Ying Yang Twins
U.S.A. Still United
ince becoming America's favorite supplier of crunk and in turn one of the biggest independent labels in the world, TVT Records has begun quickly establishing itself as the master of the stopgap mini-LP. In hip-hop's current climate of big budget, high risk investments, albums are all-or-nothing propositions, stuffed to the gills with music that's been rigorously market tested. There’s no such thing as b-sides, and almost everything is shooting for radio or club spins. But by sequelizing its biggest albums with quickie follow-ups, like Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz' Part II and Pitbull's recent Money Is Still A Major Issue, TVT has provided an official outlet for the kinds of remixes and outtakes that so often fall into the purgatory of mixtape-only material. While superstars like Usher, 50 Cent, and Mariah Carey have taken to re-releasing their entire albums with a new single or two to lure some of their fans to buy basically the same CD all over again, TVT's mid-level stars are offering upwards of an hour's worth of unreleased material along with a DVD for one low price.
And the Ying Yang Twins, who previously followed up their 2003 commercial breakthrough Me & My Brother with such a collection, My Brother & Me, have given the 4th quarter cash-in treatment to 2005's platinum U.S.A. United State Of Atlanta. And here on the half-assed second time around, the duo of D-Roc and Kaine come closer to making the kind of fun, low-calorie party record people expect. U.S.A. was a soggy 70-minute ride full of mood swings in which sentiments like "I hate bitches and bitches hate me" and "fuck the Ying Yang Twins, they ain't shit" were aired out as often as "twurk it" or "get crunk." But as producer Mr. Collipark indicates on the intro at the beginning of the disc, this is nonetheless a release with ambitious goals: "This gon' be the biggest party startin'...re-release of a album ever, ever, ever."
U.S.A. Still United belongs less to the Ying Yang Twins than to Mr. Collipark, who produces all but one track. The Twins, on the other hand, don't appear at all on one of the songs, and are credited as featured performers on 2 songs by other artists. Since his days as DJ Smurf and Beat-In-Azz, Mr. Collipark has long been one of the South's strongest producers and as responsible for the importing of sounds from Miami bass into Southern hip-hop as Lil Jon. But he's only started to gain mainstream name recognition in the past year with the popularity of his harshly minimalist beats for Ying Yang's "Wait (The Whisper Song)" and David Banner's "Play," for which he coined the term "intimate club music."
For the most part, the new Ying Yang tracks are goofy throwaways or enjoyable diversions. "Duts," which, as Kaine helpfully explains, means "my dick and my nuts," has a promising guitar-driven beat, but lasts barely two minutes and includes a lengthy spoken intro, a scratched DJ outro, and only one full verse and chorus, as if they couldn't be bothered to flesh it out. And "The Pink" is a playfully filthy take on Henry Mancini's "Pink Panther" theme that presumably won't appear on the soundtrack to the upcoming Steve Martin vehicle. "4 Oz." is a somewhat unexpected collaboration between Ying Yang and Memphis's Three 6 Mafia, a head-on collision of two sensibilities that couldn't further apart while co-existing on the same spectrum of contemporary Southern rap. For the most part, though, the DJ Paul and Juicy J-produced track adheres to Three 6's aesthetic and little of Ying Yang's, dragging out the syrup-sipping dirge for six minutes. The catchy U.S.A. outtake "Wiggle Then Move," which leaked a few months ahead of the album, makes its official debut on U.S.A. Still United. And for no apparent reason, one of U.S.A.'s worst songs, "Bedroom Boom"'s quiet storm variation on the intimate club sound with R&B; crooner Avant, is given an unwanted encore here.
The two tracks on which Ying Yang are billed as featured artists, "Ms. New Booty" and "Git it," are primarily credited to Bubba Sparxxx and Bun B, respectively. The Twins are a little more obnoxious than usual on "Ms. New Booty," and Bubba seems to be testing out a bizarre Young Jeezy impression on the first verse. "Git It" is yet another generic Bun B collaboration like the dozens he's recorded in the past two years, in sharp contrast to Ying Yang's previous track with Bun, U.S.A.'s downbeat, sincere Pimp C tribute "23 Hr. Lockdown." And the two tracks that introduce Collipark's new artists are a similiarly mixed bag. D-Roc's new group the Muzicians don't divert from Ying Yang's usual strip club anthems in any discernable way on "Get Yern." And "Legendary Status" by Homebwoi and the Kadalack Boyz unfortunately lacks any of the personality or seething menace of Homebwoi's collaboration with B.G. from last year, "Where Da At."
Mr. Collipark is an assembly line hitmaker in the mold of Lil Jon or the Neptunes, getting as much mileage as possible out of every sound or idea he comes up with. Every now and then, he produces a track with a fresh new synth line or drum patch, and then milks it for months, pairing it with other sounds for endless combinations, like stacking Legos together. And much of U.S.A. Still United is an essay in how much he can recycle his best known tricks in new contexts. "Play" in particular is stripped for spare parts, with its booming intro's drum sound repurposed on "Ms. New Booty," and its siren riff reused on "Get It." And the infamous "Wait" tom-tom pads also come into play on "Get It." Collipark's trademark intro, the shrill scream that began the U.S.A. single "Badd," kicks off a couple tracks on U.S.A. Still United and becomes a recurring riff for "Wiggle Then Move."
Still United ends on a high point with a pair of remixes of the original album's biggest hits, "Wait (The Whisper Song)" and "Shake" featuring Pitbull. "Wait" has already been given the all-star remix treatment with a version featuring Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliott, but "Wait (The Ultimate Remix)" is an entirely different affair, in which Mr. Collipark constructs a dubbed-out 6-minute reimagining of the song full of vocal effects and spliced in bits of one of Ying Yang's previous hits, "Salt Shaker." And "Shake," far and away one of the original U.S.A.'s highlights due to Collipark's inspired sample of George Kranz's oddball Eurodance classic "Din Daa Daa," is given new layers of culture clash when Pitbull delivers a new verse entirely in Spanish and Jamaican dancehall star Elephant Man wreaks his usual havoc on the track. The Ying Yang Twins, on the other hand, only appear on the track in the form of their vocals from the original chopped up into a new hook, emblematic of how they take a backseat to their producer and even their guests on U.S.A. Still United.
U.S.A. Still United packs 90 minutes of footage onto the bonus DVD, but it's mostly the kind of perfunctory filler that you've probably seen already if you watch MTV with any regularity, including the album's 3 videos and the group's appearance on Punk'd. But it also goes the extra mile with an array of promotional TV appearances, which consist of various C-list talk show hosts asking the Ying Yang Twins about their grills, an awkward conversation with Adam Corrolla on his short-lived Comedy Central show, and a bizarre MTV Cooking segment in which D-Roc has trouble reading the cue cards. It's all fairly unnecessary, and so is the CD, but at least that part of the package has some replay value.
Reviewed by: Al Shipley
Reviewed on: 2006-01-25