Spank Rock no more: Philly expatriate Naeem Juwan goes solo

Naeem Juwan releases his debut solo album, “Startisha.”

Conan O’ Brien jokes aside, the year 2000 was an auspicious one: the start of Philly’s electro-hop dance scene. Diplo was just making himself known, as was Amada Blank and Santogold/Santigold/Santi White. Most importantly, Naeem Juwan moved to Philadelphia from Maryland at the top of the decade to go to Drexel University, but, but, but, not before pairing with producing-sequencing partner Alex Epton for a rapier-speedy, rowdy and rude rap take on hyper Baltimore club music as Spank Rock.

Like their music, the legend of Spank Rock hit hard and fast, perpetrated in no small fashion by – well, me – and other dance-oriented journalists, media influencers and label peeps who thought that Spank’s quick, hot electronic hip hop was the next big thing. Problem was, the labels didn’t know how to market the searing sound and its boastful, sexualized lyrics, and couldn’t get his work out to the public until 2006 with “YoYoYoYoYo,” a smashing, bold record, but, something of an afterthought considering the rise of DFA Records, The Rapture, LCD Soundsystem, Diplo’s acquaintance with MIA, and that DJ’s subsequent rise through the charts as Major Lazer.

Spank Rock’s 2011’s follow up “Everything Is Boring and Everyone Is a F- Liar,” was good, even great, but, just seemed like a last gasp, a final lob into the throb that was B-More club rap. So, Spank went back to being Naeem, waited out the better part of the decade, moved to Los Angeles, enlisted old pal Blank – also now a Los Angelino – and new pals Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and country-soul blues dude Swamp Dogg for “Startisha.”

Though his Amanda Black duet “Woo Woo Woo,” approximated the over-heated Spank Rock rap roar, the rest of “Startisha,” is a study in pop contrasts with “Stone Harbor,” being the catchiest and dreamiest of all those mood swings, to say nothing of “Simulation”’s vibey psychedelia.

Plus, most of Juwan’s “Startisha,” was crafted with Philly producers Sam Green and Grave Goods, and was recorded in Philadelphia, so the apple never falls far from the tree.


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