Twista – Rap Music Analysis

My thoughts on Tech N9ne, Krayzie Bone, and Twista are all very similar, which might not be surprising since they are all considered to have Midwest “chopper” styles. Just like the other two, Twista is another good reason why I’m moving away from using the word “flow” to refer to the musical aspects of a rapper’s style. It’s hard to imagine Twista’s staccato, quick rhythms as flowing at all, using the same word’s other definition as something that goes smoothly. This whole article could be a very short entry:

1. Twista
2. Raps fast
3. One style

But then you probably wouldn’t read my articles any more.

“But wait!” His legions (legions?) of admirers will cry. “He’s got more than one style!” Alright, fine, I’m sure he does. I’m sure you can dig up some song from some album where he gives a smooth, Biggie-esque flow there. And you’d be right, in a way. You’d be on track for the argument’s content, but you’re not on track for the premise of the argument. 

An artist isn’t judged just by the type of rap they have. They’re also judged by the musical influence of that rap. It doesn’t matter that Eminem wasn’t the first person to use extended block rhymes of 3, 4, or even 6 syllables, such as on “Just Don’t Give A Fuck:” 
[i’m BUZZIN’]
[dirty DOZEN]
[cursin’ at you players worse than MARTY SCHOTTENHEIMER]
There, “dirty rotten rhymer” is rhymed with “marty schottenheimer” in Eminem’s opening bars. Hear the song here.
So, I don’t care if Slick Rick rhymed 6 syllables in a bar in 1987 on some obscure song.

Slick Rick didn’t go on to be a huge crossover hit and become as big as Elvis on a global stage; to sell millions of records; to have shows in Asia, Europe, and so on. Eminem did. Thus, it basically means that Eminem’s use of extended block rhyming is more important and more notable in the history of rap. Eminem not only pulled off extended block rhymes well; he put them in such a format and package, like the smash single for a major motion film, 8 Mile, and brought them to millions of listeners. Thus, in some sense, Eminem was the first one to make block rhymes awesome. If a listener or future rapper hears Eminem and not Slick Rick use extended block rhymes for the first time, then in a sense Eminem is the true originator, not Rick.

This is also what you have to think about when you evaluate Twista, or any rapper who becomes notable for one style. Everyone has heard “Slow Jamz”, so that’s what Twista’s style has come to be epitomized as. If all the most popular songs from Twista are ones where he raps fast, then he is a fast rapper.

My more general beef is that I’ve never heard any Midwest chopper rapper successfully merge quick rhythms with a tight technique on rhymes. Long 3 or 4 syllable block rhymes simply seem foreign to the style, maybe foreign to even the very physiological pronunciation of words so quickly. Twista falls into that pitfall, and doesn’t use them.

Of course, you can’t dismiss Twista without giving him praise for his breath control and articulation. It really is impressive, and fights the belief held by many that rappers are amateur musicians . But Twista never uses his technical expertise to its fully artistic extent. If you always rap fast, then that is the benchmark level a listener hears from you: you rapping fast. They expect that. But if you merge slow rapping with quick rapping, and know how to move back and forth from one to the other, that makes the quick rapping more interesting and impressive. 

I far prefer Kendrick’s approach to quick rapping on “Rigamortis.” Besides varying his rhythms beyond simply being fast and using triplets, Kendrick knows how to move from slow to quick rhythms. He starts the song slow, and then ends it quickly. This artistic move, as simple as it is, makes his rap much more re-listenable, once the unseasoned rap listener matures and moves beyond what are, at worst, Twista’s inconsequential fireworks that sound pretty but don’t do much. This is a great example of a (future) GOAT outlining the difference between what makes a good rapper and what makes a legendary rapper. In any event, Kendrick’s breath control is more impressive, because he is constantly varying where he takes breaths, whereas Twista doesn’t. Kendrick in a way puts Twista in his place: Lamar has completely assimilated Twista’s style, improved on it, and then relegated it to the backwaters of his style. It’s almost as if he got bored with something so easy.

Much of this can be applied to why Eminem’s “Rap God” song didn’t deserve all of the media attention it got. Major international publications with no specific connection to rap but who must deal with cultural icons like Eminem regardless lost their shit over “Rap God”, such as Time Magazine. Just check out this quote: 

>If “Rap God” and his first single “Berzerk” are anything to go by, the world can expect an immortal recording.
But you can know not to trust Time at all when they go on to say this:
>“I’m beginning to feel like a Rap God / All my people from the front to the back nod” spits Eminem in his trademark staccato flow.
Eminem’s trademark flow isn’t staccato; it’s legato and flowing.
But on “Rap God,” Eminem basically makes the mistake Twista has made his whole career: thinking tight instrumental technique is all you need. But whereas Eminem has multiple classic albums to fall back on, Twista doesn’t. And in any event, “Rap God” saw eminem try a new style very well and showed him growing as a rapper, even at 40 years old. That’s what great rappers do, and Twista never learned that.

Martin Connor is a music teacher & writer from Philadelphia, PA, with a music degree of high distinction from Duke University who is currently studying for a master’s degree at Brandeis University in Boston, MA, while focusing his research on the vocal melodies of the rap genre. He has contributed freelance articles to HipHopDX, Complex, and Pigeons and Planes, and had multiple articles from his website, go viral on BET, The Source, XXL, and MTV. He teaches rap lessons online through the music school LessonFace, and has a book, The Artistry Of Rap Music, forthcoming from the McFarland Publishing House, scheduled for release in late 2017, as a follow-up to his 2014 contribution to their anthology "Eminem & Rap, Poetry, Race." He welcomes all comments, compliments, insults, and restaurant suggestions at [email protected].


  1. "So, I don't care if Slick Rick rhymed 6 syllables in a bar in 1987 on some obscure song."

    LOL, Slick Rick is not obscure, his debut sold over a million copies.
    He is one of the most influential emcees of all time, tons of emcees cite him as an influence.

    I really like your work, but I also get the impression you don't really know much about earlier hip-hop.
    And what is worse – you seem to want to dismiss the earlier stuff, so that you don't have to go learn about it.

    If you really love hip-hop, please listen to the classic albums, learn about the history and what impact things had at the time, from the people who were there.

    Read the books like "Check The Technique" and "There's A God On The Mic" and even The Source magazine from those earlier years to get a good knowledge of the history.

    Otherwise it comes across like you just want to make the history up yourself, saying things like:
    "it basically means that Eminem's use of extended block rhyming is more important and more notable in the history of rap".

    Or if it's too much trouble to go learn the history, why not just leave those parts out? I think your analysis works fine without those kind of big statements that show that you don't know the history that well.

    1. I wasn't saying slick rick was obscure I was referencing a hypothetical song to make a point. I can't reference every bar eminem or rick have ever rapped but I stand by my statement on proof of a general survey of their work. I will still call eminem an originator of extended rhyming because of all my reasons in the article. Being the first person to come up with a new artistic technique is actually a very small part of what makes someone original. Your argument with me isn't about who came up with extended rhyming first it's about the nature f originalty. People don't perform the works of the creator of opera anymore because they're simply not good. They play his contemporarys Monteverdi because the latter took bardi's idea memorized it improved it and repackaged it for a mass audience. A similar dynamic is at work with eminem and slick rick.

    2. You could call Eminem something like, "the person who popularized the technique for a mass audience," if you wanted to, but he's not the originator.

      People like Slick Rick and Kool G Rap were the people who popularized that technique within hip-hop and influenced most other rappers who use it.

      The actual "originator" would be whoever came up with it in the first place, which would be harder to find out. "Originator" has nothing to do with who made it popular.

  2. The beastie boys nwa and others. Yes, I am somewhat dismissive of early hip hop, because they are almost empirically demonstrably worse technical rappers than people out today. I think their beats are better their styles are more varied and more unique I think they even make better albums, but early hip hop pioneers simply are not as good rappers, both in general and specifically.

    Anyway, I'm done, sorry for chewing your ear off. Your point is well taken and I'm about to go back and hit more cold crush brothers haha

    1. If you think that, you're either going too far back in time or you're listening to the wrong people. No one claims NWA or Beastie Boys are complex emcees.
      This is your main problem, you're dismissing lots of music you've not listened to before, the main bulk of the genre in fact.

      Rapping was getting complex in the late 80s and was at its most complex about 91-96.
      Many people used those block rhymes in that time period – Souls of Mischief, Naughty by Nature, AZ, Organized Konfusion, Blackalicious, E-40, Das-EFX, Inspectah Deck, Chino XL, the list goes on and on.

      And all those people say they got it from what Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap did in the late 80s.

      Also, listen to Kool G Rap's verses in the 90s, he's even on a track with Eminem called "The Anthem" by Sway & King Tech, where he does that block rhyme style for the whole verse and Eminem doesn't.

  3. Fuck everything I can't figure this out I disagree I sound like a dick but I'm pissed off because my phone isn't working so I don't even know man point well taken though now seriously fuck this phone

  4. Slick Rick is a bad example of someone who used compound rhyme schemes. Slick Ricks was so influential because he brought a new kind of story telling to the game. No one was telling stories like that in different voices back then. Good example's of artists who use compound rhyme schemes are Kool G Rap & Big Daddy Kane. Listen to Eminem's "Yellow Brick Road". He straight out pays homage to Kane. Eminem didn't "originate" or popularize that style. You need to do the knowledge before making such bold assumptions bro. If you want to find an artist who shits on Eminem's "Block" rhymes listen to Big Pun, Son sold a shit load of records, had crazy rhyme patterns and a flow that would kill 90% of rappers today. Oh and he dropped before Eminem. Does that make him an "Originator". Good job with the blog g but do the knowledge…..

    1. Thanks Marcos! Good catch! Sorry about that…in return, for helping me get better at writing, if you write to me at mepc36@gmail, I'll give you a whole long article about Eminem, since he seems to be one of your favorite rappers. It's all about how his technical skills – voice control, breathing, etc. – compare to those of more traditional instrument-players, like opera singers and pianists. Thanks man! And sorry it took so long to get back to you!



  5. You're misanalyzing Twista's style GRAVELY. Yes, he predicates his delivery on double time and triplicate rhythms, but his rhyme patterns are neither repetitive nor predictable. As he once said in an interview, the silence within his style is what makes it musical.
    I appreciate how deep your analysis is on a technical level, but reading this after I just read your overreaction to Logic's average rap acapella with questionable rhythmic choices, I'm less excited about your opinions.
    Your methodology is tight though!

    1. Hey, I just want you to know that I don't ever have a problem with people disagreeing with me. I don't know everything, man; c'mon, is it really that I'm telling people something Nas or Eminem doesn't know? Or is it more likely that they don't have the time to, don't care to, or don't have the words to say it aloud for other people to hear and learn and understand?

      As I've listened to Twista more and more, and come to understand the chopper style through someone who I think exemplifies it better (Bizzy Bone,) this might be only the second article I ever remove, after the one where I took apart Eminem's "Rap God" song. However, I would re-write the article after I took it down, changing from a criticism of Twista on technical, musical grounds to a criticism of him on stylistic grounds. That is, I hear "Slow Jamz," and his rhythms ARE more logical than I give him credit for…but why is he so hyper over a laidback beat? So he might be skilled, but he uses his skills for what is, in my opinion, the wrong reasons.

      >but reading this…I'm less excited about your opinions.

      My writings DID make you think about your own opinions though, didn't they? 😉 haha, Seriously though, it's all love.

      Peace Swift!



  6. Hey, Martin

    Sorry I came off harsh earlier. I am an emcee and I studied Twista's style intensively for a full semester about 15 years ago, which really complexified my approach to rapping when I choose to rap fast. I prefer Krayzie Bone over Bizzy Bone, but they both can't touch Twista in my opinon.

    1. Hey man, you were comparatively gentle compared to some shit people say, haha. No problem man…I don't know everything about rap! I don't own it! Am I REALLY saying anything Eminem/Nas/Kendrick don't already know, but are too busy making awesome music to write about it? haha, c'mon now, even I don't have that high an opinion of myself!

      Anyway, email me at [email protected] if you ever just wanna shoot the shit about rap, you seem like a real dude. Peace man!


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