Detroit is home to some of the stand out performers in the rap world. Established artists like Eminem, Royce da 5’9”, J Dilla, Big Sean, Danny Brown, and Elzhi have helped put Motor City Hip Hop on the map, and now another lyrical assassin is ready to grab that torch and became the newest champion from “The D”.
Thomas “20 Twen” Foutner has been training for a spot in rap’s major league line-up for several years. Honing his craft in Detroit’s underground Hip Hop scene the 29-year-old emcee started catching national buzz with the release of his No Feelings mixtape. The project even received positive feedback from music producer and record executive Don Cannon (Young Jeezy, 50 Cent, Pusha T).
20 Twen is currently prepping the release of his upcoming album A Clockwork Black, and DZI: The Voice caught up with him to discuss his city, his music, and his future.
Yohance Kyles: When did you discover your voice as an artist?
20 Twen: I discovered my voice as an artist when I learned not to be so traditional. I used to have trouble saying some things in my lyrics and expressing myself. It was mostly me trying not to be offensive in such a politically correct world, but I had to just be who I am. I hope by being honest people can relate to me.
YK: What’s the meaning behind your name?
20: I used to go by the name 20/20 when I would battle at the Shelter at St. Andrews and when I first got on the radio in Detroit. It used to be that I was such a Hip Hop head I went by 20/20 cause I was so precise. Eventually friends started calling me “Twen” for short, and it became more of a nickname then a stage name.
YK: How did growing up in Detroit influence you musically?
20: Growing up in Detroit influenced me a lot coming up. I remember putting out a mixtape a few years back and thinking this was it, this was the sound I had been searching for. When I released it, I got so much love and one guy was like “Em and 5’9″…. that’s it!” I knew then what the bar was and I had to be as dope as I could be lyrically.
Also, when I was 19 I sent some music in to Def Jam, and I was told by an exec that being that I was from Detroit it would be dope to hear more soul in my beats. After studying J. Dilla and Slum Village I understood the importance of soul I’m music. Rap is aggressive and sometimes edgy, but it’s still music.
YK: Detroit has gone through some tough economic and political turmoil over the last few years. How does that impact you as an artist?
20: As I was born and raised there, seeing what is going on in Detroit with the political issues and violence influences and affects me a lot. I wouldn’t be the guy I am today if I weren’t from Detroit. I’ve lost some of my best friends to the things that happen in Detroit – it makes you grow up fast. Musically, I only write from my own experiences and those of my friends. We were all raised here and have dealt with the things the world sees on national news. Detroit has had a few rougher years than usual, but it’s definitely a city on the come up.
YK: How did you first connect with 9th Wonder?
20: I wish I could say I’ve sat down with 9th Wonder, but what happened was a friend gave me some of his work, and I thought it was the dopest sound for the No Feelings mixtape. Dude is a great talent.
YK: How will your next project A Clockwork Black be different from your previous work?
20: A Clockwork Black will definitely be a standout in my catalog. Firstly, it’ll be my first work looking for big name features, and secondly, the production on the project are all bangers. This is a darker and conceptual album, but there are so many up tempo songs. It’s my biggest project to date. I’m paying an artist to draw out the cover so people have a visual original piece of art that represents the sound and theme of the album.
YK: Why did you decide to go with “Rollin'” as the first single?
20: I went with “Rollin” as the first single because I think it’s a relatable song. I feel like the beat is ill and sets the mood for the lyrics.
YK: Have you decided how may parts you’re going make for your “10 Minutes of Death” series?
20: I’m wrapping up the “10 Minutes of Death” series at three parts. I’m going to start a new series called “I Can’t Feel My Face.”
YK: What music artists do you listen to regularly?
20: I listen to Jay Z, Kanye West, Drake and underground artists on the regular. I like Mac Dre’s music. I have also been listening to a lot of Mannie Fresh beats lately.
YK: Excluding yourself, what are your top 5 albums by Hip Hop artists from Detroit?
20: Top 5 albums from Detroit artists in my opinion are Esham’s A-1 Yola, Chedda Make It Betta by the Eastside Chedda Boyz, Obie Trice’s Cheers, Royce da 5’9’s Death Is Certain, and Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP.
YK: If you hadn’t become rapper what career path do you think you would have taken?
20: If I hadn’t chosen to rap I think I’d still be writing, whether it be books or music for others.
YK: What’s next for 20 Twen?
20: I plan on touring nearly all next year. I also plan to work with a few more artists and continue to make my mark. Thank you for your time and support.
For more info about 20 Twen click it
Follow 20 on Twitter @20twen
To stream/download the No Feelings mixtape click it
Check out 20 Twen’s single “Rollin'”: