County Grind: You just turned 18 not too long ago. What did you do to celebrate?
Lil Twist: I think I was in Dallas, in my hometown, and I was just chilling with my brothers. A week before my birthday, I was in St. Lucia, celebrating up to it with Justin Bieber.
How did you first meet him?
Me and Justin met through a mutual friend in Atlanta, Georgia, and that was a few years back, before he was the Justin Bieber he is today. We just kept in contact and became like best friends, brothers. He started looking at me like his big brother. So we've been real cool since then.
Do you talk to him often?
Yeah, I talk to him all the time. It could be every other day or every three days. We talk all the time.
When did you first realize that you were really good at rapping? Who was the first person who gave you encouragement?
When I was younger, I had a ghostwriter, when I was about 10 years old. And the way that I could just deliver the words we had put together, together, he was my encouragement, telling me, "Yo, you can really do this, and once you get it down to where you can do it by yourself, you're gonna be a problem, a force to be reckoned with."
And my mom was my encouragement too, most of the time. My mom always took me to my shows, or the producer I had at the time.
When did you first feel comfortable writing your own material without his help?
Well, I was learning then, and I had a notepad, and I'd go off by myself and write raps by myself; I just wouldn't record those. I'd keep practicing. But I started feeling comfortable writing by myself by the time I was like 13, 14 years old. That was when I was Young Money, still going through the whole artist development process. I was writing a lot then, and then becoming better at 15, 16, and so on.
Who were your favorite rappers from the beginning? Was there anyone you really listened to to study technique?
My favorite rapper is Andre 3000. My favorite rapper of all time is Tupac, and my favorite rappers are Lil Wayne and Jay-Z. I have a few favorites!
What do you think you've taken specifically from their styles that's helped you?
I haven't taken anything from them, because I want to have my own style. I just listen to how they put words together and how they just tell a story, but by doing it my way, though. I just like them as artists; I don't really take too much from them. I take a lot of advice from my brother Lil Wayne -- that's who I take a lot from.
Has there ever been a point at which you've doubted your choice to pursue this at such a big level? Have you ever had second thoughts?
I've definitely had a second thought on rap before, and that's when I started freaking paying attention to critics and stuff. That's when I also started figuring out how to try to make beats. I thought I would just make beats. But then I was like, "Nah, this is what I do, and I don't care what is being said," and I kept doing it and made it work.
How did you first meet Wayne, and were you intimidated, and how did he treat you from the beginning?
When I first met Wayne, ti was actually at a show in Tyler, Texas, when I first opened up for Young Money. I gave them my demo back then. It was pretty intimidating just meeting him, being a legend and a rapper I really loved and always listened to. But the most intimidating time was when they flew me to Houston to record in front of him. Just seeing him through the glass, watching me rap, was very scary.
What did he tell you that first time? Did he react at all?
He actually told me to write my rap, and he was actually helping the other artist, Lil Chuckee, he was helping him write his rap and told me to go write my own. So I went and wrote it, and once I said it to him, he really liked it. We fixed a few words, and then once I delivered it in the studio, he was like, "All right, we've got a problem!"
I think everyone expects you to be closest to Lil Chuckee because you're closest in age. Are you better friends with him than the other Young Money artists?
It's equal. Me and Chuckee aren't actually very close; we're cool.
When you started touring with Young Money, since you were so young, how did everyone treat you? Was it a parental kind of thing? How was it?
Oh no, it wasn't. They're all like brothers. As soon as I got here, it was automatically family. So they didn't hide too much [laughing], and they didn't try to stop themselves from doing certain things. It was just family, not parental at all.
Why do you think that you guys all clicked so well from the beginning?
We all came up kind of the same way, how we came to Wayne. We were all working at first, and we all had a grind, and that just clicked. Knowing that we have made it to this spot, Young Money, and we are like family, brothers and sisters, we're just family. That's what made us click.
For you personally, what do you think makes you stand out from the rest of Young Money? What's your particular flavor?
I'm just a tad different. I bring a different energy, a different style.
If you had to describe that, though, how are your energy and style different?
I got so much swag, I'm so crazy! You would have to actually be around and see. I'm totally different; I don't know how to explain it because everybody else is different also.
What do you do before you get ready to go onstage, to overcome the stage fright?
I actually sit backstage, and I have a new thing now, because I'm singing this whole tour; I'm not rapping at all. So my new thing is, I drink a cup of hot tea a few minutes before I have to go on. Then when it gets closer to the time, I make my way to the backstage. I drink a bottle of water or two, and I pray. Once I'm done praying and start walking up the stairs and I hear Wayne call my name and I start running out, my stomach feeling automatically leaves.