By David Rolland
By David Von Bader
By Rebecca Bulnes
By Laurie Charles
By Chuck Strouse
By Lee Zimmerman
By Laurie Charles
Until recently, the yin and the yang, ancient Taoist symbols that reflect cosmic harmony through two polar opposites, appeared to be merely a convenient graphic design gimmick for Atlanta's twurkin' twosome Kaine and D-Roc. But with U.S.A. (United State of Atlanta), the Ying Yang Twins have produced an album that imbues a seemingly genuine sense of conflict and complement. Their fourth full-length overall, it shows the Twins at war with their own image.
Fellow music journalists such as New Times contributor Tamara Palmer, in her recently published Country Fried Soul: Adventures in Dirty South Hip-Hop, have argued that booty and God-worshiping Southern rap is about contradiction (and not just the proverbial dick). Appropriately U.S.A. has songs addressing not only a piece of ass but also maintaining one's peace of mind.
"Long Time," which features Anthony Hamilton, interpolates its buttery hook from Al Green's "Belle" and cops to spiritual struggles over a molasses melody. "Live Again" (featuring Adam Levine of Maroon 5) is a minor-key meditation on the realities of preachers not filling the bleachers, money-bloated rappers being the teachers, and the cost of survival, for it's women who have to strip to get by. On the speaks-for-itself flip side there is the squelchy "Put That Thang Down," slow-grinding "Pull My Hair," pimpin' and subs-pumpin' "The Walk," and "Hoes" (featuring Jacki-O), a track down on whilin' and profilin' bitches.
Houston's Bun B of UGK (Underground Kingz), who appears on "23 Hour Lock Down," has been deep in the scene for more than fifteen years; while Houston's Mike Jones, who guests on U.S.A.'s steady-rollin' single "BADD," is on the come up. The Twins openly consider themselves to be following in the tradition of Uncle Luke and Miami bass, albeit at quartered speed; and on the clappin' "Shake," TVT Records label mate Pitbull plays hype man over a reggaeton-tinged hustle.
In contrast to these standouts, U.S.A.'s skits and slow jams, including "Wait (The Whisper Song)," fall flat, coming across more as look-how-diverse-we-are ploys. But overall U.S.A.'s 23 tracks prove the Ying Yang Twins can kick out more than just ass anthems without making asses of themselves.