Just by hearing their name, you should be able to figure out pretty easily what Spank Rock is all about. The dozen or so drops of the word “pussy” in the first track, “Backyard Betty” should solidify that. And the line “banging till the bells stop ringing” from that same song should serve as sort of a mission statement for the group. The duo of Naeem Juwan and producer XXXchange make some of the most unusual hip-hop sounds this side of the Atlantic, coming off as a sort of crossroads where Dizzee Rascal and 2 Live Crew meet, and things get dirty, both sonically and lyrically.
Baltimore’s Spank Rock may sound gimmicky, and if all you heard was “Backyard Betty,” you might think they were all schtick. Well, they certainly never quit shooting from the groin, but their unique cut-up of styles and diversity in approach keeps YoYoYoYoYo consistently interesting. XXXchange drops glitch-hop like “Backyard Betty” one moment, string-samples on “What It Look Like” the next, and distorted new wave keyboards on “Bump” after that. It’s almost becomes a guessing game as to what kinds of crazy sounds are going to burst out of the speakers next, and with each new permutation comes an even hotter beat.
Rock, himself, or Juwan if you must, isn’t exactly Rakim when it comes to the lyrical flows, but he holds his own nonetheless. “What It Look Like” finds Rock spitting rapid-fire rhymes, almost aping an M.I.A.-like affectation. “Rick Rubin,” likewise has an impressive delivery on Juwan’s part, with some vocal distortions reminiscent of early Chemical Brothers. At other times, as on “Touch Me,” he even approaches a more mainstream rap sound, though his old school party people vibe on “Bump” makes up for that. Still, a song like “Sweet Talk,” with some of the funkiest production on the whole record, should offer more in the way of vocals, but comes off sounding incomplete. Still, the “tap that ass” intro repetition is catchy.
Even if Spank Rock isn’t always on point lyrically, when he is, he mostly sticks to fucking. There’s no self-reflective, thought provoking social commentary here. Spank Rock is, after all, about a hot and sweaty party. And when you put on a record with production this tight, that’s exactly what you’re going to get. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.
Dizzee Rascal – Boy in da Corner
2 Live Crew – As Nasty As They Wanna Be
Majesticons – Beauty Party
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.