It’s hard to hate the Ying Yang Twins as much as I should, but it’s equally hard to defend them. In the interest of full disclosure, I was ushered into puberty by the Rolling Stones — no amount of Germaine Greer could repair the damage those crafty über-misogynists wrought upon my tender psyche with “Backstreet Girl,” “Stray Cat Blues,” and “Brown Sugar.” And, like many overeducated liberals, I’ve made countless excuses for the Twins and their crunk brethren, contorted all the rules of logic and common sense in an attempt to find irony and metacommentary and linguistic appropriation in every dehumanizing slur. After all, preaching the dangers of popular culture feels so square, so sanctimonious, so Tipper Gore. Like the grad student who pays her tuition with the sticky bills that she earns in the strip club, I pretend that I’m deconstructing the dominant culture, reveling in the dialectical bump-and-grind. Any self-righteous simpleton can waggle her disapproving finger; it takes a thoroughly postmodern Millie to apprehend that the aforementioned stripper isn’t just snapping her thong and licking her pole — she’s actually empowering herself, subverting the patriarchy, dismantling gender roles. But sometimes, as a wise man once observed, you gotta let a ho be a ho.
Outrage, or even simple honesty, is unfashionable among the intellectual elite; consider recent assessments of the Ying Yang Twins by the so-called liberal media. Kelefa Sanneh, the usually perceptive New York Times pop critic, can’t bring himself to condemn the Twins’ chart-topping single “Wait (The Whisper Song)”; instead, he mildly suggests that lines such as “I’m-a beat that pussy up” and “Wait ’til you see my dick, bitch” almost (but not quite!) come off like threats. Village Voice writer Anthony Miccio even went so far as to argue that the song is merely “a crass flirt mistaken for a date-rape anthem by people who have no sympathy for lechers.” (Poor lechers! When will they get a break?)
By now, almost everyone has heard the song they’re discussing, the first (and by far the best) single from the Dirty South duo’s newest full-length, United State of Atlanta. If you turn off your brain and your conscience, it’s even possible to enjoy the burbly bass line, the infectious fingersnaps, the urgent whisper that Kaine and D-Roc use to deliver their heinous message. Until now, crunk was all about the shouting, the hoarse imperatives, the so-dumb-they’re-kinda-genius assertions of nihilism, hedonism, and all those other delicious -isms that deliver us — or at least distract us — from our existential nausea. Just by lowering the volume, the Twins fulfill the primary desideratum of hip-hop: to make it new. But as fresh as it might sound, the lyrics are depressingly familiar — enough to make you don a burqa or buy a Clay Aiken record. Even worse than “Wait” is “Pull My Hair,” in which a sexy cyborg coos that she really likes rough sex. Hey, forget all that hokum about the clitoris — everyone knows that the woman’s real pleasure center lies deep within the follicles of her scalp.
Unfortunately, the Ying Yang Twins are at their best when they’re being their stupid, woman-hating selves. When they try to get serious, as on the unspeakably lame “Live Again,” they’re somehow more offensive. If you’re going to express sympathy for the strippers (who, it must be noted, keep the entire crunk industry in gold teeth and flashy rims), at least give them better lines than “My whole life is full of sin/This world is a dead end/I want to live again.” And for the love of God don’t let that Maroon 5 moron sing on it.