Spank Rock

Big Dada's energetic new kids meld bouncy East Coast hip hop with what sounds dangerously like Brighton Big Beat circa 1996. Is it successful though?

By Masta G


Like reggaeton or baile funk, Baltimore club music has been around for ten or fifteen years but has only recently come to the attention of the wider world, with tastemaking DJs across the US like Diplo and DJ C starting to push its fusion of hip hop and house to the wider world. Heralding this surge in popularity (or, perhaps, cynically exploiting it, depending on your point of view) are Big Dada signings Spank Rock, whose relationship to the city of Baltimore and its famously rowdy club scene is a little unclear – while their label trumpet this fashionable association to the public, they seem quick to deny it in interviews.
Producer XXXchange certainly uses elements of the Baltimore club style along with grime, dancehall and some screechy Game Boy noises to fashion a sound which captures both the zeitgeist and the energy of a sweaty club very effectively. The different tempos range from the screwed and chopped hip hop of Screwville USA to the pitched up 130 bpm hip hop breaks which run through many of the tunes (did someone say big beat??).
The grinding minimalism of opener Backyard Betty, with its memorable ‘shake ya ass and boobs’ refrain and rumbling bass, grabs the attention and the short, sharp shock of the majority of the tracks holds it for the rest of the album. Although most of the songs do have verse / chorus structures, many rely on loops and cut ups of the MC’s voice. While these repetitive elements must work well in the club, they do at times detract from Naeem Juwan’s rapid and engaging flow. The surreal Rick Rubin – a tribute to the original hip hop production maestro – pushes the grating Game Boy effects to the point of irritation. Old skool funk pastiche Sweet Talk, however, is one of the album’s most appealing moments, capturing as it does the raucous energy of the JBs on uppers. Juwan’s rhymes come into their own and the sweet soul breakdown is an inspired touch. Coke & Wet is more of a traditional hip hop production but its refrain ‘coke and wet bitch guns nigger holler’ does leave the listener wondering whether it’s a parody of gangster rap or a naïve tribute to the thug life. Competition is a grime-y number which relies on a dark cello sample which could be the work of Davinche or Danny Weed and suggests that, unlike most us hip hop producers, Spank Rock have their ears open to developments on this side of the pond.
Whether this is an authentic product of the city of Baltimore or not, it certainly makes for an engaging and entertaining forty minutes and, if it helps expose club music or mangled hip hop to a wider audience, it can only be a good thing.

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