The Yin-Yang was a symbol in ancient Chinese philosophy that visually represented two opposing forces, each which contained elements of the opposite side, and at the same time were dependant on the other. These complimentary opposites poignantly symbolized many naturally occurring rivalries in nature: man and woman, day and night, fire and water, and of course, the age old dichotomy of strip club hip-hop and thoughtful hip-hop. The fact that D-Roc and Kaine call their group the Ying-Yang Twins (Pretty sure the added “G” wasn’t intentional), and a look at their past hits (“Whistle While you Twurk,” “Say Ay Yi Yi Yi Yi,” and the inescapably hilarious “Whisper Song”) indicate that these two don’t know anything about the original meaning of a Yin-Yang… or do they?
These two are smarter than they want you to give them credit for. They’ve done something right, having been in the game long enough to release five (!!!) albums and still be around: a milestone that a lot of the highest profile MC’s can’t even lay claim to yet (Kanye, The Game, 50 all haven’t reached five). Let’s be honest, nobody does a senseless club song quite like the Ying-Yang Twin’s, and their brand of music definitely has its undeniable place in Hip-Hop. But how long can these guys beat the formula of nasty lyrics, danceable beats and infectious ad-libs into the ground before people start to get bored with their act, or worse yet, the Twins themselves get bored with it?
The answer seems to be four and a half albums, as the Twins make a conscious effort to be, well… more conscious on their fifth endeavor, Chemically Imbalanced, opting to explore the other side of the Yin-Yang a little more, hoping to attract new fans. The move is a blatant crossover attempt: one that even comes with a warning on the disc’s Intro, as producer Mr. Collipark barks how the album is set up, the opening half being strictly the classic Ying-Yang club feel and the second half being “more musical” with collaborations with Wyclef Jean.
The Ying-Yang’s open up the first half with what one would expect on a Ying-Yang Twins release, with several tracks that are sure to get heavy rotation in the clubs. The highlights include the lo-fi digital skips and bleeps of “Jigglin,” even if the Ying-Yang’s use a hook that’s stolen from, of all places, the cheesy “Name Game” song (the funniest part is that they use the same “Name Game” rhythm jacking AGAIN on “Collard Greens,” to much less success). “1st Booty on Dooty,” is another Ying-Yang club classic, with an infectious hook over Mr. Collipark’s thumping drums and “Dilla” like sirens.
The second half begins just as the constant hollering of recycled phrases of, “Hanh, Yup!” “Shake It Like a Saltshaker,” and “Back It on up like a U-Haul Truck” is creeping beyond the level of monotony into the realm of annoyingness. The Twins start off with “Water,” a refreshing track inspired by the ancient sounds of the Eastern hemisphere, with Wyclef assisting on the hook. The Twins lyrics are still club oriented, but show more respect to the ladies, an accomplishment in itself (as pathetic as that may be). Wyclef succeeds in switching up the sound of the album with tracks like the electric guitar tinged “Dangerous,” and the live instrumentation of “Friday.” Lyrically, the Twins try to match the newfound complexity in their production, an effort they should be applauded for, but one that doesn’t suit the duo very well. This is apparent on the generic lyrical concept of the piano-guided “Family.” The Ying-Yang’s efforts to explore deeper subject matter makes the group sound uncomfortable. Maybe its because of the singular dimension of their earlier work, or listener’s tendency to categorize artist’s into one brand of music, but D-Roc and Kaine will never be taken seriously on a heartfelt song. Whatever the reason, the “deep” songs ain’t no “Dear Mama.” The instant one of the trademark voices kicks in, its impossible to take them seriously, considering their past lyrics and the lyrics on earlier tracks.
Overall, the Ying Yang Twins seem to realize that the popularity they enjoyed with their breakthrough hit “The Whisper Song,” last year was due to the gimmicky nature and the bold hilarity of the song, and not because of artistic talent. They try to please everyone, and extend their stay in the public eye on Chemically Imbalanced, with mixed results, making a solid first half of material they comfortably know, and an interesting second half that despite its flaws, has a few good songs that will help the group progress forward to different aspects of Hip-Hop. They’re not poets by any means, but Chemically Imbalanced ends up making a point: these two may just know a thing or two about the composition of a yin-yang. Now they just have to work on evening the sides.
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