Spank Rock: YoYoYoYoYo
Watching Peaches halfheartedly hump the air in front of some dude's face last month at New York's Bring 'Em Home Now! antiwar concert, it was easy to wonder how much life the underground sex-rap scene has left in it. What's that old adage? "If a Canadian electro satirist can't get excited protesting a war alongside Michael Stipe and Susan Sarandon, trouble is brewing"? What once shocked now plays like shtick; what used to seem encouragingly sex-positive now appears cynical and aimless.
The guys in Spank Rock, a hyped-up East Coast act with ties to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, no doubt disagree. On YoYoYoYoYo, their debut full-length, MC Naeem Juwan and producer Armani XXXchange party like it's 2001, Juwan shouting out the transgressive pleasures known as "ass and boobs" over XXXchange's sliced-and-diced micro-funk. In "Backyard Betty," Juwan reports from an invite-only ass-shaking competition in which the titular champ blows everybody's mind; in a buzz-building early single not included on YoYoYoYoYo, he graciously invited ladies to "put that pussy on me." At first, "Rick Rubin," a hilariously efficient nod to the rap-rock pioneer, appears to part the clouds of testosterone for a brief tutorial on Spank Rock's skillz. But nope—turns out those skillz are the reason you're on Juwan's dick. For the most part, XXXchange matches his partner's lyrical sleaze. He builds a beat atop a wildcat growl in "Touch Me," provides plenty of cowbell in "Bump," and grounds "Sweet Talk" with a sample of exactly that: Juwan repeating, "tap that ass."
So what use is Spank Rock's sex-rap resistance? In their parlance, do they manage to exhume the scene's withering corpse and skull-fuck it back into relevance? Sorta. Juwan's principal asset as an MC is that he raps with the adenoidal excitability of a 12-year-old—supremely creepy when he's describing nutting on Britney Spears's dimple, but helpful in defusing the wack machismo that pervades "Sweet Talk," where he asks a "fine bitch" if she's enjoying the view beneath his boyhood. And XXXchange manages to stave off hipster-nihilist tedium with his inventive production. But that might only constitute progress in a George W. Bush world.
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