After a hard-earned 2004 breakthough, Twista returns with his latest effort, The Day After, today. And with a success under his belt, the rapper known for his fast and fierce flow is taking it slow and soft. The album's first single is the mellow "Girl Tonite," featuring R&B newcomer Trey Songz on the hook; while diva Mariah Carey smoothes it out on "So Lonely," which Twista says is another one "for the ladies."
"It's just the natural growth of an artist," the rapper says of the downshift. "When you're younger, you're a little scrappy. You rapping for the homies, you probably rapping on the corner about slanging, you rapping about thug stuff, riding down the street making music smoking blunts, just kicking it. But now I'm thirty-something years old, and I love the ladies. I hang out at the clubs, and I don't rap just about battling no more. I want to tell the ladies they look good in them jeans."
Twista, born Carl Mitchell, once listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest MC for his 1991 debut Runnin' Off at Da Mouth, started rhyming on the streets of Chicago at the age of twelve and was the first artist signed to Loud Records (Xzibit, Lil Flip) at seventeen. "I represent a true Chicago sound, my whole accent and swagger and everything," says the rapper. "When you hear Twista, you hear a young West Side nigga, talking like he's from Chi-town."
But after more than a decade the rapper had yet to break out of the underground -- until 2004's Kamikaze. The album's single, "Slow Jamz," produced by hip-hop superstar Kanye West and featuring West and Jamie Foxx, hit Number One and was honored by ASCAP as the year's most played song. On the strength of "Slow Jamz" and "So Sexy," with fellow Chicagoan R. Kelly, Kamikaze went platinum. And Twista's got a $60,000 mouthful of diamonds to show for it. "I'd been in the game for a long time, and I was like, 'Man, I ain't got too many years left in me, so I can't keep missing,'" Twista says of readying Kamikaze's release. "That album was either hit or miss."
Despite its mellower tracks, The Day After doesn't fall short of the hard-hitting beats the rapper is known for. And there's a slew of hot guests -- from hip-hop hardcore royalty Snoop Dogg and Lil' Kim to Pharrell Williams, Juvenile and Pitbull -- and production from Neptunes, Scott Storch and Twista's hometown beatmaster Toxic. "The producers I worked with from Chicago, and specifically Toxic, have a certain sound," says Twista. "When I hear it, I know that's one of them grimy, original, vintage Chi-town gangsta hard beats right there. This is giving them that Twista that they expect."
One of those Chi-town gangsta beats can be found on the track "Do Wrong," featuring Lil' Kim, and -- via a sample from "Love and Happiness" -- soul legend Al Green. Pint-size (and now incarcerated) diva Kim speeds up her flow on the track that acts as a dialogue between a cheating man and a cheating woman. Other songs, like "Check That Hoe" and "Chocolate Fe's and Redbones," find Twista representing for his city with their pimped-out lyrics and urban slang.
"The Day After represents Twista with his whole swagger up and his mojo," says the rapper, "talking a little shit and having fun with it."