Twista serves up a reflective and enjoyable project with his five-track Lifetime EP. Featuring a guest appearance from Mad Lion, the rap veteran collaborated with Red Bull Songs’ team of producers and songwriters over a three-day studio session — the inner workings of which were captured in the accompanying Red Bull Music Studio Sessions: The Twista Edition.
Lifetime serves as a bite-sized follow-up effort to Twista’s 2019 album Summer 96 and marks his first EP in three years since 2017’s Crook County.
Here, Twista talks venturing into new lyrical territory on Lifetime, a potential Krayzie Bone mixtape, Lil Wayne‘s influence, launching a Chicago music school and more.
Find the 17-minute Red Bull Music Studio Sessions: The Twista Edition above and Lifetime below.
HipHopDX: The EP is called Lifetime — I’m assuming inspired by your expansive 30-year career. What were you reflecting on while you were planning and record it?
Twista: I wasn’t planning it. I was walking into a situation that I didn’t know anything about, in terms of working with producers and writers in the way that I was about to, so I walked in quite fearful—you would be surprised [laughs]! When I got there, and I started to vibe with all of the different [Red Bull] artists and producers and we got more comfortable with each other, then that’s when I was able to start carving out the direction I wanted to go. I wanted to describe certain points in my career and my mind state that I’m in now and things like that, so the writers kind of helped me bring out certain elements that I normally don’t go into when I make music. So, I think that’s what made me call it Lifetime.
HipHopDX: You weren’t really sure what to expect, working with these songwriters and producers for the first time.
Twista: Yeah. They’re deep into their craft — but they were new to me.
HipHopDX: And that whole process was captured on video, right?
Twista: Yeah, we filmed that whole concept. Red Bull came through. The whole idea was orchestrated around being able to see it happen, so from the moment I walk into the studio, every conversation we had, the thinking sessions, the writing sessions, the recording — Red Bull pretty much captured the concept of the whole Lifetime project being put together. I think people are gonna enjoy watching us work and put that together.
HipHopDX: Each song is sonically pretty different from the last. “Danger” has a crazy beat, whereas “Wish List” has that classic Twista sound. After recording music for 30 years, how do you know which beat you’re going to shine on?
Twista: As soon as the beat comes on — if you’re a true artist — you feel the element as soon as it comes on. I like different things, so “Danger” was a surprise to me that I liked it — “Danger” sounds, to me, like rhythmic pots and pans. So, when I started seeing everybody else’s reaction to it, that’s what made me choose that beat. I would say, sometimes me listening to beats by myself may get a different selection then me listening to beats when I’m in a room with other people, ’cause when I’m in a room with other people I’m looking for their reaction and facial expression and that’s gonna let me know if I got me a jam even before I touch it.
Photo: Red Bull
HipHopDX: You collaborated with reggae veteran Mad Lion on the title track. Who else is featured on the EP’s hooks?
Twista: As far as getting other artists to rap on the songs, Mad Lion is one of the only ones I reached out to, in that aspect. But the other vocals are really vocals that I wanted to keep from the artists around me, writers for the verses, and the guys who wrote the hooks and things like that. I kept them because it sounded so beautiful when we were working on the songs together that I didn’t wanna reach out and replace what I was hearing with other outside elements. So, the guys that you hear are like Jordyn [Dodd], pineappleCiti, [and] everybody that was working on the project with me.
HipHopDX: As one of the fastest lyricists out there, what do you think the future of rapid-style rapping is? Do you think it’s an endangered art in Hip Hop?
Twista: Nah, it’ll always be here. When it comes to intricate cadences and things like that, I’m one of the originators [and it] pays homage to the jazz era and people like Ella Fitzgerald and scatting and things like that. These were the first cases of wanting to do faster cadences to mesmerize people, and then it came to people like me and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and Tech N9ne, and Busta Rhymes and people like that, and then it continued on to people like Ski Mask the Slump God and JID, and all of these new artists. So, it’ll always be a part of Hip Hop and an element that’s well-respected because it’s hard to do; not everyone can do it. So, if you can rap like that and sound good doing it, people will respect you as an MC or artist.
HipHopDX: Speaking of Bone Thugs, you and Krayzie Bone teased a collaboration a while back. Is that happening?
Twista: Yes! Me and Krayzie Bone are very bogus right now for not being as far into our project as we should be [laughs]. I wake up – I’m starting to have nightmares about it! I’ll be like, “Look man, let’s make it happen.”
HipHopDX: The people want it!
It’s gonna be dope, too. Like me and him are really good friends. To me, we share similar spirits, so when we get in that lab together, it’s gonna be crazy.
HipHopDX: Do you plan to release a full-length project this year?
Twista: Definitely. Later down this year, after I promote Lifetime and have a ball with it and make as much money with it as we all can [laughs], then I’m gonna go from there and go to a different solo project, something with a little more length on it, something that I’ll be writing most of but definitely, after the Lifetime experience, I will be using these [Red Bull] artists to work on a future project. So, I’m looking forward to that project too, later this year.
HipHopDX: How has your recording process changed over the years?
Twista: It’s always changing and morphing in little ways, just through time and through my experiences. I would say Lil Wayne had a big impact on my recording process. The reason why is because of how they record. I’m an artist that, because of my cadence, I have to write everything down, but once I started to hear all this Lil Wayne and see the way they go in and record, and Biggie and JAY-Z, these artists with whole songs in their mind going to the studio — so my recording process has changed in terms of trying to do it all. Like, I don’t want to be stuck into a box on how I make music and definitely when I worked on my Lifetime project, these guys definitely changed my recording process. Like, they helped me pick up the pace [and] learn how to capture more content from my mind when I’m thinking of songs. So, this project changed my recording process, too.
HipHopDX: So Lil Wayne’s recording process inspired you to be a little more off-the-top on this project?
Twista: Yeah, a little more off-the-top and a little more being open-minded to a room full of writers coming up with the next bar, instead of me just coming up with the next bar.
Photo: Red Bull
HipHopDX: Since being on Rhythm & Flow last year, do you think you’d like to take on a mentorship role to young artists, especially coming out of Chicago?
Twista: Definitely. In terms of what I’m doing in Chicago, with my programs, a lot of people don’t know [but] I’ve got this thing I’m putting together in Chicago called MAPS For Music. MAPS For Music stands for Musicians, Artists, Producers and Songwriters and MAPS For Music is pretty much a music school and it’s put together by me and one of my other producers, Toxic, who produced a lot on my Kamikaze record. We put together curriculum, mentors, we’ve got facilities that we’re using that’ll be put together — we’re making a music school in Chicago that you’re gonna be hearing a lot about.
HipHopDX: That’s incredible! When did you start working on that?
Twista: It’s in the beginning stages. It launches March 5 and we have a lot of people involved in it [and] other people in the industry. So, when people ask like, ‘How do you get started?’ Me and my buddy put together a whole four-week program for you to get involved with, to kind of learn from our perspective how to be in the music industry.
HipHopDX: That’s awesome, especially in Chicago — Chance the Rapper got started at a local music program like that.
Twista: Exactly, that’s why I’m trying to create those opportunities — to create the next Chance the Rapper.
Follow Twista on Instagram @twistagmg for more updates on MAPS and his upcoming projects.