Up-and-coming emcee 20 Twen is among the new wave of Detroit artists making their mark in the industry. Representing the city’s east side, he began recording music at the age of 12. The hobby, however, didn’t turn into something 20 entertained as being his way out until a few years ago.
Last year, he released two mixtapes: No Feelings and 10 Minutes of Death Part 1. His lyrical tenacity combined with the ability to create solid songs snagged the ear of reputable hip-hop DJ/producer Don Cannon.
“I embody my hometown,” 20 said. “If you know anything about Detroit, that’s what I try to bring to music. Like Cannon would say, the way that I flow to a beat is definitely out of here. It’s something that I put a lot into. It’s fun to me. I love my craft.”
20 recently made Detroit’s Top 100 hip-hop airwaves with his single “Rollin.” He has plans of delivering his project From Detroit With Love (originally titled A Clockwork Black) in late spring. The album will reveal 20’s perception of his native city to listeners.
Detroit has an extensive and diverse musical history. Before it was responsible for breeding some of rap music’s deadliest emcees, it was home to the legendary label Motown Records; Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5, Diana Ross, and Glady’s Knight and the Pips are just a few of the artists who were signed to the label.
Unfortunately, the city has become known for less positive things over recent years: significant population decline, alarming crime rates, and economical hardship. Last year, Detroit declared the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history, due to it being around $18 billion in debt.
Coming up in Detroit, 20 experienced his portion of dilemmas; he experimented with the street life, but found a balance within his household.
“I had great parents. They raised me, my brother, and my sister well,” he said. “But at the same time, you know you’ve got your friends, and you can’t help but see the stuff that goes on around you. I’ve had friends that I’ve lost to the drug game and just the streets period. It’s just something that you grow to get used to. I [even] hustled, but I never let it control me or let the streets consume me, especially seeing the things that happened to my friends.”
Long before 20 embraced his calling to pursue music, he grew up across the street from the late J. Dilla, one of hip-hop’s most respected and influential producers. He viewed Dilla as a hometown hero and used his instrumental album, Donuts, to sharpen his craft.
“My parents still live across the street from his parents,” 20 said. “I lived over there for about 18 years, and for a good 10 of them, I knew that was J. Dilla’s people, but I just stayed away. I didn’t want to bother him.”
Though he was influenced by Dilla, 20 has managed to acquire production from other notable beat craftsman, such as 9th Wonder, Johnny Juliano, and Kajmir Royale, for his personal projects. An independent artist aiming to obtain national exposure, he has no plans of slowing his grind. And that’s the reason 20 plans to release several projects this year, including From Detroit With Love and a sequel to his mixtape10 Minutes of Death.
“I want to put out four mixtapes and one album at the end of the year,” 20 said. “I’m going to drop the single “From Detroit With Love” in early April. And then I’m going to be putting out the mixtape From Detroit With Love at the end of that month, or at the beginning of May.”