Ying Yang Twins

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.

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Tony Ware