10 Years, 100 Songs: #99. “You Might Had Somethin’, But You Never Had Nothin’ Like This”
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on June 2, 2009
In my more prominent days of music webboarding, it’s hard to remember a song that was quite as polarizing as this. The Ying Yang Twins had been around for a spell, and had generally delighted audiences with wacky vocal effects and their unapologetic gruffness (key line from their appearance on a song to come on this list: “Looking at a nigga with yo palm out / Bitch, I ain’t even seen you dance!”), but even with their rep firmly established, I don’t think anyone expected something like this. The almost spookily minimal beat was unexpected enough, given how purposefully brash songs like “Salt Shaker” and “What’s Happnin'” had been, and the whispering was damn near unprecedented for two gentlemen who had made their bones shouting, growling, and grumbling at all occasions. Those two examples of the Twins cutting back, then, just ended up making it all the more jaw-dropping when the song positively maxed out on the group’s raunchiness, with a chorus so foul and unambiguous that there should be no way in hell that it ever received anything resembling commercial radio airplay: “Wait ’till you see my dick / I’ma beat that pussy up.”
“Wait (The Whisper Song)” was predictably devisive for its musical qualities, some cottoning to the song’s monotone whisper-vocals and sparse, practically tuneless beat more than others. What I didn’t really see coming was the moral outrage that the song would end up creating–how people would find the song’s sexism to have crossed a line of acceptability, even for a genre whose signature hit was a none-too-feministic strip-club anthem. And indeed, the song did have a fair number of eye-widening moments (“Do it up, slappin’ ass, ‘coz the sex get rough,” “Fuck that, bend over, I’ma give you the dick”), not the least of which being the chorus, whose ominous prediction sounded more like a threat than a come-on, helped none by the occasional interjections of “Hey bitch!” Suddenly the song wasn’t just mysoginistic, but actively dangerous–a song guaranteed to make victims of harrassment, date rape, and other forms of sexual assault cringe with recognition.
And while those points are certainly valid, and I’m in no position to refute them, I do have to say that I never thought of the song that way. A telling quote about “Wait” from the YYTs themselves in an interview with MTV, in which they explained the intent behind the song: “You can’t always holla at every lady you talk to. Every lady you talk to is not a hoodrat. Every lady you talk is not a whore, they not all bitches — some women are women. To get a woman’s attention, you have to be an adult. To step to a female and whisper to her would be more attractive than trying to make a point out loud and being in a crowd.”” In other words, not only did the Ying Yang Twins not intend “Wait” to be a menacing date-rape anthem, they thought of it as something of a love ballad, not even considering how the lyrics they used in doing so might end up being construed. But really, if the lyrics weren’t so graphic in their depiction, would there be that much of a difference between this song and “Sexual Healing,” “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More, Babe,” or any number of other sweet soul babymakers? For the YYTs, maybe “I’ma beat that pussy up” is a guarantee that they feel women would really like to hear–a sentiment that would be almost charming in its naivete if it didn’t carry so many negative connotations.
And even if you don’t buy any of that, even if in your mind, the song is absolutely, inarguably ethically reprehensible–I gotta say that I’ve also never been less than totally enraptured with the sound of it. Hip-hop had been drifting in that super-sleek direction ever since Timbaland and The Neptunes had taken over pop music, and this was the logical conclusion–a beat so simple and austere that even the tiny addition of snare in the chorus felt like a gigantic hook in context. But despite the lack of bells and whistles, it was somehow extremely catchy, achieving a sort of jazzy flavor with its snapping and with the Twins’ scat-like rapping on top. And say what you will about the lyrics, but their blunt statements of intent were the perfect complement to the song’s beat, with lyrics like “They say that a closed mouth don’t get fed / So I don’t mind asking for your head” even achieving a perverse cleverness. And the chorus itself…well, if you don’t fall in love with the perfectly stressed rhythms of “I’m-a beat-that pu-ssy up!“–leaving no doubt whatsoever as to the sincerity of their claims–then yeah, this song probably isn’t worth defending to you.
Even the haters would have to give the Twins credit for the way they handled the song’s video, however. The song leaked to the internet and was getting played on radio weeks, maybe even months before the video came out, so Kaine and D-Roc had plenty of time to respond to the burgeoning wave of criticism that the song was facing. The video, in my opinion, ended up doing the best job of defusing the controversy that they could have done wiht it without actually issuing a formal apology or Surgeon General’s Warning at the start of it. Realizing that they were walking on eggshells, the Twins did the video up about a million times classier than they had any of their previous videos, getting veteran director Little X to helm a beautifully staged and shot clip that featured the boys wearing suits, drinking champagne, and lying with dozens of styled ladies in high-end underwear (hey–it’s still a crunk video, and I don’t need to tell you the myriad ways it could have been worse). Meanwhile, the video’s edit–of a song that should’ve been totally untranslatable to TV–actually did a pretty good job of not butchering the song, substituting female “ohhh“s and “ahhh“s, and a couple timely-placed echoes, for the dirty words–basically getting the same point across in a significantly less offensive way. Considered in contrast with the song’s laughable radio edit (“Wait till I show you this / You will ne-ver get e-nough“), it was about as good as the song could ask for.
Meanwhile, the song’s uber-minimalism would end up having an immediate and undeniable impact on mainstream hip-hop, as later that year, David Banner would release “Play”–a song that toned down the filthiness of “Wait,” but swiped the song’s beat and whispering technique practically wholesale (albeit from the same producer, Mr. Collipark), for the biggest crossover hit of the Hip-Hop Hulk’s career. D4L’s “Laffy Taffy” and the entire snap music mainstream breakthrough (Dem Franchize Boyz, UNK, Huey) followed shortly thereafter, and kinda sucked all the fun out of the thing. But it all at least ensured that “Wait” would not go down in history as a mere novelty one-off (the Twins would immediately go back to bigger productions with follow-up singles “Badd” and the extremely underrated “Shake”), but rather as a natural and important step in the progression of 00s hip-hop. Hey, at the very least, it was big enough to inspire a Lonely Island parody, and everyone loves those guys, right?