Do or Die Tryin’: Twista’s ‘Withdrawal’

Twista and Do or Die are back.
By    June 1, 2015


Will Hagle is sipping Seagram, chewing on a weed stem.

In 2004 Kanye made a generation believe that bringing cool whip and a Luther Vandross CD to a girl’s house could get you laid. Twista practically confirmed it on “Overnight Celebrity.” Kanye’s ascension helped breathe new life into Twista; those two were inescapable that year. “Slow Jamz” was a Billboard #1 hit at a time when that still meant something. Kamikaze and College Dropout were among the year’s most high-selling albums. When Kanye talked, you listened. When Twista talked, you tried.

Eleven years later, Twista is making a whole new generation of teenagers think differently about items they may come across in the refrigerator. “Aquafina” is the lead single on the Withdrawal EP, Twista and Do or Die’s collaborative project that came out last month. The song is an unabashed attempt at pop from a bygone era, utilizing the smooth melody and fast rapping that’s worked for them since “Po Pimp.” In 2015, it’s not necessarily good. But it’s great simply because the option to listen to it still exists.

Kanye has nothing to do with Withdrawal, aside from the fact that he’s the album’s perfect foil. While Twista and Do or Die have remained relatively unchanged since Kamikaze and D.O.D., Kanye has transformed multiple times. Every city has its relics, artists consistently putting out the same classic sound while those who were influenced by it move to Calabasas. Artistic evolution is admirable, but sometimes people just want artistic dependability.

The Withdrawal EP is 25 minutes of veteran Chicago rappers reaffirming a historic chemistry, proving their skills have remained intact. “Intro” and “Withdrawal” are familiar — AK and Belo are still spelling out “K-I-L-L” and talking about the Alpha and the Omega. Twista is still murdering final verses. Nothing substantial, aside from time, has changed.

Lyrically, most songs on Withdrawal offer double-time violence — the Godfather trilogy in fast-forward. Everyone mostly makes surface-level threats for the sake of lyrical showmanship, not really delving into the consequences of it all a la “Anotha One Dead And Gone” until closing track “M.I.A.” The style is another reminder of how the city has deviated from this sound while the originators have stayed the course. The targeted aggression, precise melody and technical delivery in songs like “Intro” and “Withdrawal” are a sharp contrast to the more sedated numbness of modern drill music. These are older men rapping: they’ll still kill you, they’ll just threaten you differently.

Twista has always been a natural extension of Do or Die, an unofficial member like Johnny P or the Legendary Traxster. He’s appeared on most of their albums, and he’ll forever be tied to the song that made them all famous. Picture This remains massively underrated, as does the fact that Twista appears on three of its best songs. Withdrawal’s “Long Way” and “Aquafina” don’t capture the R&B glory of songs like “Do You” or “Still Po Pimpin,” but the attempt is admirable.

Withdrawal is inextricable from its past, easy to appreciate but harder to enjoy. The EP should still be celebrated for what it is, an exhibition in technical rapping ability and a testament to past and present collaborative success. It’s a six song reminder that things don’t have to change. Veterans can settle into a lane without fading away.

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