No, the Ying Yang Twins were never really meant to be taken seriously; much like their lyrics, they have always been thin, flashy, and kind of vapid, but above all, as a rule, dirty and crass. The cover art alone shows nothing has changed for Chemically Imbalanced—it’s ugly, simplistic, and amateurish, setting a pretty low bar for the music to aim at. The surprising part of all this is how strong their fifth album ends up being: the Ying Yang Twins don’t really ever hit it out of the park, but the tracks flow together well and work as intended; all things considered, Chemically Imbalanced is a remarkably competent, solid, and well put together piece of danceable crunk.
The album is set up differently from past Ying Yang Twins offerings, as Mr. Collipark explains on the intro—while he at least co-produces all but a few tracks here, the first half of the album focuses on traditional strip club themes and sizzling crunk loops, while the second half brings Wyclef Jean and Jerry “Wonda” Duplessis into the mix to subtly twist the crunk sound in different, interesting musical directions. The straight-up-crunk half is, if not at all revolutionary, masterfully executed from a production standpoint—for the most part, the beats are no-nonsense and tight, from the cowbell, horn and synth wheeze of “Keep on Coming” to the electronic bounce of “Jigglin” and its ridiculously catchy stuttery chorus of “a-a-a-a-a-ass get to jigglin’ / Motherfuckin’ wigglin’”. “1st Booty on Duty” is another highlight, the percussion suspiciously reminiscent of “Wait (The Whisper Song)” but the posse of sirens and the so-dumb-it’s-catchy “You fuck that? / I fuck that / I fuck that” refrain making it memorable on its own.
The Wyclef and Wonda tracks stand out even more from a musical standpoint. “Dangerous” mixes smooth guitar with blasts of distorted electric and an indelible hook, ending in a trippy breakdown with a “Black Betty” sample; “Water” is like a frenetic poor man’s “Dangerous” in its general tone. Elsewhere, pianos slip into the mix, swirling and light on “Family” amidst punchy organ and soft guitar embellishments but uptempo and syncopated in the shifting accents and time signatures of “Leave”. Even among these tracks, though, “Friday” is probably the most interesting song here, blending bass and drums with mouth percussion while the rappers alternate between typically boring verses and a surprisingly soulful chorus with organ accompaniment, all culminating in guitar and bass solos from Jean and Duplessis, respectively. The two post-outro album closers are less sonically adventurous, but intended as they are as straightforward throwbacks to the openers’ strip club crunk, they don’t really put a damper on the proceedings.
Lyrically, D-Roc and Kaine are as churlishly perverted and rhythmically basic as they’ve always been, but to anyone that’s heard them before, that’s not really surprising. The Ying Yang Twins are less the artists defining these tracks than genially obscene hosts providing a unifying common element to the various beats with their one-track flows and minds. “She tryin’ really hard to give me her stuff / I tell her pop that shit, drop that shit,” they rap on “1st Booty on Duty”, summing up the vast majority of the album in one recurring theme. They try to expand their topical repertoire with songs like “Family” (family ties), “Friday” (anticipating the weekend), and “Take It Slow” (romance?!?!), but before you know it they’re right back in the strip club, exercising that same easy flow all throughout.
Chemically Imbalanced is no enduring work of art, steeped as it is in bad rapping and thin lyrics, but it’s far more musically experimental and successful than expected and ultimately ends up being much, much better than it probably should be; fans looking for crunk-flavored club hip-hop could do a whole lot worse than to pick this up.
// Notes from the Road
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