Twista is a rap institution, a national treasure. His gift is for rapid-fire, super-syncopated rhyming, and it's a natural resource.
Nationwide (but especially in the Midwest), really fast rapping is and has been a bona fide hip-hop subgenre, and Twista is an archetype of this genre (along with those most harmonious thugz, Bone).
When he's "on" -- meaning when the beat is especially good -- Twista (formerly Tung Twista) is intoxicating, carbonated rap champagne. Twista's signature sound -- all clipped, melodious percussion -- showcases preternatural talents: his near-digital syllable sensitivity, with an effortlessly phonetic understanding of the English language, brands Twista his own prototype, an enigmatic hip-hop singularity.
Through his career -- from early LPs (and Guinness Book speed-rap world records) to post-millennial affiliations with Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella Records and Kanye West -- he's been recognized as the purest vein of a particular sound. When he dies, then, a specific type of rap will go with him.
This is part of the reason Twista fans guard him like wildlife preservationists. To them, Twista's rap style is not just rare and exotic -- it represents the fulfillment of a platonic ideal. While delivery and content are the typical emcee's yin and yang, Twista puts the former on steroids for maximum dazzle, performing his athletic verses like Olympic gymnastics. In its own way, Twista's flow is gold-medal perfection.
The opposite emcee would be another institution, the Wu-Tang Clan's Ghostface Killah, who overwhelms with meaning, symbols and sensory details in a nonstop content blast. Both move faster on the mic than the average brain can follow -- while audiences try to catch up, neither has switched up his style very much during their enduring careers. The result? Audiences asking, "What did he say?" or "How did he do that?"
Emcees like these are revered for their baffling brilliance, and Twista, like Ghostface, Pharoahe Monch, Cee-Lo and a handful of other contemporary rappers, have made it a calling card. They blow minds by trade and do their jobs like seasoned professionals. They've arrived at styles that cannot be challenged and do not need to be changed, only updated.
His collaborative album Kamikaze, buzzed by Jamie Foxx and Kanye West features, testified that Twista has grown with his fans, gotten better, and kept up with the hip-hop vanguard. If the backdrop is wrong, Twista is a good actor in a bad movie -- but luckily, he has pretty good taste in beats. As long as a genius like Kanye takes the musical wheel, listening to Twista's lyrical fire and ice is like watching Michael Jackson dance: You've seen it all before, but it never gets old.
Twista fans don't need to be told to see him when he comes through Spokane, because they had tickets weeks ago. To those not already planning on it, you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.
Twista with Lil Coner Hustle Hard Entertainment, Gator and Jamal Ali at the Big Easy on Thursday, April 26, at 8 pm. $30-$75. Visit www.ticketswest.com or call 325-SEAT.