Spank Rock - Biography
Spank Rock, while generally considered a duo, is also the name taken by MC Naeem Juwan. As an act, Spank Rock is joined by producer XXXchange, who is sometimes credited as Armani XXXchange and was born into this world as Alex Epton. Both Spank Rock and XXXchange grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, though they did not meet until many years later, after they had both made independent forays into the underground rap and neo-electro scenes.
Spank Rock was introduced to the music business after forging a friendship with Shawn J. Period, a producer who had worked with Mos Def and Talib Kweli. As a kid, Spank Rock sought guidance from Period and the producer is often credited with giving him the motivation to move to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and begin his career as a rapper.
XXXchange’s entry into the world of music is set off by a notable education that includes studies at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore as well as the New England Conservatory. After extensive conventional study of music theory and writing, XXXchange left for New York. It was there that he took up with synth band Zero Zero for a hot minute as their drummer. Zero Zero is best known for the 2001 album AM Gold (Jade Tree), which was produced by the DFA team. Through this connection, XXXchange scored a much sought after apprenticeship with DFA, personally assisting Tim Goldsworthy and James Murphy — pioneers of modern electronic dance music.
After their mutual friend Alex Rockswell brought Spank Rock and XXXchange together at a Baltimore art gallery, the two found that their mixture of urban grit and bassy, modern electronic production could be a thing of genius. Spank Rock, as a duo, went on to produce a new rap sound that held nothing sacred in the ways of women and the right to party. Soon, the two were signed to Big Dada, a British label with a heavy talent roster. Two of the first Spank Rock singles, “Backyard Betty” and “Rick Rubin,” cut straight to the gut of dirty Baltimore party rap and made deejays, as well as stoop sitters, take notice.
In 2006, Spank Rock released their full-length debut album, YoYoYoYoYo on Big Dada. The album was most noted upon its release for its hypersexual themes and retro-Eighties samples. The genius of YoYoYoYoYo was said to have come from the Spank Rock boys knowing just when and how to tow the line between retro cheese and pleasant nostalgia. YoYoYoYoYo enjoyed the honor of being ranked number 24 on the Tiny Mix Tapes Top 25 and received a nomination for the 2006 Shortlist Music Prize, a yearly American prize awarded to releases that did not receive gold or platinum certification from the RIAA.
The YoYoYoYoYo track “Bump” has gotten major commercial use, finding its way into both a season three episode of the HBO show Entourage and into a commercial for Wish-Bone salad dressing. Several of the album’s songs also made it into console video games. Madden NFL 07 uses “Backyard Betty,” Need for Speed: Carbon features “What it Look Like,” and an instrumental version of “Loose” appears in NBA 2K9.
Without the aid of XXXchange, Spank Rock (the man and MC) put out Benny Blanco & Spank Rock Present: “Bangers and Cash” in 2007 on Downtown Records, which is also home to Santigold, Gnarls Barkley, and Mos Def. The five song EP is a collaboration with DJ and producer Benny Blanco, who had cut his teeth in the industry as an intern for Disco D. Benny Blanco & Spank Rock Present: “Bangers and Cash” is said to be an homage to 2 Live Crew and their booty bass sound. 2007 also brought about the opportunity for Spank Rock to weigh in on the remix of Justice’s “D.A.N.C.E.” with Mos Def. The remix was produced by Benny Blanco, Spank Rock’s oft-collaborating partner.
The duo began to gain momentum in the mainstream and performed at the mtvU Woodie Awards in 2007. They have also moved their way into the homes of unsuspecting Americans with special guest appearances on two popular late night talk shows; in early 2007, they appeared on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live to perform “Rick Rubin” and “Sweet Talk,” and March of 2009 brought the boys to the new NBC program Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, where they performed alongside Santigold.
Most recently, Spank Rock has lent their presence to track collaborations with other genre bending artists. “Ultraviolence” by Heartsrevolution got a remix by Spank Rock in 2009 and “Wachadoin” by N.A.S.A. features Spank Rock with M.I.A., Santigold, and Nick Zinner.