The Day After is the finest mainstream hip-hop album of the year.
Twista is never going to get the critical love he deserves. I would think this is because his lightning-fast delivery is considered too gimmicky, but that cannot be, because anyone who actually listened to Kamikaze or this new album would never be able to say that; they're both much more diverse and adventurous to be considered novelty records. And we ALL know that reviewers ALWAYS listen extremely close to EVERYTHING they review, instead of just parroting received wisdom or pigeonholing artists who deserve better. RIGHT?
Anyway, this is one hell of a hip-hop album. Twista is the fastest rapper in history (it's in the Guinness Book, I think), but no matter how fast he spits he still makes sense. But he covers a whole lot of styles here, from gangsta posturing and dance tracks and reggaetón. And he's not just all about the speed. Like he did last time, he makes sure he slows down the verbal torrent every once in a while so that it doesn't become monotonous. The track "Holding Down the Game" actually plays with this; he starts normal, is admonished to speed things up, and then goes all Houston on us and sslloowwss iiittt ddddoooowwwwnnnn like the Choppaholix are on the case. It's pretty funny to hear his "walking through this game like I'm Steve Nash" in three different speeds.
This time around, Kanye West and R. Kelly are nowhere to be found. The Day After has two Neptunes tracks, one by Mr. Collipark, and one by Scott Storch, but mostly it reflects Twista's hometown of Chicago with some good old dusty soul beats and great production by Toxic and Cuzo. For me, the standout is "Do Wrong", a Toxic joint in which Al Green's "Love and Happiness" is mined for a guitar line and the phrase "make you do wrong," and it's all turned into a bluesy sexy cheatin'-song duet between Twista and the recently incarcerated Lil' Kim. I have not been a huge Kim fan, but I am now, because she kills her rhyme like it's an intruder. I think Toxic is a hugely underrated producer, which is probably what makes him perfect to work with Twista.
Also great: Pharrell's hilarious and deep impression of Twista on the house-flavored "Lavish" (the other Pharrell song, "When I Get You Home (A.E.I.O.)", isn't as good, probably because Jamie Foxx's singing is just boring), Snoop's drop-in on the sex rap "Back in Cali" (damn, Twista, how nasty do you have to be to make SNOOP sound shy and gentlemanly?), and the gesticulations of Juvenile and Speedknot Mobstaz on "Out Here". Mariah is fine, Pitbull does well, and you have to love Syleena Johnson styling all over the silly intro track.
But this is not just a guest star supernova. It is a Twista album. He's funny, he's scary, he's goth (but not as goth as last time), he's sexy, he's a whole lot of things. And he's only ever going to get the critical love from me, here, in the pixels of PopMatters.com. So here it is: The Day After is the finest mainstream hip-hop album of the year.