Baltimore's Spank Rock: Unhinged but Hot

Monday, October 30, 2006

After scanning the Black Cat on Friday, Spank Rock's Ronnie Darko said, "D.C. look like Vanilla City from here." But even the white folk got loose, because there ain't no party like a Spank Rock party -- even when it's one hot mess.

Naeem Juwan, who goes by MC Spank Rock, and Darko were backed by two DJs, and in front of a half-full club they put on an hour-long hip-hop performance that was less of a formal concert and more of an unhinged bash. It even included audience participation: Midway through the set a couple of girls climbed onstage to dirty-dance with the lanky, body-rocking Juwan; by the end of the show the stage was filled with revelers getting their freak on.

All the audience merriment made up for what was a choppy performance by the Spank Rock crew. Songs ended early, there were often long breaks between tunes, and the sound was muddy.

It's not as if Spank Rock is new to the stage: The group recently opened several big shows for Beck and toured the world in 2006 to support its debut CD, "YoYoYoYoYo." But perhaps the Spank Rock posse treated the evening more like a kegger than a concert because so many of their friends came to the gig. While MC Spank Rock now lives in Philly, a stage-right screen often featured a logo that big-upped his home town. "Baltimore Bass Connection," it said, in the style of an old Orioles pennant.

Spank Rock's songs are steeped in Charm City's club scene, whose music features a mixture of rapped lyrics (generally filthy) and minimalist house beats. The joyful Spank Rock gang puts its own spin on Baltimore booty-bass music by making it accessible to everybody -- even Vanilla City.

-- Christopher Porter

© 2006 The Washington Post Company