Interview Spank Rock: The Nicest Guy In Hip-Hop

El Hunt embarks on a transatlantic Skype sesh to find out about the new album, 90’s rap, and Spank’s attitude towards fame.

Spank Rock may have been the exceptionally well-turned-out young chap from Mark Ronson’s Bicycle Song, but those in the know who are familiar with debut ‘YoYoYoYo’ will know that sharp suits and snappy guest raps are just the beginning of Naeem Juwan’s talents. DIY had a transatlantic Skype sesh with the nicest guy in hip-hop to find out more about the new album, 90’s rap, and Spank’s attitude towards fame.

Hello Spank Rock, are you having a nice day today?
Well its 8.10 in Philly, so I’m only just getting started [laughs], but yeah, so far I am.

There’s quite a bit of collaboration on your new album, Boyz Noize and Santigold are both on it. What were they like to work with?
It was really fun, me and Santi have worked on music before and she’s one of my closest friends in the industry. It’s just easy; it’s kind of like working with my sister or something. Alex [Boyz Noize] was amazing cos it was my first time working with him, and it was for a long period of time. I was in Berlin for a month just working. He’s really patient and smart, and he made me feel the most comfortable out of any of the producers I’ve ever worked with

You’ve also appeared on a pretty diverse range of other albums and tracks; the Crookers album, Mark Ronson’s Bicycle Song, and a Kylie remix Are you influenced by them at all?
They definitely influence me in a way, but I think it just confuses things…it just confuses me more. I’m just surprised that there’s so many people wanting to work with me. I don’t know why Kylie Minogue likes my music, I dunno what that’s all about [laughs].

Who would be your dream collaboration?
I think maybe Prince… but actually that would probably be a bit of a nightmare. Actually I think Andre 3000 would be awesome to work with.

What kind of stuff did you listen to when you were growing up?
I started off listening to a lot of pop music like New Edition, Michael [Jackson], Prince and Madonna and stuff like that, and then once I got older I just got into hip-hop pretty heavily. I listened to a lot of Mobb Deep and Tribe Called Quest, Wu Tang, all the good rappers of the 90’s.

Do you think their influence comes through into your own music?
I think all the pop stuff and the early 80’s made me love dance music. I feel like I always want my music to be happy and fun, something you can dance to. I like dancing a lot…but then at the same time I think some of the hip-hop stuff, well, it just turned me into a pretty decent rapper, and it also kind of brings out the tougher, sort of more profane guy in me.

Your new album is called “Everything is Boring and Everyone’s a Fucking Liar” - that’s fairly profane as album titles go. Where did that come from?
Me and my friend were just talking about my first album, he was wondering what made me want to make a hip-hop album that sounded like that, during a time where nobody in hip-hop was really thinking about dance music, about electronic music, nobody was kind of focusing on what happened to post-punk and rapping over it. Suddenly I just thought that I’m so tired of being on the underground hip-hop scene and I felt like things were becoming very stagnant and a lot of creativity was being lost. I just said to my friend, everything is boring. I felt like everyone was a fucking liar. I felt like a lot of people were imitating a certain style, an aesthetic from the past, and it just wasn’t inspiring me. I just said that line, and he said, well, there’s your album name. I thought it was funny.

When I listened to the album, #1 Hits stood out because it seemed to parody fast-fame, and it was quite tongue in cheek. Is that what you set out to do?
I can’t say it’s a complete parody because I really wanted to make a strong pop song, something that people could actually get into – I didn’t want it to be a complete joke. When I made it I was thinking of the Black Eyed Peas, and LMFAO, y’know those easy raps talking about fame and money. I just thought it was a silly concept to rap about but I still wanted to do it. I wanted to make a song about fame and how obsessed people are over it, to bring up that discussion. And I think that if the Black Eyed Peas had sung it then there would’ve been no irony in it. The irony really comes in when it’s stuck on the Spank Rock album, when people listen to it in its entirety.

So what do you think about shows like the X Factor that catapult people into the spotlight?
I think they’re entertaining, I mean, it’s interesting to watch, there’s something really sweet and innocent about people wanting to show their talent, and wanting to become famous instantly. The thing is though; I’ve had to work pretty hard to get to the position that I’m in. I do really try to challenge myself as a songwriter, I want to my music to challenge my audience too, I want it to be something that’s new and fresh I’ve been looking at some reviews lately and everyone has been comparing this new album to YoYoYoYo and they say that my first album was this amazing genius cult album or whatever, and I’m like no! I mean, when it came out, no it wasn’t! Like, no one cared about it. I had to tour for a good year and a half, turn culture; make it something that people were interested in. And so the fact that I have to work so hard to be a part of music culture, I think I get a little pissed off with people who want instant pop fame. But y’know, I try not to take too harder stance on it.

Any upcoming artists you think that DIY should be keeping an eye on?
I’m really into this band, a punk band called Dope Body from Baltimore right now. It’s really loud crazy, rhythms and shit, but yeah, I think they’re really awesome.

Have you started touring the new material yet?
I just got off a tour opening up for Ke$ha and LMFAO, I’m about to go back out with Big Frieda and The Death Set, and then I think I’m going to come to Europe for a little bit.

So we’ll be seeing you on UK shores?
Yeah I’ll be there sometime soon, in December I think

What should we look forward to from a Spank Rock live show?
I think you can expect a lot of good energy, dancing, I feel like my shows are a reflection of the audience. Hopefully there’s a good communication and a good vibe between us because it’s just me and a microphone. I don’t have any pyrotechnics or anything. It has to be a very genuine exchange between the audience and me. I don’t know what to expect whenever I go out.

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