The Yin and the Yang
It's not even 1 p.m., but things are already totally disorganized and way behind schedule on the set for "Get Low Remix," the new video starring Atlanta's most charismatic and aggressive rapper/screamer, Lil' Jon. The king of crunk and his Eastside Boys are filming the clip's "club scene" at Miami Beach's Club Ménage with the unlikely combo of Busta Rhymes, Elephant Man and fellow ATLiens the Ying Yang Twins.
While waiting for shooting to begin, the extras help themselves to the bottles of Alizé behind the bar. There are no dressing rooms, so the female extras have to change into even smaller outfits in front of the men. This, needless to say, doesn't help the video's director get his male extras to the set any faster. Finally, they start filming the chorus.
"To the window!!" Lil' Jon viciously barks on the hook. He's gripping a goblet speckled with diamonds and filled with Remy Martin. "To the wall!!" he screams at the cameras.
The director tells a thick girl in small jean shorts and fishnet stilettos to turn around and "really get low" for the part in the song when Lil' Jon commands the ladies to "get low." She spins, grabs her ankles and shakes her ass violently. The crowd goes wild, and the director calls "cut."
It's time for the Ying Yang Twins to make their cameo, and a production assistant can't find Eric Ron "Kaine" Jackson, Jr. and D'Angelo "D Roc" Holmes anywhere. The duo isn't even at Club Ménage; they've escaped to a nearby hotel. The assistant finds them in their room eating Doritos and playing the new Madden NFL 2003 video game. Their publicist rushes them to the set. They hop onstage, lip-synch their verse and make some funny/angry faces for the camera.
By the time Busta is scheduled to film his verse, the Twins are on a flight back to Atlanta. Kaine wants to catch his daughter's first birthday party, so there's no time to hang out and down Hennessey, get high and hit the Miami titty bars, or indulge in the extracurricular fun you would expect from a group that (at least in song) is disturbingly well versed in gentleman's club bacchanalia.
The Ying Yang Twins have evolved in the three years since the release of their debut album, Thug Walkin', and the club favorite "Whistle While You Twurk." Kaine, however, says their attitude has not so much "changed" as it has revealed a long-hidden balance in their music.
"The album that we just dropped, Me and My Brother, is definitely more yang than ying," he slurs in a painfully slow, unintelligibly raspy drone. "The idea was to get known with the ying side," so the first two albums (the second being Alley: The Return of the Ying Yang Twins) focused on the good-time party stuff. "We've done that to get heard," he explains. "But we got a lot of the yang on the new album."
Unfortunately a lot of people just don't buy it. To many mainstream music journalists, the Ying Yang Twins are a mediocre byproduct of an already anti-intellectual and derivative form; a sexually aggressive, racially problematic, extremely danceable confederate style of rap called crunk. Rolling Stone magazine recently awarded Me and My Brother a patronizing two stars, damning the group's "inept lyrical value" before claiming it's "about as much as one can expect from the over-processed majority of the Southern hip-hop scene."
It's easy to pass off the Atlanta duo as another "Whoomp! There It Is"-style novelty act and assert that they lack any cultural value beyond providing strippers with something energetic to twurk to. True, almost all their songs include lyrics about tipping lap dancers, but is that it? Is there really nothing more to the Ying Yang Twins?
What these uninformed, closed-minded critics clearly can't see is the yang part of the ying. Maybe that's because they've never looked at the way Kaine walks.
Just before the Ying Yang Twins film their cameo appearance for "Get Low Remix," Kaine follows D Roc from the hotel lobby onto the video set. He walks with a limp and moves notably slower than his partner. Later during the shoot, he looks like a killjoy when stationed between an epileptic Lil' Jon and some of Elite Miami's best pussy-popping models. Unlike D Roc, he doesn't do too much moving. He often calls himself the "yang" member of the group: introverted and short-tempered.
"I came up in government housing and welfare," Kaine says when questioned about his limp. "The social worker kept saying my brain was immaculate. But I said that ain't got nothing to do with my physical capabilities. So I got tired of that. They never knew what it was. They thought I was slow. They didn't know it was cerebral palsy till I was 18."
Like so many rappers before him, from Biz Markie to Eminem, Kaine started rapping to win over a peer group that initially shunned him. "They just thought I was dumb," he remembers. "And my starting to rap was because people didn't want to hang with me because they thought I'd be a little too slow. So I took something negative and made it positive." He adds that he usually doesn't talk about his condition because sympathy hurts him, physically and emotionally. "The best thing my parents ever did for me," he insists, "is they didn't baby me growing up. I had to do things for myself. I had to be a man even though my body wasn't working."
So now that we're aware of Kaine's experience, a childhood defined by gross physical pain and social alienation, let's take another look at "Naggin'," the first single from Me and My Brother. It's not your typical pimps and hoes polemic. It is slapstick, but it's also an honest hip-hop song about being in love, a self-deprecating look at weak men caught in terribly dependent relationships.
"Bwaah, bwaah, bwaah, bwaah, bwaah/She talking to me like I'm dumb," Kaine raps on the chorus in a drone that, truth be told, does make him sound autistic. His girlfriend sounds legitimately terrible, talking to him like she's "gotta hold his hand" and making fun of him "in front of [her] friends/Just to get a little laugh in."
If you are capable of empathy, feel for Kaine. This man has been unfairly dubbed dumb since boyhood, and now this bitch goes and twists the knife? She knows damn well how deep that cuts. But maybe that conflict is what he wants. He probably appreciates the paradox and how it leaves the listener caught between happiness and sadness. For the Ying Yang Twins, balance is the goal in a genre dominated by party anthems.
But Kaine is tired of talking about it. He's got a 1-year-old daughter to get back to and, I'm guessing, another "Naggin'" girlfriend, the sort of lady you can't live without but who enjoys pushing all the wrong buttons, a predicament most guys know all too well. "Life has both sides to it," he concludes. "You can't have one without the other, and that's what we're about."
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Dallas, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.