After years of bouncing around the rap scene in the 1990’s, more often than not either unappreciated or underappreciated, Twista’s career finally peaked in 2004 with “Kamikaze.” The rap skills hadn’t really changed – he’s always been an incredibly fast vocalist as well as an adept lyricist. The beats didn’t change that much – maybe they got a little tighter but they’d never really been that bad. What changed was that Atlantic saw to it that a rapper of Twista’s calibre finally got the superstar push that he deserved. Twista’s years of hard work finally paid off with a slew of hit singles like “Slow Jamz” and “Overnight Celebrity.” The album was so successful that Atlantic even re-releasedit to cash in on Twista’s popularity.
Where does Twista go from here, having finally achieved the long awaited success he was always destined for? He’s had his day, so what about “The Day After?” Well the first thing that most observers will say is that if you finally reach the top, do everything you can to not fall off. As some entertainers know well though, the harder you try not to slip the faster you can fall. Success itself can be your undoing, because if you try to keep following the same formula again and again that led you to success people get tired of your act that much quicker. The best way to stay on top is to never stop innovating. If you’re always coming with some new and improved shit, then people have a reason to stay interested in your work. Innovation is dangerous too though. If you go too far out on a limb, the audience may not come along with you. People always claim to hate sequels for being mediocre, but every Hollywood movie company knows that they don’t hate them enough to not go. Even tired worn-out formulas continue to sell while the creative independent films often languish in obscurity.
In the end Twista has decided the best way to go is to strike a careful balance between sticking to the formula yet still introducing some innovation. Anybody listening to the Jim Jonsin and Big D produced “Girl Tonite” featuring Trey Songz, complete with it’s slick Ready For The World sample, will definitely feel Twista is playing it safe with another pop-friendly track. There’s nothing wrong with that – “Girl Tonite” is definitely a hot song for radio and Twista is still flipping up his trademark flow in entertaining ways:
“When are you gonna really make up ya mind shorty
See Twista work that skill
Now can I get up in it from behind shorty
Show you what I’m working with (ooh)
Come on let me take you to the penthouse suite
Pull out some old school Marvin Gaye and put it on repeat (ohh)
Now shorty come in, show me you can take it boo
Let me fuck you first now girl, show me what you can do
Come and fuck me reverse now girl, doing things that’ll get you gone
When we on the couch I can make you moan
Eat you up when we in the kitchen
Let you get on top when we by the stove”
While they do have to touch it up a little for radio play (except on XM) this one is definitely ready to take Twista right back up the charts. And in the “playing it safe” category, you certainly can’t go wrong with “Do Wrong” featuring Lil’ Kim – two artists on the Atlantic roster who seem to bring the best out of each other in freaky flows. Guaranteed fire can also be found on “Lavish,” featuring Pharrell and produced by The Neptunes. It sounds like an odds on favorite for a future single. Other big guests include Jamie Foxx on “When I Get You Home,” Mariah Carey on “So Lonely,” Snoop Dogg on “Had to Call” and Juvenile on “Out Here.” The interesting fact about these four tracks is that they all occur back to back on the album.
So you’re asking the question by now. “Flash, where’s all that innovation you were talking about? This reads like Atlantic Records was following a blueprint, creating the cliched rap album with X number of highly sought after guest stars and X number of superstar producers. That doesn’t sound very innovative at all.” To some degree that’s true. This album does feel a bit “paint by the numbers” at times. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out though, Twista takes your expectations of the album and throws a knuckleball you never saw coming. “Heartbeat” is a sinister Toxic track with altered vocals, a menacing bassline, and a melody straight out the E.R. complete with the ominous words “breathe nigga breathe” at the end of the hook. Twista has done some rapid-fire spitting on songs before, but this one might even exceed his own Guinness World Book of Records setting pace. “Holding Down the Game” unexpectedly turns into a slowed down DJ Screw style track at the end, and you can’t help but feel the drawn out bass. It’s been a long time since old cohort Johnny P could be said to co-star with Twista, but back from seemingly nowhere he arrives to vocalize on the super smooth “Chocolate Fe’s and Redbones” – it’s like “Po’ Pimpin” for the year 2005. And in his most innovative move of all, Twista ends the album with the primal Mr. Collipark produced “Hit the Floor” featuring Pitbull, giving the reggaeton sound a Chi-Town twist (no pun intended).
There’s no need to fear Twista losing his position in the rap game at this point, unless Atlantic suddenly decides not to promote him any more and shuffles his projects to the wayside. Staying true to his midwestern roots, creating crossover friendly songs and still flipping the hardcore styles that won him underground fans all while being innovative and creative may be a delicate juggling act, but Twista seems to have it all in balance. You’ll be listening to “The Day After” well after it’s release date, and for many days after that. It’s not a perfect album, but it’s solid from start to finish and an excellent follow-up to “Kamikaze.”