Twista: Kamikaze

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Twista

Album: Kamikaze
Label: Atlantic

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Like Great Britain, Chicago has birthed, nurtured, and influenced a slew of musical genres without making contributions to hip-hop proportionate to its size or importance. For both the U.K. and Chicago, that thankfully appears to be changing. Chicago's All Natural/Molemen contingent has long held it down for retro hip-hop purism, Diverse made a striking impression with last year's True School manifesto One A.M., and producer-rapper Kanye West is about to release the most anticipated major-label debut since the emergence of 50 Cent. Now, after a solid year of delays, Twista returns with Kamikaze. With a flow that doesn't ride beats so much as run sprints around them, Twista is widely considered the world's fastest rapper, but there's more to his appeal than blinding lyrical speed. Far from a sonic freak show, Twista gets the rising-star treatment on Kamikaze. He gets plenty of hometown love from fellow Chicagoans R. Kelly (who brings the quiet storm on "So Sexy") and especially West, who produces the lush, ironically titled classic-soul tribute "Slow Jamz," and steals the track with amusing lyrics about a girl with "a light-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson" and a "dark-skinned friend look like Michael Jackson." Effortlessly mixing gangsta rap, lascivious odes to pimping, and underground-style consciousness, Kamikaze feels eclectic without stooping to demographics-pandering, though its contradictory elements create a few jarring moments, as when the rowdy booty anthem "Like A 24" leads into the Cee-Lo-assisted "Hope," which begins, "Man, I know we had a lot of tragedies lately" before expressing a guileless wish that "the super-homey Christopher Reeve could still walk." The cover of Kamikaze depicts a deranged Twista in a straitjacket, but the album's impressive contents indicate that the rapper knows exactly what he's doing.

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