Spank Rock debuts real name, new sound and raw emotions
If the name Naeem Juwan does not ring a bell, you might recognize Spank Rock. The Baltimore native gained a name for himself in 2006 with the release of his album YoYoYoYoYo. At the time of his debut, he was more into the Baltimore club scene, where the bass was heavy and everyone was sweating. While this carefree party persona was working for him by gaining a following, he soon began writing more personal pieces about his feelings, thoughts and experiences. Now six years since he dropped an album under the Spank Rock moniker, Naeem debuts his government name and a sound that, while similar to his older stuff, exposes him in a new light.
The opening track on Startisha, “You and I,” gives people a consistent bassline with different moments of instruments at random beats. Once the chorus starts, they all come together and ends with a now malfunctioning sounding production with an angelic voice. While Naeem’s voice is strained, it seems to be on purpose, like he wants people to hear what he is saying completely. “Stimulation” has features from Justin Vernon and Swamp Dogg and exposes heavy 808’s. Coming up right after are the aggressive and spacey tracks, “Let Us Rave” featuring Velvet Negroni and “Woo Woo Woo,” with verses from Micah James and long time collaborator, Amanda Blank, that sort of bring back the old Spank Rock vibe.
“Us” follows close behind with angsty lyrics on love and uncertainty. “Stone Harbor” expresses the love and admiration for Naeem’s long-time boyfriend. With production and vocals sounding like an unreleased track from Childish Gambino’s Late Night in Kauai project, it gives people the freshness they need. “Right Here” is the simplest track on the LP as listeners hear lyrics speaking about growing and creating a space that Naeem can enjoy and love for himself. The album’s closer, “Tiger Song,” has an echoing heart monitor and the feel of marching into battle. With “read my lips” being echoed throughout the song, people have no choice but to focus on his experience and thoughts on being a Black man.
The true star of the album is the title track, “Startisha.” It’s the first time in the project where listeners are meeting Naeem Juwan as his authentic self. The muse of the song is a childhood friend who was dancing at a family party. Now older and recalling this moment, he thinks about this girl and if she’s changed, repeating many times, “I think of you and I wonder do you still move this way?” At the same time as he’s asking her if she’s the same, he is contemplating and wondering if he is as well. Eventually coming to the conclusion and emphasizing, “I’m still moving.” Coming in close to six minutes, the pop-focused song has a light drum pattern that comes in variations with vocals that change pitch throughout, almost as if it resembles the growth from the moment this song was inspired from to present day.
Startisha isn’t a complete escape from the works of Spank Rock, and why would it be? Naeem still has his techniques and tricks he picked up from his early days. The true change is the content and creativity. In a Zoom interview with the New York Times, he said, “I’m happy to have freed myself from the story that was laid out for me.” This debut of new music under his real name is a chance to slowly see who he genuinely is, and fans should be ready for the sounds that will come from this rebirth.