Grown up rap notes from the intelligent side of hip-hop.

QB rhyme vet Big Twins drops his new album, Grimey Life, this Friday. We recently spoke to him about everything from his distinctive voice, his relationship with Alchemist, Infamous Mobb and the loss of Prodigy and his own brother, Twin Scarface. We’ve also had an early listen to the album, and trust us, its dope.

Thank you. The project started when I started working on TNT with Twiz The Beat Pro, and working on another album at the same time. He introduced me to Beatnick Dee and Jaisu, and together they all had different styles of beats. To me, it’s the beats that make an album, so I rounded up the rest of the producers I met along the way, including Knxwledge who’s beat inspired me to write a dedication about my mom and brothers.

You have a very distinctive voice–gravely and raspy.

Evidence has talked recently how he sounds different now because earlier in his career he felt he had to rap in a tone that people thought would be more accessible, but that what we hear now is his real voice. Has anyone ever tried to tell you to use a different voice, because they thought it might help you find a wider audience?

Actually, when I first started rapping in Infamous Mobb, a couple of people in QB thought that I wouldn’t make it because my voice was too raspy. But Havoc and Prodigy liked my voice and I wasn’t gonna change it. Turns out when IM3 came out, fans loved my distinctive voice. It’s pure and raw, and it’s what makes me hard.

I’ve always seen you as an artist that’s fully in-sync with the producer. For them, they get a unique style to experiment with, and for you, adapting to the sound of different beatmakers allows your music to have variety. An example on the new album is Memories. It’s produced by Knxwledge, who doesn’t tend to work with that many hardcore rappers. But it works great – he changes to fit your style, and vice-versa, while each still maintaining each of your signature styles.

I first meet Knxwledge thru Chuck Strangers at my apartment in Hollywood. He came by with beats with accapellas over it. We started kicking it more and he had that sound that I wanted. And we was working on a album too, but I was doing two other albums and he was traveling a lot to Japan. I still got more sounds with him and hope to finish it with ‘em soon.

You have a long-running relationship with Alchemist, a collaboration that in my opinion first became great with the Different Worlds 12-Inch back in 2001. It’s great to see you have a track produced by Alc on Grimey Life ( “Phantom of the Opera”). Describe the process of how you guys work.

When we work it’s kind of like war. He’s one of my best friends and we like brothers. He always pushes me harder than anymore else and of course I appreciate him wanting me at my best. In the process he’s annoying [laughs], but that’s how he gets the best out of me.

Memories, with Havoc, is a very poignant track. It talks about the loss of Havoc’s brother, Killa Black, your own brother, and of course, Prodigy. Can you talk about how these many different tragedies have impacted the inner circle of Mobb Deep and Infamous Mobb, and you on a personal level?

Growing up, my life was hard. I’ve been through more deaths than you can imagine. Losing my brother who was with me almost every day wasn’t easy. We did everything together, I was lost when he died. The whole Mobb was lost when my brother died. And that’s evident in all the Twin Scarface references made in their music. Losing my mother was just as hard. I used to talk to her every day, then one day she was just gone. Prodigy and I have talked about things I don’t talk to about with others. All the tragedies made me who I am. Basically I lost everyone that I can tell anything too. If you hear a lot of my tracks, it’s natural for me to have a dedication song.

My favorite memories is our conversations. One time everyone left us in this club and we was stuck in North Carolina with no ride, so we spent the night in the club. We always find a way to have fun. We was deejaying, cheffin’ it up in the club, and drinking the whole bar up [laughs].

We always talked about everything and he helped me a lot on life in general. Working on music always got me hype. Prodigy helped me develop the way I rap. And recently when I was in Russia, and Brazil two years before that, he called me and said, “son you killing it and I need you with me.” Blue Note was different and out of the box for me and that’s because Prodigy pushed me on another level.

Lastly, I wanted to talk about Queensbridge. Infamous Mobb is obviously part of a long lineage of classic Hip-Hop artists to emerge from the project. But what about the next generation? Do you see much new talent coming out of that area that could be contenders to keep the legacy going?