The gulf between dead prez's militant message raps and Ying Yang Twins' strip club anthems is wide — as in Biggie Smalls waistline-wide. It was Biggie, after all, who flipped the Black Poets politically charged "party and bullshit" refrain into an irreverent 1993 club jam that totally circumvented its original intent. That kind of cultural mismatch — and the polar opposites represented by Ying Yang Twins and dead prez — lies at the heart of hip-hop. It made putting the two of them in a room together an interesting proposition. So with both duos scheduled to play this year's A3C Festival, CL got Kaine of Ying Yang and stic.man of dead prez on a conference call to see whether hijinks or higher consciousness would rule the day. Might the yin and yang of rap balance each other out?
stic.man: Ever since I first saw y'all with that 'skeet, skeet, skeet, skeet' song ["Get Low"], and just the energy y'all came with, when I heard the name of the group was Ying Yang Twins I always thought that was a fresh name and I wanted to hear how y'all came up with that name and what it means to y'all.
Kaine: Actually we try to base it on the yin and the yang, the balance of war and peace. See, Kaine and D-Roc are two totally opposite people. He's like, 'Hey man, I'm cool with everybody,' and I'm a scrooge. Everything about me is like, 'Bah! Humbug!' He's more jolly, happy-go-lucky. I really don't give a damn.
stic: How do y'all define your music?
Kaine: We just stand up for the party music; we don't feel like the party era of music got the shine it should've gotten for some of these records to still be the muthafuckin' bomb in the club. The clubs suck right now. Everybody rapping now wants to be "that man." When Ying Yang was rapping, it wasn't about all that shit, man. By us being rappers, we aint' no dummies, you want people to buy your records. You gotta sell it to them. So we come off like we everybody's cousin, it don't matter what color you are. The color we come for is green. (laughs)
Carmichael: Ying Yang obviously makes music for pure entertainment and dead prez is straight-up political, but I'm curious, stic, if you and M-1 see what you do as entertainment?
stic: Yeah, I mean entertainment is kinda like you can watch "The Cosby Show," you can watch "Martin," or you can watch Discovery Channel. To me entertainment is different channels, and the fact that it's art means that we want to keep your attention, we want to show you some kind of skill, we want to move you in some kind of way, whether it's to put you on the dance floor or whether it's moving you to get through a tough situation. So, yeah, to us it's a form of entertainment. We're not so skilled at the club music. When we started making hip-hop it wasn't from that era, per se.
I grew up around some of the greatest club music made — from 2 Live Crew to MC Shy D and Lejuan Love. So I definitely know clubbing, and I don't necessarily want to hear no big message when I'm in a party. But I also grew up with Scarface saying "Now I Feel Ya" and Tupac spitting "Me and My Girlfriend." So for us, we felt like we could relate to those stories more as far as creating music. Our music kinda went on that side more than the club. A lot of times, through the years, we'd be in the studio saying we'd want to do something positive and upbeat, but I guess we each have something that's natural to us. And like Kaine said, it's really about having a balance — not too much war, not too much peace. But just trying to represent for as many people as we can. So we're working on that balance.
Kaine: But can I intervene, not to cut you off, but I'ma just show you something. Our subject matter mainly pertains to females, right. But one of my favorite songs that I remember was Run-DMC's "It's Like That." When the beat comes on, you be fucked up before the [rhymes] even start. How the drums be playing puts you on the dance floor. Them drums say [mimics intro beat of "It's Like That"] Domp. Domp. Domp-domp, domp. And then after all that beat, the first lyrics that come out these folks mouths: "Unemployment at a record high/people hungry, people starving, people can't get by."
stic: You right, bruh.
Kaine: [Run-DMC was] talking about serious subjects, but they put a mover on there.
stic: Yeah, that's right.
Kaine: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That's all we do. Like we have songs that have different subjects, people just take the singles as the main ones every time we drop an album. That's why I was saying I'm trying to get the yang exploited on this album — the darker side of life. 'Cause my thing is, everything ain't always peaches and cream.
stic: And I want to say too, you know, partying is real life. This is something I recognize, and it's also necessary.
Kaine: Yes Lawd.
stic: For all the things we go through, all the stuff that people got to deal with every day, the party plays a big role. It's kind of like back in the day, it's like church almost. There was a time when you could sing songs that lift up your spirit; and today it might happen to be the club [music]. Or for other people, like me, I do a lot of training; I just did a record that for me was an uplifting album [titledThe Workout], all dedicated to health and fitness and the energy on there I guess is how I party. You know, it's martial art training, running, doing yoga, things like that. It's active living. So I agree man, 'cause sad stories, we get enough of that and sometimes we want music and entertainment to be a release and not a reminder.
Kaine: Long as you have true respect for music, and I think I hear that in stic every time he talks. Like he loves the aspect of music that motivates him and his representation of it is rapping, just like me and D-Roc, our representation of what we feel, we rapping with it. We got some new stuff to show the world, though. I think the element of surprise gon' be on our side. 'Cause I don't think they're gonna expect what we're doing this time around. But it's going to be fire, believe that. But we need to go on and collaborate.
stic: Yeah man, I'm always down for the creative. One thing me and my partner M-1 always say at the end of our shows, right before we do our song "It's Bigger Than Hip-Hop", we say an oath to never give people no fake records. So whatever music we do is going to come from a real place. And I think artists can learn from each other by stretching their boundaries. I think maybe people would hear [dead prez] on one of them beats y'all have with that 808 going crazy in the club and we might be talking about Troy Davis, know what I mean, and never forget that, but have the crowd crazy.
Or we might be talking about ATL life or our interaction with females and what type of things we like as men. Whatever's under the sun. But, yeah, that Ying Yang/dead prez "Troy Davis Still Lives" — that'd be hard.
Kaine: You heard how you just said that — it don't even sound like it go. That's why we gotta do it.
See full schedule of A3C Hip Hop Festival performances, panel discussions and demos at www.a3cfestival.com.