“Wait (The Whisper Song)” is a file sharing title. It is a title that made it easier to search for, way before it was official. The official story is that “Wait” was leaked accidentally, and they never thought it was anything more than “filler”. Filler? These twins can’t be that dumb. I wonder just how accidental? Not to sound suspicious, but did anyone ever find and download any other track for this album as far in advance of release date? When I first heard about “Wait”, it wasn’t found along with “Pull My Hair”, and “Badd”,—those came months and months later.
Seems to me that “Wait” was a very well planned dissemination of an edgy track they knew was screaming hit even while it whispered 120 obscenities per minute, never about to find a venue in a mainstream market. The only way to market this brilliant, fucked-up song was to send it out to file sharers, and hope they’d return the favour and buy the album in six months. It was fascinating to watch the track make bloggers jump to their keys to opine on the song’s merits or flaws. The puerile version, the clean version (“you will never get enough ”, the bootlegs (especially Juelz Santana’s), the all-star official remix featuring Busta, Missy, and Lil’ Scrappy (“This is the ‘Wait’ remix, ‘cause you couldn’t get enough”), the screwed & chopped remix (not enough chopping!), all of it was fascinating.
Then David Banner got on board and one-upped the track, reversed the attention, placed it on pleasuring the lady, and called it “Play”. For a whispering rip-off, Banner improves the style in every way. Rap is loyal to a certain monotony that makes whispering seem like an incredible creative leap. But in a genre that has made an art of shouting, this sudden hush broke the sound barrier. Never mind the words, the words are plainly a modern epic in the enduring tradition of sex-talk that is fundamental to all rock music. “And I’m known for being a real nasty man,” “I beat that cat with a dog”—these are classic bad-boy lines these lines; they might have come out of Mick Jagger’s big mouth. But, “Hey bitch, wait ‘til you see my dick,” that’s honest-to-god ugly-in-the-flesh original Ying Yang Twins. No one is going to steal that line without directly referencing these two Atlanta stripper fiends.
And those of us with long memories might recall that the Ying Yang’s first brush with fame arrived when they toured as openers for an adolescent Britney Spears in the late ‘90s. Not quite the venue or demographic you might expect for twins nursing a reputation as strip club aficionados. Stripper music has always been a kind of pop music that requires an undeniable throb. It is a throb that is entirely focused on the groin. It is an adolescent throb, craving voyeurism as much or more than real sex. The Ying Yang Twins were never far from Britney Spears music, after all. Six years later, it’s likely that some of those young girls who dance five nights a week to “(I Got That) Boom Boom” first heard it live when they were 14 and just starting to bust out of their pink velour sweatshirts (Wal-Mart not Juicy). Still young enough to love Britney, and just old enough to follow up on the Ying Yang Twins. But there it is, without a doubt, the Ying Yang Twins were never meant to be an underground group at all. All along they were making pop songs and wanted to be pop stars, patiently waiting and grinding out the booty bass rude talk. It’s no wonder this is their best and most accessible record to date. Where the crunk underground only wanted them to holler fight songs, the mainstream has given the Twins the latitude to try new sounds.
To contrast the hardcore sex trilogy of “Wait”, “Pull My Hair”, and the hideous “Bedroom Boom”, there’s the sensitive portrait of fraternity in “My Brother’s Keeper”, a rags-to-riches story with music to suit Tupac dreamscapes. There’s “Live Again”, the story of a stripper just trying to make it in a world without opportunity. The message seems to be: Ying Yang’s duly apologize for perpetuating a reality in which women are objectified to the point of violence. “You ain’t a hoe, you just trying to get by,” is one line from the song that captures the essence of this mockery of empathy. The music is painfully radio-friendly. The mustard-squirting noises in the background give the song no extra edge, and the value of the song is actually voided by subjecting listeners to the golden shower of Adam Levine’s throat, whose pissy Maroon 5 chorus doesn’t give the track an interesting mashed-up quality, it turns “Live Again”, into another case of Ying Yang sonic cruelty.
The best song on the record, including “Wait”, is the soulful “Long Time” featuring the suffering voice of Anthony Hamilton and a deluxe Isley Brothers sample. In the Dirty South tradition of hard-times tracks such as Petey Pablo’s “Test of My Faith”, and others, this is an honest tale of trusting God to help a man through poverty. Matching the clean spiritual voice of Hamilton next to the pitbull growl of Ying and / or Yang makes it as timeless as a song by Tom Waits. “Long Time”, is better than any of the sad songs on Beanie Sigel’s B. Coming, and approximates the endearing new nostalgia number by Common: “Corner”, from Be. And while Ying Yang Twins have never been credited for lyrical prowess, their objective remains simple, keep the party alive, let others do the work of impressing the mind. Ying Yang Twins are hype men for their guests. Give or take Mike Jones, the most important guest on the album is probably Bun B. of the Texas rap group UGK.
And this is definitely the weirdest year in the already weird career of the semi-obscure Port Arthur, TX rap duo UGK. They’ve been around for close to 15 years and have never had a chart single, and yet they command more respect today than ever before. When Jay-Z invited them to guest on “Big Pimpin’”, his Timbaland-produced tribute to the UGK’s street tested style, it didn’t make them as popular as they are today. But considering this is the fourth year in a government-enforced hiatus for the group, while producer and co-rapper Pimp C serves his time in a state penitentiary, it’s fairly remarkable that UGK is so popular. And this after years of near total obscurity beyond the South. But suddenly the Houston rap scene is everywhere on the charts and magazines and everyone agrees that the H-town style was literally defined by the production styles of Pimp C and Dj Screw. Besides a certain phone number (“Who?”), “Free Pimp C”, is this year’s great refrain. Meanwhile everyone popping off in Houston these days is asking Bun B, the available member of UGK, for 16 bars. And every time Bun B. shows up on an album he overshadows his host, because Bun B. is an incredible MC. Searching for the origins to the great big Houston sound that’s tipping the scales of hip hop. On “23 Hour Lockdown”, Bun B. writes a piece of therapeutic rhyme to his partner Pimp C that makes another otherwise limp track come alive.
Bun B. represents the finest in rap music today. Not all the guests are quite so impressive. I’m not sure that Avanti is quite the Usher he wants to be (Avanti’s voice is chamomile to Usher’s black coffee), and this isn’t half so funny a crunk&b track as Lil Jon’s “Lovers & Friends”, but there’s a similar absurdity at work—that old Backstreet style, laid-back romancing sound paired with the most sickeningly absurd lyrics. Avanti’s a crooner of private misogyny, giving credit to the kind of inner male voice that sees a vision of romance called ass-fucking. His ideas about sophisticated courting on “Bedroom Boom” takes a whole other getting used to:
“It feels like heaven when were off in this room together.
I can hear the music playin’, then I hear ya voice sayin’,
“Oh, daddy now jus’ give it to me right there.” “Oh baby, Take a handful of my hair.”
‘Cause you like it rough, cant get enough.
‘Cause I’m the type of nigga that’s gone fill you up, like a cup.
And make this love thing overflow,
I wont stop until ya body’s tellin’ me so.”
Other guests include Homebwoi and B. Gizzle on a track that trades on the same sleazy techno synth as B. Gizzle’s “Where Da At”, also featuring Homebwoi. I can see a solo album by this cat being released to big acclaim. He’s already starting to focus his attention on a Trainspotting version of crunk that prefers ecstasy to Red Bull, and it works. But the production by Collipark is so fresh the whole way through, that everything from the clownin’ squeeze organ on “Ghetto Classic” to the “Wait” retread “Pull My Hair”, seem like serious additions to the crates of rap instrumentals. “Shake”, featuring Pitbull, is one of Collipark’s best lemon twist on the house music style, offering a traditional whistle-and-soother beat for his rappers to roll over. Is the album great? It’s Black-Eyed Peas with swear words. Mainstream rap continues to explore the same paradoxes it did when it was underground—finding extreme experimentalism within the derivative. High production values haven’t stolen the spirit from rap. The Ying Yang Twins are among the most innovative rip-off artists around. Their main skills aren’t lyrical prowess. They move the crowd with exhortation. They whisper sexual threats. And they sing. They sing. If this gives Rakim pause, it should. But that was yesterday.
// Notes from the Road
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