Car-nal knowledge

Rolling with Kaine of the Ying Yang Twins

An acrid cloud of dense smoke billows across Lee Street like mustard gas. A car grinds its tires against the parking lot pavement as a MARTA train speeds across an elevated track. In the middle of this smoke and noise, a voice cackles.

“Them 22s got spun so hard, they’re 20s,” crows Kaine, one-half of the crunk duo the Ying Yang Twins. He’s talking to his friend, who is the owner of the car now sitting on shredded rubber. “You gonna have to get some new tires; we all need us some new tires!” yells 25-year-old Kaine, his gold grill shining in the afternoon sun.

He ambles back to his chair in front of Bobby’s Body Shop (a birth defect left him with a kind of bow-leg limp), and looks out at the car. The smell of burned rubber and marijuana hangs in the air. “This is all I do,” he says, explaining the time he spends hanging out with friends, messing around with cars. “I’m a Plain Jane type of Kaine. I don’t need to take you to a club, to nobody’s house, I take you here to show you how I prefer it. Here it’s family. It’s all about family, because what else do you really have but that. And anybody can come hang out any day. We don’t discriminate. Only color we care about seeing is the color green.”

The Ying Yang Twins -- Kaine and D-Roc — met almost a decade ago while D-Roc was on the bass scene, and Kaine was running rhymes between the Zone Three and Zone Six projects (many of which are gone, but get props in the song “Calling All Zones”). From an early age, music was a constant part of Kaine’s environment. His daddy was only 15 when the future rapper was born, so by age 5, Kaine was immersed in Planet Patrol, Newcleus and Afrika Bambaataa. All of that played on a stereo that Kaine claims you could hear four blocks away.

Kaine and D-Roc started seriously trading verses around 1997. But it was with 2000’s Thug Walkin’, featuring the track “Whistle While You Twurk,” that the Twins really started getting their records played around the scene, especially in strip clubs where dancers loved to make money to their beats. Signed to ColliPark, the label of Michael “Beat-In-Azz” Crooms (formerly DJ Smurf), Ying Yang got even bigger with 2002’s Alley ... Return of the Ying Yang Twins and 2003’s TVT-distributed Me & My Brother, featuring “Naggin’” and the Lil Jon collaboration “Salt Shaker.” Now the duo and their barkin’, buzzin’, synth-steeped bounce tracks were making moves outside the Dirty South hip-hop clubs and shake joints.

A short time later, they appeared on Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz’ pole position anthem “Get Low,” spitting the memorable line, “Pop yo’ pussy like this/’Cause Ying Yang Twins in this bitch.” The association with Lil Jon helped them become a more mainstream presence, laying the foundation for the new release, My Brother & Me, a collection of bangin’ remixes of some of their past hits.

Like every other Ying Yang release, the new album offers a view of Atlanta from where-the-girls-scrub-the-ground on up. It’s an aural expression of their groundedness. Despite having toured across the country and seen a host of different cities and sights, Kaine says he stills feels most comfortable right near where he grew up.

“I never really go outside the Atlanta Perimeter unless I have to, and I’m talking straight Fulton County,” says Kaine, still chilling at Bobby’s waiting for his pops to arrive. “I can’t do it. There’s a certain way of being in these types of environments. There’s all kind of characters, but nobody’s buggin’.”

The streets keep him grounded. He figures that no matter how big he gets, he’ll have to one day come back down. “So if I don’t leave these streets,” he says. “I shouldn’t have that problem.”

With his father having arrived,
and a freshly rolled blunt in his hand, Kaine leaves Bobby’s and heads to another body shop in his Chrysler 300M. (The ‘86 Monte Carlo remains at Bobby’s to be washed.) Kaine’s driving is as frenetic as the Twins’ music. He tears through school zones, church zones, ozone. Earlier, he hit about 90 in the Monte Carlo and that was on Sylvan Road in the SWATs, not on any highway. “I’m a stuper-star,” he says, changing lanes with abandon, taking corners tight. “I’m like the stupidest star there is. I drive like Speed Racer, on some other shit.”

Originally, both the Ying Yang Twins were supposed to spend time showing how they like to ride out, but D-Roc couldn’t make it. (He’s known more as the Twin who rolls out at night). So Kaine is leading a trail from one body shop to the next, because that’s the shit he’s on.

“I put a lot of bread in these [cars],” he says. “We put a lot into our music, too. But there’s lots more shit to deal with with music people than car people.”

He looks off to the sky, his mind seeming to wander as it does from time to time. “And I want to open me a car lot for the less fortunate,” Kaine continues. “I can buy a car, get a motor in it, put some rims on it and feel comfortable charging $5,000 to $6,000. A child from the ghetto, they can’t reach a [Chrysler] 300M. You got to damn near do something to yourself or somebody else for that. But you see a ‘86 Monte Carlo on 26-inch rims, you see a goal that you feel you can reach.”

Within minutes, Kaine arrives at the King Body Shop on Murphy Avenue. He’s buzzin’ both from blazing that bud and because he’s about to show off what is going to become the Ying Yang Twins official promo car. It’s his hottest shit: a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air. The King team is fixing it up with some chrome, gangster whitewall tires, and custom-stitched upholstery. But what’s really going to make it stand out is the paint job: black and white, split straight down the middle. The inspiration comes from the ancient Chinese yin yang symbol, of course, but also from a more unexpected source: “I’ve seen 101 Dalmatians,” he says, “and that Cruella De Vil was straight up gangsta.”

The striped Chevy represents more than just some thugged-out Disney fantasy, though. When Kaine was 16, he got the car as a gift from his god-uncle. Kaine couldn’t afford to do anything with it for years, but now that the Ying Yang Twins have seen success (they even collaborated with Britney Spears on 2003’s “[I Got That] Boom Boom”), they can live some of their early fantasies.With a wad of $100 bills, Kaine tips King’s staff, just happy to have shown off his prized wheels. Then it’s back to the 300M for a quick trip up the street to a Popeye’s drive-thru. On the way, Kaine explains the Twins’ plans to work with some other local MC, making music he calls “the type of shit that makes you jump up and down in your woman’s drawers.”

Things start getting weird, though, while locked in line at Popeye’s. Mad stoned after hours of puffing on blunts, Kaine seems to lose focus. He randomly starts in on some heavy shit, tensely ranting about heaven and hell, and how there’s not really a hell, you just catch hell on Earth. He then talks about how Southern MCs like to chop up their words, because on the street rappers are judged by how fast they can cut it up, how quickly they can hype a crowd. He wonders if anyone outside the scene, especially all the newfound white fans, understand what they’re saying, or do they just shake to the music.

Some time passes, and Kaine gets chill again. The conversation turns back to cars.

“The car can only do what you make it do,” Kaine offers. “The car cannot perform without a driver. Music [is like that], too. It’s all on the driver, and we bein’ the drivers.”

The Ying Yang Twins’ album My Brother & Me is currently in stores.