For Those Who Can't Sleep On Hip Hop

Interview with XXXCHANGE (of Spank Rock) -by Todd E. Jones

July 26, 2006

“XXXChange Says, ‘YoYoYo!’ to Spank Rock”xxxchange
An Interview with XXXCHANGE (of Spank Rock)
(July 2006)
Interview by Todd E. Jones
Hip-hop music is beautiful when it blows your mind. Don’t you love it when you hear an artist or a song and you say to yourself, “Damn! That’s dope!” Hip-hop is magnificently stimulating when an artist and/or a producer gives listeners something completely fresh. The influences may be prevalent, but the final product is innovative and unique. The music of Spank Rock possesses this power. The emcee, Spank Rock (Naeem) and his producer, XXXChange have solidified a musical bond. They have the chemistry of legendary duos like Guru & Premier or Eric B. & Rakim. As Spank Rock rhymes his brash lyrics, XXXChange produces inimitably vigorous beats. Together, they have created some of the most exciting, coolest, and fun hip-hop music in a very long time. Spank’s odd flow is accentuated by a feminine vocal tone. Regardless of his cadence, Spank uses a fervent confidence to deliver his sexually charged lyrics. The perfect fuel for Spank’s rhymes, XXXChange’s production work consists of thick electronic melodies and rhythms. The typical hip-hop heard on the radio is a bore compared to Spank Rock.

Hailing from Baltimore (Maryland), Spank Rock and XXXChange signed to the European label, Big Dada (subsidiary of Ninja Tune Records). Big Dada is also home to other underground hip-hop artists like King Geedorah (MF Doom), Ty, Roots Manuva, Cloudheaded, Busdriver, Infesticons, Majesticons, Big Juss and New Flesh. Spank Rock’s first single on Big Dada sparked some attention due to the titillating title. A listener without knowledge of their past may assume that they’re European. The sound, flow, lyrics, style, and production is unlike typical American hip-hop music. Their single, “Rick Rubin” pays homage to the old-school hip-hop innovator. The b-side, “Rick Rubin-President Evil Remix” features Pase Rock (of Five Deez) contributing a mind-blowing performance with an old-school energy. Their next single, “Sweet Talk” is a magnificent track with a extreme sexual energy. The chanting of girls during the song’s finale, is a perfect example of their fun and creative style.

Spank Rock’s debut album “YoYoYoYoYoYo” is destined to be a modern classic. The tight LP also includes magnificent songs like “Bump,” “What It Look Like,” and “Backyard Betty.” The album never gives the listener the urge to skip a track. From start to finish, “YoYoYoYoYoYo” is innovative, fun, aggressive, odd, psychedelic, rude, sexy, and brash. Spank Rock and XXXChange have created an LP that reignites that refreshing feeling of when I first heard hip-hop.

spank rockTODD E. JONES: Tell us about the album.”
XXXCHANGE: “We started making ‘YoYoYoYoYo’ a couple of years ago, with no real idea that it was ever going to be released or get half the attention that it is now receiving. We really just did it for fun and for the love of the music. I think that if we knew that the record would make it this far into the public eye, we probably would have edited a lot of stuff out. It’s kind of like being caught with your pants down. Still, there’s some really good spontaneous stuff on there.”

TODD E. JONES: “Is there some deeper meaning behind the title, ‘Yo Yo Yo’ ?”
XXXCHANGE: “Not really. It’s actually ‘YoYoYoYoYo’. It sounds funny when journalists have to say it in interviews.”

TODD E. JONES: “Favorite song on the ‘YoYoYoYoYo’?”
XXXCHANGE: “Probably ‘Sweet Talk’ or ‘Rick Rubin’. I like ‘Backyard Betty’ too, but I think we f**ked up the structure of it.”

TODD E. JONES: “Which song took the longest to create from conception to completion? Why?”
XXXCHANGE: “Naeem originally did ‘Rick Rubin’ four or five years ago with a guy from Philly named Steve Mcready. I did some engineering for them and ended up with the multi-track parts to it. Two years ago, after we finished ‘Backyard Betty,’ I thought that I could make the vocal from ‘Rick Rubin’ fit in with some of the stuff we had been working on. So, I put it over a new beat and changed the arrangement a little. I remixed a lot of the songs on the record, so that they would fit better with each other as I learned how to produce, make beats, et cetera. The sound of the record is really just me learning and trying to update stuff, so that it didn’t sound crappy next to the newer stuff.”

TODD E. JONES: “Do you do many overdubs while recording?”
XXXCHANGE: “Vocal overdubs? Not really. We try and get a whole verse in one shot. Sometimes, we’ll do a punch in. On the faster stuff, ‘Girls And Boys’, we did some more standard punching in type stuff. Naeem did the verses on ‘Competition’ in one take each. I like to keep the feel kind of loose. Sometimes, he will be writing as we go along. We just try to get it down so he can live with it for a while. Then, he’ll come back and do it in one take.”

TODD E. JONES: “When creating a track, do you have a set theme or idea, or do you create the music first?”
XXXCHANGE: “We’ll usually start with a beat. Sometimes, we’ll record Naeem’s lyrics. Then, I’ll go back and totally change the beat to fit the lyrics better.”

TODD E. JONES: “Musically, what else have you been working on?”
XXXCHANGE: “Lots of remixes, stuff for Amanda Blank, Kid Sister, and lots of remixes and beats.”

TODD E. JONES: “What are some of your favorite drum machines / samplers?”
XXXCHANGE: “I did the whole record on a $500 Pro-Tools system. I think I had one synthesizer that I used on one track. Pretty much every sound on the record comes from sample CDs and recordings that I did at home. I did a lot of sound design and signal processing to get the result that I wanted from this simple set-up. Using Pro-Tools, instead of an MPC, allowed me to really be creative with the vocal editing and arrangements, as opposed to making the beat and passing it off to somebody else.”

TODD E. JONES: “On the song, ‘Power, Money And Influence’ from Guru’s ‘Version 7.0: The Street Scriptures’ album, Talib Kweli states that Pro-Tools made producers lazy. Do you agree?”
XXXCHANGE: “I think Talib Kweli is working with the wrong guys. Computers are just tools, same as tape machines. It’s up to the artist to make something happen. They shouldn’t blame the tool if it’s not happening.”

TODD E. JONES: “Around what time in your career did you start financially surviving form music?”
XXXCHANGE: “Not yet.”

TODD E. JONES: “Do you think that success and credibility are mutually exclusive?”
XXXCHANGE: “Maybe not. It’s hard to say. I mean there’s a lot of art music that was never successful, which is certainly credible. There’s a lot of bullshit that was never successful too. It all depends on what you want to achieve. I think me and Naeem both really want to make music that people like, and can connect with. Artists like Stevie Wonder or Prince never sacrificed their artistic ideals to get success. You have to be very good at what you do to have massive hits. I don’t think it is really a credibility issue, unless the artist is invented by the record company.”

TODD E. JONES: “Who are some artists you would like to collaborate with in the future?”
XXXCHANGE: “I want to keep working with Naeem and our other friends for a while, just to see how the whole thing is going to develop. I’d love to work with Missy or Busta Rhymes though. They always seem to pick really good beats.”

TODD E. JONES: “Who are some producers you would like to collaborate with in the future?”
XXXCHANGE: “Maybe David Byrne or Brian Eno. I love the records they made back in the day. Quincy Jones.”

TODD E. JONES: “How has being on a European-based label been an obstacle in hip-hop?”
XXXCHANGE: “They think that hype alone will sell records. They’ve skimped on the marketing budget and on buying ads. This is shit that I don’t like to talk about or even think about. It’s a no-brainer. I feel let down.”

TODD E. JONES: “What LPs have you been listening to in the last couple of days?”
XXXCHANGE: “Remix request stuff, Para One from France, and Miami pirate radio stations, which are really great by the way.”

TODD E. JONES: “How has your live show evolved?”
XXXCHANGE: “We freestyle every show. We have never rehearsed, but people always seem to have fun at our shows. We put a lot of effort in, when on stage. The audience usually shows their appreciation. Our DJ’s, now, are really great. We’re going to continue to work together, as a team, to improve the quality of our shows.”

TODD E. JONES: “How are American audiences different from European audiences?”
XXXCHANGE: “Not that different, but you can’t play Doobie Brothers or Creedence to a European audience. They won’t get it. You have to play them Daft Punk or something that they understand better. We usually mix in more classic rock and stuff like that in America. Still, you never know what people might like until you try.”

TODD E. JONES: “What do you think about current situation between the United States and the Middle East?”
XXXCHANGE: “I think that invading Iraq was a really stupid idea. It’s time for a regime change over here too. I don’t really know too much about politics, but it seems like the guys in power over here are really, really bad.”

TODD E. JONES: “There are a myriad of drug references in the ‘YoYoYoYoYo’ LP. What kind of drugs do you enjoy? What drugs have you done? Which drugs don’t you do anymore? Why?”
XXXCHANGE: “I’m not going to endorse any drugs to anybody.”

TODD E. JONES: “What is your opinion on MySpace?”
XXXCHANGE: “I think it’s great for musicians as a networking tool. It sucks that Rupert Murdock has everybody’s personal information though.”

TODD E. JONES: “What was the last incident of racism you experienced?”
XXXCHANGE: “Getting called ‘Beastie Boy’ and ‘Eminem’ in a Baltimore record store. Is that racist? It felt like it.”

TODD E. JONES: “Word association. When I say the name, you say the first word that pops into your head. So, if I said, ‘Public Enemy’, you may say ‘Revolution’ or ‘Chuck D’. Okay?”

TODD E. JONES: “Mos Def.”
XXXCHANGE: “Black Star.”

TODD E. JONES: “Five Deez.”
XXXCHANGE: “Pase Rock.”

TODD E. JONES: “Dead Prez.”
XXXCHANGE: “That song where they tell you what to eat.”

TODD E. JONES: “Atmosphere.”
XXXCHANGE: “Metro area.”

TODD E. JONES: “Happy Mondays.”
XXXCHANGE: “Joy Division.”

TODD E. JONES: “Kool Keith.”
XXXCHANGE: “Dr. Octagon.”

TODD E. JONES: “Coldcut.”
XXXCHANGE: “True Skool.”

TODD E. JONES: “Wu-Tang Clan.”

TODD E. JONES: “Eminem.”

TODD E. JONES: “Public Enemy.”

TODD E. JONES: “Little Brother.”
XXXCHANGE: “So ten years ago.”

TODD E. JONES: “Phife Dawg.”

XXXCHANGE: “Danger Mouse.”

TODD E. JONES: “De La Soul.”
XXXCHANGE: “Prince Paul.”

TODD E. JONES: “Jimi Hendrix.”
XXXCHANGE: “Mitch Mitchell.”

TODD E. JONES: “Rakim.”

TODD E. JONES: “Curtis Mayfield.”
XXXCHANGE: “Back To The World.”

TODD E. JONES: “Billy Holiday.”xxxchange
XXXCHANGE: “Baltimore.”

TODD E. JONES: “Gil-Scott Heron.”

TODD E. JONES: “George Bush.”
XXXCHANGE: “Poison.”

TODD E. JONES: “Who are your biggest influences?”
XXXCHANGE: “My musician and DJ friends, probably more than any one artist.”

TODD E. JONES: “What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your career?”
XXXCHANGE: “Work hard and don’t sign anything without a lawyer.”

TODD E. JONES: “Favorite films?”
XXXCHANGE: “‘Repo Man,’ ‘O Brother Where Art Thou,’ and The Beatles documentary.”

TODD E. JONES: “What is a typical day like for you?”
XXXCHANGE: “I usually wake up at 8 or 9 AM, make beats, or do remixes until 1 PM. Then, I do errands or visit my dad, who has Parkinson’s disease. Then, sometimes, I’ll do some more music at night or go out with my girlfriend and my friends. Either that, or we’re on tour or doing a show somewhere.”

TODD E. JONES: “What are some major misconceptions do you think people have of you?”
XXXCHANGE: “That we are sexist.”

TODD E. JONES: “Are you in a romantic relationship these days? How have touring, recording, and the hip-hop lifestyle affected your relationship?”
XXXCHANGE: “Being on the road is hard on my relationship, but so far, it’s working out. I try and spend a lot of time with my girlfriend, when I’m home.”

TODD E. JONES: “Do you get along with your parents? What do they think about your music?”
XXXCHANGE: “My parents have always been supportive of me and my music making, but lately, my family thing has been very stressful and demanding. My mom died last May 2005 and my dad is very sick, so I have to plan music stuff around my obligations to him. My dad doesn’t like the music I’m doing now, but he is happy that my career is going well.”

TODD E. JONES: “What would you want on your epitaph?”
XXXCHANGE: “Lately, I’ve been so close to death and disease, in my family, that I really can’t afford to think about stuff like this because it’s just too depressing.”

TODD E. JONES: “Are there any collaborations fans should look out for?”
XXXCHANGE: “Maybe something with Mode Selektor from Germany. Possibly, some stuff with The Death Set from Australia. Also, maybe something with Best Fwends from Denton. It’s all up in the air, right now. We’re trying to keep it in the family.”

TODD E. JONES: “What’s next?”
XXXCHANGE: “More touring, remixing, and we’re psyching ourselves up to begin work on a new Spank Rock record.”

TODD E. JONES: “Final words?”
XXXCHANGE: “Shout out to BBC Sound System and everybody else from Baltimore who’s supported us.”


Interview by Todd E. Jones

NOTICE: This interview is property of Todd E. Jones and cannot be duplicated or posted without written permission.

SPANK ROCK MySpace page:
XXXCHANGE MySpace page:
SPANK ROCK’s “Air Cock Thrust”:
BIG DADA Records:

Rick Rubin” (video – clean version) – SPANK ROCK

Backyard Betty” (video) – SPANK ROCK
Rick Rubin” (snippet) – SPANK ROCK

What It Look Like” (snippet) – SPANK ROCK

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