DJ Assault is almost weird enough to make up for all the rap DJs who give mixtapes a bad name. While others show off their silly turntable tricks or exclusive freestyle verses from second-rate artists, DJ Assault prowls the outskirts of hip-hop, reuniting rap’s bastard children: booty music from Florida, g-funk from California, drum’n’bass from Britain, r&b from wherever r&b comes from, and techno from his native Detroit. He started his career spinning house music in the mid ’80s, and over the last five years, he’s developed a horny, cosmopolitan style: Imagine the Zulu Nation trapped in a strip club.
If you don’t live in the Midwest, you’ve probably never heard of Assault’s Straight Up Detroit Shit series, an increasingly over-the-top string of CDs that documents his evolving obsession with fast beats and the art of whoring. Volume 5 was released in 1998, and it threw together 148 tracks, from Busta Rhymes to the Eurythmics, sped up until the men sounded like women and the women sounded like toys: “Freak them hoes in this house”; “I’m a diva”; “Let me see that coochie shake”; “Let me see your check stub.” The Straight Up Detroit Shit discs are the backbone of a microgenre that some people call “ghetto tech”—a jacked-up, unpretentious hybrid that seems to exist only in black Detroit. Done wrong, it’s grating and predictable: Assault’s crosstown rival is a white kid named DJ Godfather, whose mix series (Da Bomb, Volumes 1-3) is repetitious in the worst sense of the word. But at its best, this music is both base and cerebral, like a black-pop family reunion taken over by drunks: Carl Craig, meet Luther Campbell. The message is that some of the world’s best electronica comes from the strip-club culture of greater Orlando, and Assault’s mixes are proof. Who needs the Chemical Brothers when you’ve got the Quad City DJs?
Like any ambitious turntable geek, Assault is trying to build a reputation as a producer, not just a party DJ. His own tracks feature prominently on his compilations, and a few are underground classics: “Sex on the Beach” is a relatively romantic come-on anchored by a warped bell note, and it was included by Juan Atkins on his Wax Trax! Mastermix, Vol. 1; “Ass-n-Titties” skips the salad and heads straight for dessert—the lyrics don’t progress much beyond the title, and Assault sounds like a half-asleep pimp (in a good way).
The latest fruit of DJ Assault’s ambition is a CD called DJ Assaults Mixpilation. It’s basically an infomercial for Assault’s budding empire: The sound is more accessible and noticeably less frenetic than in the Straight Up Detroit Shit mixes, and it starts off with a few full-length perfunctory r&b originals. If you pass over those tracks, you can dive right into a 40-song set that starts with a sparse techno reworking of J.T. Money’s “Who Dat” and ends with a slow-motion version of Blackstreet’s “Girlfriend/Boyfriend.” In between, there’s a double-speed version of “Anywhere,” 112’s sublimely sleazy laundry list of places to fuck: “In the shower, both of our bodies dripping wet/In the bedroom, give you a night you won’t forget/On the kitchen floor, as I softly pull your hair/We can do it anywhere.” In Assault’s hands, a languid slow jam becomes a twitchy electro breakbeat, and the high-pitched voices trying to croon their way into bed are ridiculous—and winsome. Then, just as quickly as they came in, 112 are gone, and the next track cuts in, rudely replacing ghetto chivalry with techno misogyny: “Hood—rat—hood—rat—hood—rat . . . ”
Again and again, these competing sentiments crop up—contempt and desire, fuck you and fuck you—as Assault emphasizes the nightclub nastiness that most DJs try to ignore. The best moment is near the end, when the synthesizers fade out, and a stand-up comedian fades in. “You know,” he says brightly, “I found out you can call a bitch, uh—a woman—you can call her a bitch while you fucking her.” It’s an apt summary of a world in which sex is always dirty, but the comedian is just getting started. Just as the applause dies down, he lays into a portly woman in the audience. “Who the fuck wanna fuck you? Any nigga fuck you, he just too lazy to jack off!” A few tracks later, the beats stop, and the comedian’s target gets her revenge: A female voice shouts, “You all can kiss my motherfucking ass!”
What’s most surprising about all this is how strange these records don’t sound. After a year in which hip-hop was ruled by people like Destiny’s Child and Juvenile and Eve, Assault’s synthetic sexual politics only underscore the strange state of black pop today: As the music gets more diverse, the lyrics get more predictable. Trick Daddy is a perfect example: He rode the rap charts with a slang-and-snare-drum masterpiece called “Nann” (it’s included on the Mixpilation), but the lyrics were straight-up Jerry Springer formula—first he said, then she said, then everybody yelling at once. But I don’t think Assault would be offended by this analogy. In fact, the first and last words on the Mixpilation are swiped from Springer. His voice dripping with half-fake sympathy—you can just picture him gazing into the camera—Jerry Springer says, “We’ve got a pretty crazy show on our hands here.” Like Springer, DJ Assault believes that prurience and diversity are two sides of the same coin. And that makes him the most American-sounding techno DJ around.
Assault Rifle Records, available from
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