In the world of hip-hop, there is music to shake your ass to, and then there are the Ying Yang Twins. From their first single, 2000’s “Whistle While You Twurk,” to their new mixtape, Ass in Session, the Twins have been specifically focused on making the crunkest, dirtiest, and funniest music for twerking—which is to say, next level ass-shaking.
In case you’ve been under a rock for most of 2013, twerking is back and bigger than ever, so it makes sense that the Ying Yang Twins would emerge with their first collection of new music since 2011. Ass in Session dropped in early July, and with two controversial songs, suddenly, the Twins are news again.
The Ying Yang Twins are, of course, not actually twins, nor are they brothers. Kaine (aka Eric Jackson) and D-Roc (aka De’Angelo Holmes) are two friends from Atlanta who started making music together in the 1990s, releasing their first record, Thug Walkin’, in 2000. The single “Whistle While You Twurk,” the chorus of which is an unprintable rewrite of the Disney classic, is an ode to the athletic skills of strippers and hit number one on the Billboard rap chart.
In 2002, they released “Say I Yi Yi,” but it was after their 2003 collaboration with Lil Jon on “Get Low” that their popularity really took off. Singles like 2004’s “Salt Shaker” and 2005’s “Wait (The Whisper Song)” hit the Top 20 of Billboard’s Hot 100. As the ATL crunk phenomenon stopped dominating the airwaves in recent years, so did the Ying Yang Twins. But their time has come again, and for that, you can kind of thank Miley Cyrus.
Before Cyrus made news this summer with her silly sexy (and, to some, racist) video for “We Can’t Stop,” there was the video, uploaded by Cyrus to her YouTube account in April, of her twerking in a unicorn costume to J. Dash’s song “Wop.” And if that weren’t weird enough, the video had an old-timey filter, as if you were watching a grainy pin-up B-roll for 50 cents in an XXX shop in Times Square in 1950.
Of course, the video instantly went viral (although its almost 4 million views are nothing compared to the 135 million “We Can’t Stop” has racked up). And after the Ying Yang Twins saw it, along with Cyrus popping her ass on stage at a Juicy J show to “Bandz a Make Her Dance,” well, how could they not write a song about it?
“[Twerking]’s been a way of dancing for the longest time in Atlanta. It’s been in the urban community for the longest time,” says D-Roc in a phone interview from his house in Atlanta, where one of his children is running around laughing loudly next to him as we talk. “But with Miley doing it, it’s like she’s saying it’s okay for white girls to twerk, that now it’s cool now. We can come out of the bedroom.”
The Twins dropped the single “Miley Cyrus” in late June, just before their new mixtape, and the song’s gotten attention everywhere—from TMZ to Perez Hilton to the Huffington Post to all the usual music outlets. It’s a hilarious (and, yes, filthy) ode to the former Hannah Montana, and D-Roc insists the song shouldn’t been seen as making fun of her.
“If you listen to the lyrics, the song is saying, ‘Do the Miley Cyrus,’” D-Roc says. “We’re encouraging everyone to dance like her.”
But “Miley Cyrus” hasn’t been the only song that’s gotten the Ying Yang Twins in the news this summer. The first track on Ass in Session, “Sayin’ My Word,” directly calls out a number of rappers, including Kayne West, Jay Z, and French Montana for their use of “hanh,” an exclamation that the group claims to have come up with back in 2000. The beef has been widely reported in hip-hop media circles and has caused some drama on Twitter (of course). “I would just like someone to give the recognition to us and give credit where credit is due. You’ve got French Montana trying to say he started hanh—well, no, you didn’t,” D-Roc says. “You’ve got people on Twitter and Instagram saying you’re being childish. I ain’t being childish about it. We started it. Everyone knows Tupac started ‘thug life.’ They always give Tupac that recognition. I know we started this and would just like the credit for it, that’s all.”
Despite the appropriation of “hanh,” D-Roc says he likes that there’s so much diversity in the hip-hop scene these days. “The best trend is that everybody’s being themselves,” he says. But in something of a break, D-Roc says he’s totally over the materialism omnipresent in hip-hop culture.
“I hate when people just brag about everything they got on every song,” he says. “That’s what I don’t like about hip-hop—everyone’s always bragging.”
I ask D-Roc about the equally omnipresent sexism in hip-hop, a proclivity the Ying Yang Twins, with their explicit lyrics and videos filled with scantily clad women, certainly give in to.
“Look,” D-Roc says. “Our music started with the strip clubs. That’s what it’s about. You’d have to shut down every strip club in the United States and around the world if you wanted to get rid of that. We’re not rapping about cars or guns or anything else. We’re rapping about strippers dancing at strip clubs.”
Yet now that twerking is out of the strip clubs and out of the urban dance clubs and has spread to white girls in the suburbs, what are those of us who are physically too uncoordinated to jiggle our asses while dropping low supposed to do when we go out dancing?
“Ask Miley Cyrus!” D-Roc says, before collapsing into laughter. “Seriously, just once you catch the rhythm, you’ll be there. You got to be coordinating with the beat.”
If you can twerk, or even if you can’t, the Ying Yang Twins’ visit to Knoxville on Saturday for the Hot 104.5 10th anniversary party promises probably the best dancing you’ll see in town this year. So go do the Miley Cyrus—but maybe leave the unicorn suits at home.