was…it’s been 10 years, fuck it, Adrenaline Rush 2007. Twista’s back with that original sound, when, in essence, it never really went nowhere. I just had to really go hard to force what I wanted represented to my fans.
You recently headlined the Jena 6 Empowerment Concert in Birmingham, Ala., but Mos Def has been vocal in his displeasure that more rappers aren’t voicing their support. Is that a fair criticism?
Yeah, the thing that made me step up is really hearing about the story itself [and] listening to Mos Def talk about it. His words are powerful enough and it just hit me, like, “Man, I just wanna be apart of it and do what I can to contribute to the situation.” It’s bogus, man. You know it’s bogus. Everything evolves. Rappers had a chance to be wild, then we started getting conscious and now we’re at a point where we’re forced to be role models. So I think it’s just time right now. We eventually have to elevate into intelligent fucking people. [Laughs] I think it’s time for hip-hop to start representing itself on that intelligent level, man.
You’ve also been a lightening rod for controversy lately. McDonald’s canceled a tour you were supposed to headline due to your “vulgar content” and a Chicago church erected anti-hip-hop billboards stating, “Stop listening to trash.” Why are you being targeted?
It was a reverend and his congregation that decided to raise money and put up billboards that said, “Stop listening to trash.” His version of trash was Snoop Dogg, Ludacris, 50 Cent, Twista and a few others. By me living in Chicago right where he put these billboards up, it was just a coincidence that McDonalds had me involved in a tour to perform and they wanted a clean show. Usually when I have clean shows it’s me just doing a clean show for the kids. I got a bunch of songs that the kids love that I can do. But it was right up his fucking alley. He ended up on Bill O’Reilly and he got his juice out of it, which I think it what he was trying to do anyway. We’ve been taking the backlash…and would you believe that the same reverend, about a month later, I heard that him and Jesse Jackson were trying to do some things together and couldn’t hold what they were trying to hold in his church because they had failed an inspection because some of the pipes and other things in the church were considered unsafe. And I’m like, “You spend the congregation’s money on billboards to hate?” When you don’t like something, don’t go against it, just put your energy into what’s the opposite of it. Why are y’all attacking us? Attack the porn industry, attack the movie industry, something else that parents have the choice for. Why are you attacking music that parents have the choice to choose for their kids?