Since forming in 1997, Twiztid have changed the face of music, redefining the relationship between rap and metal while pushing the limits of lyrical creativity. By remaining true to underground culture, they have built an international movement: Despite receiving little mainstream airplay, every album they’ve released has reached the Billboard album chart. Nevertheless, in 2012, the duo, comprised of the rappers Monoxide and Jamie Madrox, left Psychopathic Records to begin a new chapter. Now, for the first time in the career, they have true independence.
Things have moved fast. In 2014, Twiztid formed a label of their own, Majik Ninja Entertainment, and it now includes underground favorites like Blaze and Boondox alongside rising stars like Young Wicked and G-Mo Skee.
“We have artists that are killing it in every different type of music,” says Madrox. “We’re keeping alive these old ideas that other motherfuckers let go to the wayside, and at the same time, we’re offering a whole bunch of new type of flavor as well. We’re putting out stuff that makes you say, ‘Damn, that’s what it’s about!'”
Twiztid have become experts in the art of releasing records. Now they’re using what they’ve learned to guide the next generation of underground talent. But this isn’t limited to music—Majik Ninja is on its way to becoming an independent conglomerate worthy of Tyler Perry. “Music is just the kickstart,” says Monoxide. “Five years from now we might not even be talking about a Twiztid record. We’ll be talking about the movies we’re making, and the other artists on Majik Ninja.”
At the moment, however, there’s still time for the studio, and the duo has more to say than ever. In January, Twiztid released a new album, The Continuous Evilution of Life’s ?’s, to widespread acclaim, debuting at Number Two on Billboard’s Rap Albums chart. One listen reveals why: This is one of the most energetic releases of the band’s career, pushing the pedal on a furious sound that recalls fan favorites like Mutant (Vol. 2).
Fans and critics have pointed to the record’s amplified metal influence, but Monoxide takes a more nuanced approach. “As far as talent—song structuring, songwriting—I think this album encompasses everything from where we started to where we are now,” he says. “There is metal, but to me it’s 75 percent a rap record. Only now we’ve found a way to encompass both worlds without it being forced.” He laughs as he considers the accomplishment. “We actually got good at it!”
“This album is pissed off,” says Madrox. “That’s what rock is really about.”
Twiztid was formed in Detroit—Detroit proper—in 1997. They released their first album, Mostasteless, in 1999, and followed with their legendary Freek Show LP, which contained the single “We Don’t Die,” in 2000. All 11 of the group’s albums have reached the Billboard album chart. W.I.C.K.E.D., released in 2009, peaked at Number 11, making it the biggest independent release in the country.
Twiztid left Psychopathic Records in 2012, and they independently released their A New Nightmare EP in 2013. Underground Australia would name it the best album of year, making it the first EP ever to win the award. They released their first album on Majik Ninja, The Darkness, in January of 2015. It too won Underground’s album of the year poll.
The group has collaborated with rappers like Three 6 Mafia, E-40 and Tech N9ne, and scored deals with Island and Def Jam. “Lyor Cohen pulled us into his office as was like ‘You two motherfuckers can rap,'” remembers Monoxide.
Outside of music, they’ve co-starred in the movies Big Money Hustlas and Big Money Rustlas. Their radio show, Ashtrays & Action Figures, has expanded Majik Ninja’s reach into podcasts and digital media. Never compromising their integrity, they’ve remained on the cutting edge of music for 20 years and counting.
“We’re the epitome of the underground,” says Methric. “There’s nothing in the world like us, and our entire record label is built on that principle, promoting other artists who are like that too. We saw a lane open up, and we were like, ‘That’s it. This is our calling.'”
What does it mean for a group like Twiztid to remain underground in 2017, especially after so many years of success?
“For us being underground means continuing to be what made you true—staying true to that,” says Monoxide. “We don’t have to worry about anyone taking our songs off the radio. We don’t have to worry about TV not playing our videos. Because we control everything. We found a way to survive without it.”
“But make no mistake,” adds Madrox, “if they want to put us on TV and see what it’s like to be inside of our world, we still might show y’all.”