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Chicago Producer Toxic Speaks
September 02, 2004

When Chicago rapper Twista's record, Kamikaze, debuted at number one on the Billboard charts earlier this year, many people were surprised. Even though the motor-mouthed rhymer had been a staple in the underground scene for years prior to the album's release, he was an unknown in the mainstream ranks.

One person who wasn't bewildered when the album's first single, "Slow Jamz," started flooding radio and music video stations was longtime friend Fredrick Taylor, aka Toxic, who produced seven of the album's tracks. "I always knew he was going to be the shit, you know what I'm saying? He just had to be in the right situation, have the right album, and have the right elements around him."

Kamikaze not only made a star out of Twista, it made Toxic, a Chicago hip-hop veteran, a highly sought hip-hop producer. Toxic started rapping on Chicago's Westside when he was a mere 11-years old, and by the time he was 17 he was fronting his own group, Ill State Of Fashions. He first tried his hand behind the board in the early-'90s when he produced a few tracks of his then group, The Chamba. It wasn't until the mid-'90s, after an ill-fated record deal with Atlantic, that Toxic decided a production career was more promising than trying to break into the rap game.

"That whole spectrum of being a rapper is a totally different thing than being a producer," Toxic explains. "Being a rapper, you're more out in the public eye, production is more of a behind-the-scenes type thing, and just getting your creativity on, just coming up with new ideas, and new things, and shit like that. Plus, the pay is good when you're a producer because you can get all around the board with it with a whole bunch of people instead of just doing your one project."

Prior to Kamikaze, Toxic had worked with rappers like B Rich, The Legendary Traxster, and fellow Chicagoans Do Or Die. His working relationship with Twista didn't blossom until the late-'90s, which is interesting considering the two have been friends since they were youngsters. "We grew up together really," Toxic says. "Rappin' and battling and stuff like that in the streets. We was part of some of the same little crews and stuff like that."

Toxic admits that for awhile he wasn't even sure whether Kamikaze would even see the light of day. After all, he and Twista first started brainstorming ideas for the album way back in 1999, but as the story of Twista's career goes, legal and label factors beyond his control stalled its release throughout the 2000s. Just seeing Kamikaze finally hit the store shelves in January was a relief for Toxic; seeing it disappear from those same shelves as fast as it could be stocked was the proverbial icing on the cake.

"Man, it was just like . . . I was so happy man, straight up," Toxic says. "We had been through so much shit with this album, you know what I'm saying? When it came out it was just like one of the best feelings cause I was like, 'Damn, all this work we did and it finally paid off.'"

You won't hear Toxic take any credit for the record's success though, instead he directs it where he thinks it's most due. "Anytime you're working with Twista you know you got something special happening particularly because the man is just super-talented," Toxic says. "I've done worked with a lot of people, I've been in the studio with a lot of big artists or whatever, but he just brings it to the table.

"He had been held back for so long," he continues, "all these star rappers that was blowin' up, your Nellys and Chingys and even your Eminems, Twista was hot way before these guys was even out and then they came up and surpassed him as far as stardom goes. It didn't seem like we was gonna get there at one point, but all the elements came together and the result is what you got right now."

In 2003, Toxic signed with BMG Music Publishing, and the success of Kamikaze has made him one of the publisher's most in-demand producers. But even with all of that going on, Toxic is only thinking about one project: the next Twista record. And who can blame him? The success the duo tasted with Kamikaze has them hungry for hip-hop domination this time around.

"Once he gives me the word, we gonna make it pop," Toxic insists. "I'm always working on tracks and it's going to happen at some point that we're going to get back in the studio. The Kamikaze joint is going to do real well and I know he really wants to put a stamp on it with the next album and really just blow everyone out the water, you know what I'm talking about?"



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