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Twista Talks Rap Legacy, Tupac and Working With 15-Year-Old Rock Artist (Exclusive)

Chicago native and hip-hop veteran Twista was at one point dubbed the fastest English-speaking rapper in the world by Guinness World Records. The fast-rap legend broke out in the early ’90s with his debut album Runnin’ Off at da Mouth.

He’s since collaborated with some of the music industry’s biggest names to spawn major hits like 2004’s “Slow Jamz” — with fellow Chicago native Kanye West and Jamie Foxx — and “Overnight Celebrity,” both of which earned Grammy nominations.

Twista has continued to drop timeless tracks through the years, both solo and through more interesting collaborations. Most recently, he’s brought his quick lyricism together with the sound of one particularly unexpected artist: 15-year-old rock singer Seraphina Sanan, with whom he’s dropping a new genre-blended song today called “Nothing.”

Twista spoke to The Messenger recently to promote the track and also weighed in on new developments in Tupac’s murder case and what he hopes his legacy will be.

Twista has always been interested in mixing unlikely sounds with hip-hop

Any music-lover familiar with the soulful violins on Twista’s “Overnight Celebrity” knows the rapper isn’t afraid to “get into different vibes,” as he puts it. “Even on my very first album, I did something with a jazz feel called ‘Skat Like Dat,'” he said. “I did a blues record that was nominated for a Grammy,” he added, referring to “Slow Jamz.”

“I try to make timeless music.”

Twista has seen the music industry undergo enormous changes during his 30-plus years in the business, with the advent of streaming and spread of social media. Rather than feeling apprehensive, Twista likes where the industry is now. “I’ve seen [the industry] evolve,” he told The Messenger.

“I’ve seen it get dumbed down. I’ve seen different levels — and there’s not just one way to see it. I’m happy about what technology was able to do for artists as far as giving them a platform to put their music out there, so I’m loving the vibe of music right now — I’m loving the cadences [and] the flows.”

One way he’s showing that love is by collaborating with Sanan, an up-and-coming singer in an entirely different musical space. “It was just a dope sound that I heard and I wanted to be a part of,” he said, recalling when his producer Frederick “Toxic” Taylor played him Sanan’s track “Nothing.”

Sanan said she first heard Twista’s music coming from her older sister’s room growing up. “It was incredible meeting someone who knows so much about the industry since I’m still fairly new,” Sanan told The Messenger on the same phone call with Twista. “Just in that short amount of time [working together], I felt like I grew so much — even just in that 32 hours that we were filming [the “Nothing” music video] together.”

Twista added, “It’s a blessing that a person of my caliber, being an O.G. in the game, is still able to work with people coming up and for it to be able to resonate.”

Meeting Tupac is one of the memories Twista values most from his career

As an “O.G.,” Twista has been in the rap game long enough to have crossed paths with Tupac when the late rapper was fresh off his role in the 1992 film Juice. Twista points to that brief meeting as a career highlight. “That was one of my proud moments — actually meeting [Tupac],” he said, recalling the day he saw the rapper following his interview with DJ Sway Calloway, a prominent radio personality who, at the time, was still a college DJ.

Twista also shared his thoughts on the latest arrest in the case of Tupac’s murder. “I’m really happy to see some form of closure,” he said. “If you actually grew up in that era when [Tupac] was out and then you saw this much time go past before something happened with his case, it’s depressing and heartbreaking.”

That being said, Twista thinks the hip-hop scene is actually more dangerous now than it was in the ’90s. “Back then people didn’t have the outlets to get at each other with such negativity,” he said. “You may be at home in a rage but you didn’t have the opportunity to spew it at that level [that you can now]. Social media made the situation worse.”

Twista wants his listeners to have an experience, no matter who he collaborates with

As music goes through its natural progression, with newer artists taking up the torch from the O.G.’s, Twista’s goal with his music remains the same: “What I try to do when I record a verse or I’m a part of [a music project in other ways] is create an overall sound and experience,” he said.

“Whether I’m [collaborating] with an old school artist or a new school artist, my goal is that when you turn [the song] on, I want your eyebrows to go up and be like, ‘What’s this?’ And that’s what I think about [Seraphina’s] music, especially the song ‘Nothing.'”

Twista and Seraphina’s new song “Nothing” drops today. Listen here.

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