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Twista on working with Lady Gaga: ‘I had butterflies’

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Lady Gaga surprised both her own fan base and many hip-hop heads when she tapped veteran rappers Twista and Too $hort for her single “Jewels and Drugs” from her upcoming ArtPop album. The track, which also features hip-hop star T.I., was recently performed at the iTunes Festival, and Twista spoke to RO about the experience of collaborating with such a pop megastar.

“Really, I was actually surprised that she was a fan of the music,” Twista admits. “She’d been listening to [my] previous project. [Lady Gaga’s DJ] Shadow being from Chicago, when they were throwing names around for the track, my name came up. They gave us a call and Shadow came out to Chicago. We went back and forth on the phone about it and we made it happen.”

“Funny thing about it is I would always say lines in my verses in reference to [people] that I would wanna do a song with and I had referred to her on a track called ‘Gucci, Louis, Prada,” he adds. “So it was kinda ironic. I was definitely honored that a person of her magnitude or caliber [would] listen to my music. I was shocked. But she is definitely on her game.”

Gaga’s collaboration is only one example of dance pop stars collaborating more and more frequently with veteran hip-hop acts. Miley Cyrus has been making headlines all year for her work with artists like rapper/producer Juicy J and 2 Chainz, and Twista says that he has no issue with the two worlds crossing over into each other.

“The reason I think it’s all good is because we told everybody in the beginning when hip-hop was birthed that it was gonna grow to a phenomenal level,” he explains. “So to me, it’s just [that] hip-hop is still growing. People might have thought it had stopped when it was where it was, but you can see people of all genres of music want to be a part of hip-hop in some form. The art form is still growing and now it’s reached the pop level where they recognize that it’s dope and wanna be a part of it.”

The Chicago native saw how big that potential for growth could be at the iTunes Festival in the U.K. When he saw the energy and the magnitude of the show, Twista says that he was a little overwhelmed at first.

“It was crazy. That was one show where I really got nervous,” he shares. “Seeing [Gaga] being so crafty with what she was doing and the way she was rehearsing and getting it tight, it was just crazy. Because it was Lady Gaga. I just saw all these people. I knew it was going to be live, [so] I had to make sure I knew all the words for my whole verse–because it was a new verse. [Laughs] I had butterflies all the way up until I ran onstage!”

However, he felt better once he realized he wasn’t the only person feeling nervous.

“My manger and everybody was looking at me because I was nervous. And then me and Too $hort both walked out of the dressing room and he was like ‘Leave me alone until this s–t is over–I got get this s–t out!’” he recalls. “He had the same type of vibe and we held each other down!