That ethos is echoed by another DJ who’s on his way to town, Naeem Juwan of Spank Rock, a duo who’ll headline upstairs at the Middle East on Sunday with fellow party types Audio Vandal from Certified Bananas and DJ Makko. “I’m inspired by DJs more than any performers recently,” Juwan says. “Like Cosmo Baker. I’ve seen Cosmo go out and spin on a slow night, he’ll spin the same as when he spins on a packed night.” Juwan and his producer xxxchange (real name: Alex Upton) have been bubbling up at clubs from Baltimore to New York for a few years now. But their remarkable debut, Yoyoyoyoyo (Big Dada), just dropped this month, and it’s giving their profile a serious boost.
“It’s all about the music, and what makes the Rub happy is when people are enjoying themselves,” Juwan says, referring to his scene mates before taking the stage in Denton, Texas. “I’m thinking the same thing. If the people who come out to our shows are not having fun, then I am not doing a proper job.” Spank Rock’s music is a bad-ass combination of electronic breaks, booty-busting bass, and wild, ear-bending samples. On “Touch Me,” Upton drops a roaring-cat sample over buzzing synths and bending horns. The album’s lead track — and one of the best singles so far this year — is “Backyard Betty,” which explodes from the speakers with bass buzz and a click-clocky cadence. “Ass-shaking competition champ,” Juwan begins, telling the story of Betty. “She’s the toughest, sexiest chick in the club and she knows it.”
He continues, “Our music’s really not meant to be played in the middle of the day. It’s music for the party, definitely for the party.” Like A-Trak, Spank Rock are trying to transform performances into parties, keeping people moving and enjoying themselves. People dance at a Spank Rock show because “they don’t really have any other choice. They’re rocking out with us. Last night’s show [in Kansas City] turned out to be really really fun. But I had to stop for a second and say, ‘What do you guys think this is? This is not an Iron and Wine show!’ ” He laughs. “You know what I’m sayin’? And once I called them out, it started to kick the party up a little bit and it was a lot of fun.”
There’s more to Spank Rock’s vibe than just getting fucked-up at a party, though. In today’s climate of fear and oppression, having fun can be a political act. And Juwan, who started his career in Baltimore slinging political rhymes, seems to grasp this. “It shouldn’t be radical. People should feel comfortable and express themselves. I don’t think what we do is radical, I think natural is the best word to use.”