Michigan is just full of emcees that are known for ripping mics to shreds. 20 Twen is no exception, with a battle lineage that goes all te way back to the days of Proof hosting at the Shelter. He’s on his own way now, crushing the indie circuit and prepping the fans for his latest mix-tape, A Clockwork Black. Get familiar with him. Black is the new Orange. Planetill.com
Planet Ill: 20 Twen. Is that like from Friday or is it something different?
20 Twen: Something like that. It used to be 20/20 when I was younger when I used to battle and stuff I used to go by that name. I just dropped it to 20 Twen.
Planet Ill: Detroit, and Michigan Hip-Hop in general is known for hard-hitting spitters. How do you follow in that kind of tradition?
20 Twen: Really I just try to be as lyrical as I can. You got people like Royce you got Esham, Eminem, Big Sean. I just try to be as lyrical as I can and try to follow in that tradition; I try to keep my sound as specific and unique to myself and my brand that I can.
Planet Ill: You’ve been traveling the underground circuit for years. Tell us about that journey
20 Twen: I don’t even know how long I been putting out mix-tapes. I think my first major one was my last one I put out in February. The No Feelings mix-tape. It’s on Live mixtapes and it’s on my website, www.nofeelingsmusic.com. I think on LiveMixtapes it got over 100K views.
I used to battle down at the shelter when Proof from D-12 was the host. So that was another way that I got on.
Planet Ill: That’s a long time ago if Proof was the host…
20 Twen: That was a minute ago.
Planet Ill: How were those battles different from the ones we see now , where it’s more theatrical?
20 Twen: It’s cool, man. I preferred it when it was just a little bit more about the bars and without props but you know sometimes it can be funny. People need their Worldstar moment and all that. I don’t knock it.
Planet Ill: Your next mix-tape is A ClockWork Black. I guess in this instance black is the new orange. How do you connect with that title? That movie [ A Clockwork Orange] was about a lot of crazy shit.
20 Twen: Right! And I’m just drawing from my own experiences but I’m connecting creatively. As controversial as the movie was, I don’t think my album is controversial, it’s just normal stuff; just a lot fo crazy shit. And I’m just trying to make it relatable. I’m just trying to draw the connection that way. I’m trying to also draw the connection with the artwork. I want my artwork for this album to draw a connection, not necessarily directly related with the actual movie but just the feel of it.
Planet Ill: We’ve seen things like Nipsey Hustle come out with a mix-tape and try to sell if for $100 and I don’t know if that’s the new paradigm; that anybody can get away with that.But when you look at some of the abuses, especially in Hip-Hop, that has happened to artists over the last few years, do you want to get a label deal? What is your endgame?
20 Twen: Well I would never say no I the right deal came along, but I would still like toe maintain some level of creativity. I want to maintain my own voice. I’ve gotten so far by myself right now, when I look at dudes like Macklemore, look at Nipsey Hustle or you got Dom Kennedy and guys like that the independent route isn’t really looking so bad right now for artists.
Planet Ill: You’ve worked with some fairly significant producers. You’ve got Don Cannon, 9th Wonder, Kajmir Royale, how do different producers affect you differently in the booth?
20 Twen: It just depends on the feel of the beat.I practiced to a lot of J. Dilla beats before I even did any of this stuff. So it’s really more about the tone of the music I let that dictate what the song is going to be about. Then I go from there with the lyrics.
Planet Ill: Are rhyming with them in the studio with you or are they emailing you tracks?
20 Twen: I used to have managers and friends like give me instrumentals with some stuff that they found or some stuff that producers would send to us. Like right now, I don’t want to mention any names, but I got a lot of producers sending me music. I’m going to be working with C-Sick a lot. From Chicago. I’m doing a fair amount of work with him. I ‘m probably going to work with Johnny Juliano again. And Killamath from Detroit. Killamath productions They’re silly man, they’re dope. You should check them out.
Planet Ill: After you drop this mix-tape what are your plans for the upcoming year 2014?
20 Twen: I’m planning to put together a Spring/Summer tour. About ten cities, West Coast. And then I might hit another coast.I’ll either go West Coast or down South, something like that. And then I’m probably going to drop another series of mix-tapes. Because also, right now, I’m recording the 10 Minutes of Death series.It’s going to be a three-part series.
Planet Ill: 10 Minutes of Death? That’s aggressive.
20 Twen: Yeah, I wanted to be as dope as I could in a ten minute span on an EP. There’s no hooks, kinda like back when Game did the 500 bars and stuff like that.
Planet Ill: How have you assembled a team around you that will make your business easier?
20 Twen: Actually, I’ve done most of this by myself. Researching entertainment lawyers. I’m still researching management right now. I actually don’t even have a manager right now. I’m still researching. I need somebody who is actually going to be able to help me at this point. If they can’t help me at this point then there’s no reason to sign an actual deal with them to manage me.
As far as entertainment lawyers and PR and stuff like that, I looked on my own; you gotta put in the foot work.
Planet Ill: What made you want to rap? Was there a particular moment when you said, “This is so cool. This is something that I want to do?”
20 Twen: I’ve always wanted to be a rapper. But what really did it for me, being from Detroit, was hearing Royce the 5’9, the Rock City CD? It was so dope to me at the time man, and he was from Detroit, too? From then on. And after seeing Em do it too?
Planet Ill: What do you think it is about Detroit that fosters so much musicality. Stevie Wonder, Motown, Techno.
20 Twen: Techno is really big here, I work with Techno producers. Honestly man, I think it’s the culture. There’s a lot of different cultures in Detroit. You have so many different people and then. It just mixes and you get so many different styles. Like you said, you have Stevie Wonder, you have the Motown era, you have your Techno, you have your underground emcees and the mainstream. I just think it’s a cultural thing.
Planet Ill: If there was one think about this culture and this music that you could change, what would you change?
20 Twen: I think people should be allowed to say what they want a little bit more without being crucified so much. Or people catching reaction to it. Like with the Kendrick Lamar thing. I think it’s great for the spirit of Hip-Hop, but if anybody did get angry, I’m not saying that they did or if I know that they did or not, but if they did get angry about it, I don’t think there’s a reason to. It’s Hip-Hop. We should be allowed to say what we want as long as you not talking about killing anybody you should be able to say whatever.
Planet Ill: What do you think about that [Control] verse? Lyrically.
20 Twen: I think it was a dope verse. I think it was worthy of the attention that it got. It got its 15 minutes, 20 minutes. I did a verse to the beat. Hi verse caught me so much that I did a verse to the beat. Not so much a response. I liked the verse so much I wanted to rap to it. So I definitely think he did his thing. I like the lyrics.
Planet Ill: Is there anybody you want to shout out or anything you want to plus or push?
20 Twen: I want people to be on te lookout for the 10 Minutes of Death CD. You can find it on my website at www.nofeelingsmusic.com. You can find my single, Rollin, there, too. That’s the single off A Clockwork Black mix-tape coming up.