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Spank Rock - Yoyoyoyoyo

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Artist: Spank Rock

Album: Yoyoyoyoyo

Label: Big Dada

Review date: May. 7, 2006

When considering Baltimore house music, you might say that sex is as essential to the genre’s bigger-than-life beats as cowbell is to the DFA. Luckily for us, Spank Rock’s full-length Yoyoyoyoyo contains both of the above.

For those familiar with ’Rock’s 2005 single, “Put That Pussy On Me” (or even its famously voluptuous cover artwork), Yoyoyoyoyo won’t surprise much – and this is certainly a good thing. The bold beat production immediately jumps out on the album’s opener, “Backyard Betty,” a rapid succession of bold electronic kicks cloaked in synthesized sub-bass tones so in-your-face that you’ll either start moving immediately or realize how shitty your speakers really are.

Xxxchange (a.k.a. Alex Epton of Zero Zero fame) brings a varied amalgam of influences into his production chops. But don’t let the DFA affiliation fool you; Epton’s song structures are less James Murphy and more James Brown. There are plenty of 808 drum machines and moog textures swimming throughout the mix, but Epton’s work displays a unique aesthetic that’s equal parts technical and fun. Many tracks on Yoyoyoyoyo feature drum hits and samples that are more than two decades old, but Epton makes sure to keep his nostalgia a safe distance away from cliché.

Midway through the album, “Bump” cleanses the palette. The unornamented beat is a virtual call to arms, cueing b-boys to rise from their corners and start flexing the uprock. While Spank Rock’s verse fits well into the songs retro aesthetic, the guest rap by Amanda Blank is all but forgettable. Blank’s meter and rhyme scheme seem forced, her content recycled and uninspired. Once she flips to a double-time cadence, the myriad sexual bravado becomes a din about as arousing as a long night of Scrabble with Lil’ Kim.

Thankfully, the album’s stand-out track, “Sweet Talk” is up next. The funky rhythm guitar riff juxtaposed with seven or eight bars of Spank’s mantra – “tap dat ass, tap dat ass, tap dat ass…” – is a reminder of how simply fun Yoyoyoyoyo is. Spank Rock’s personality really shines here, and his ability to motivate a crowd is evident. The track’s refrain is likely to spread through the club scene this summer like a grimy tambourine-laced contagion: What you know about them women with their leg up? / Stop acting like a bitch and throw your hands up. With about a minute left, the song shifts immediately from breakdown to zenith. The three-part harmonies of the backup vocals and Motown crescendo suggest 1966 more than 2006; Spank Rock and Xxxchange have just gone from “tap dat ass” to Diana Ross in three minutes…and it makes perfect sense. This is the smartest booty record in recent memory.

Fans of “conscious rappers” and their ilk may avoid Spank Rock, under the presumption that it covers well-traveled (and maybe even insipid) ground. But Spank’s lyrics are cleverer than they might appear at first glance, and the nimble way he walks the line between irony and kitsch is refreshing. The chorus on “Coke and Wet” initially seems like an off-color game of hip-hop Madlibs (Coke and wet / Bitch guns / Nigga holla!), but in between the 808 tom-tom hits lay rhymes that are an interesting combination of satire and allegory: ”I’ll just flip this coke to crack / Flip U Penn to D.C. in the 80’s with the blacks…That’s big money stacked / That’s cum laude stacked / That’s Wall Street / Don Trump / Big scrilla stacked / B-more on the map.”

Yoyoyoyoyo is an ambitious effort on all fronts, but perhaps more importantly, it bumps hard. Cazals and Escalade sold separately.

By Chris Tabron

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