Tetsuya ‘Ted’ Fujita had an impact on pop culture he could never have predicted in a million years. He passed away over a decade ago at the age of 78, but during his lifetime he was one of the pre-eminent worldwide experts on powerful weather phenomena. While researching tornadoes he developed the Fujita Scale, a simplified way of explaining the type of damage and destruction that different storms caused, rating them from F0 up to F5. In the opening track of Twista’s “Category F5” you can hear an explanation of the top level storm that mirrors the Fujita Scale word for word, but the genius of his invention is that the layperson could understand it without reading a book on meteorology first. At the low end of the scale, F0 means a few branches will get snapped off trees but yo’ ass will be just fine; while F5 means DEAR GOD WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE THIS IS THE END.
The United States officially retired the Fujita Scale a few years ago in favor of the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale, but the rating system he and Allen Pearson developed in the early 1970’s is still well known and applied worldwide. Twista is also a global phenomen, a one-time holder of the Guinness World Record as the fastest rapper alive, a man who took his tongue twisting talents to mainstream fame. Much like the tornado his name implies, his path to success was not a straight line. It was six years after his debut before Twista first managed to go gold in 1997 with “Adrenaline Rush,” largely off the exposure of the single “Get it Wet.” While he continued to remain popular regionally in and around his native Chicago, it would be almost seven years before he caught mainstream attention with “Kamikaze,” scoring the biggest hit of his career with “Slow Jamz” featuring Jamie Foxx & Kanye West. Platinum plaques followed… and then the winds died down again. The conditions for a powerful storm just weren’t there. Twista was a much more household name than the firstOR second time he tasted fame, but subsequent album sales were lackluster at best. “Category F5” is meant to let us know his strength and power is back, and the lead single “Wetter” can be seen as a direct sequel to his first crossover hit over a decade ago. Erika Shevon croons the seductive chorus, while Twista puts his rapid-fire tongue to work:
“Now you got me excited, I can’t hold it
I’m feelin it comin, I’m ’bout to let off an explosion
Let it ride when I see you animated and shakin
now when I touch your body you catch a convulsion
That’s when I know I’m doin what I’m supposed to
You chose me, I chose you
Don’t think I can get it wet? I told you
C’mon let the Twist rain down on you”
The intensity of guest stars on “Category F5” could themselves be rated on a Fujita Scale. Gucci Mane & OJ the Juiceman score F1, doing moderate damage at best on the Zaytoven produced “Walking On Ice.” Lil’ Boosie gets F2 on “Fire” on a track that is definitely hotter, featuring a ringing xylophone-esque musical backdrop from long-time Twista collaborator The Legendary Traxster. Hate him or love him, Busta Rhymes is F3 on “Billionaire,” one of the few guests whose worldwide fame could let him do severe damage. It’s a shame the Caution & Velly track causes his power to fizzle, as their uninspired simplistic beat and the monotone chorus delivery causes everyone on the song to phone it in. R. Kelly fares much better on the Traxster produced “Yellow Light,” so much so that this all-Chicago duet is an immediately obvious choice to follow “Wetter” as a single.
The musical meteorological scale peaks here. Fujita considered F4 to be devastating, while F5 was total destruction of the type seen in Hollywood movies, lifting heavy automobiles like toy cars and tossing them far and wide. There’s nobody here doing that kind of damage. Akon might just pass for F3 when he and Twista get “On Top,” although Good Will’s beat doesn’t have the same crossover potential R. Kelly did. Everyone else is anything from a drizzle to a fizzle. I know Twista has been down with the Speedknot Mobstaz for over a decade now, but nobody outside his hardcore fans can get excited about a Liffy Stokes cameo. Static Major was cut down too early in his career to ever achieve his full tornadic potential, so while it’s a pleasant surprise to hear him on “Gotta Get Me One” his name alone can’t tear shit up. It is one of the album’s better songs though, produced by – guess who – The Legendary Traxster.
There is an obvious theme here. The songs Traxster produces all increase the cyclonic speeds at which Twista can form dopeness, while other board operators like Chad Beatz fail to produce the heat that’ll make shit “Jump Off.” The good news is Traxster laces 6 out of 15 tracks on “Category F5” but that’s also the BAD news – he ONLY laces 6. If you cop the Best Buy version you’ll get four bonus tracks though, and while none have big name guests the producers featured only on this set make more impact. In particular Swiff D gets big up for “Can’t Live Without You,” a song of tinkling ivories perfectly suited to Twista’s speedy flow, and D even makes it rain LITERALLY on the chorus. I’m feeling that, and for the most part I’m feeling “Category F5,” although the damage this album does is going to be limited to whatever singles can chart on Billboard. In terms of his entire career this is one does not nearly wreck shit to the degree “Adrenaline Rush” or “Kamikaze” did, and that’s a shame given Twista is and continues to be one of hip-hop’s most underrated lyricists. He’s not just fast for fast’s sake – his diction is crisp, his syllables are carefully chosen, and his breath control is impeccable. He just needs the right beats to flow over, and “F5” simply doesn’t have enough. What could have been a hurricane of pain is ultimately downgraded to a tropical depression.