How can something so simple and repetitive be so damn funky? How can a song whose only words are the refrain "Every freakin' day, every freakin' night, I wanna freak you girl, your body's so freakin' tight" be so complicated and engaging, so curious and raw? And why do otherwise white-bread, clean-cut freaks go all crazy when the rough booty anthem "Asses Wigglin'" pumps out of the PA? The easy answer, of course, is that men are dogs who get all hot and bothered at the mere mention of a hot booty. But why do the ladies like it, too?
DJ Assault makes what he calls "accelerated funk" from his home base of Detroit. Others call the music he makes any number of things: "Ghetto-tech" -- as in "ghetto techno" -- is the most common descriptive; his style is also sometimes called simply "booty." Others call it "techno-bass." PC-ers will no doubt call it offensive, sexist garbage, because it's totally raunchy and shocking. Seems everyone involved in making the music has his own tag for it, though, much to Assault's dismay, the tag that has stuck is ghetto-tech.
"I don't know where the name came from," says Assault (born Craig Adams). "People kind of just made it up. So the new way that I'm marketing the thing that I do is "accelerated funk.' Maybe some people -- maybe there are ghetto-tech artists. Fine, if that's what they do.
"I made up the whole style, period," he continues. "And then for somebody to name it, it wasn't for them to name. I give it a lot of thought -- what I do takes a lot of time, and when I was ready to come up with someone, it came to me. It's, like, "Ghetto-tech? What does that mean?' It's not educating people to how I see it. By me going all around the world and everywhere, when you say what you do, it has to be descriptive, and that's where "accelerated funk' came from."
DJ Assault, along with the Detroit Grand Pu Bahs, Ming & FS and others, is appearing somewhere in the area this weekend as part of the Superstars of Love's Lovetronic party.
Assault has been making records since the early '90s, and over the past few years these records have gradually come to be Detroit classics -- no small feat, considering the storied reputation of Detroit techno. Despite his claim that he "made up the whole style, period," he didn't, though he fits snugly on the continuum of boundary-busting techno. His tracks -- basic and engaging, solid and straightforward -- are designed for one purpose: dancing. His brand of fast-funk is blue to the core. Tracks titled "Drop Dem Panties," "Sex on the Beach," "Dick by the Pound" and "Ass-N-Titties" all rely on a relatively simple formula: Find a funky, 808-driven beat; toss in a synthetic melody, some fake handclaps and a solid, deep bass pattern; then get all nasty on top of it. And though there's a formula and Assault pretty much has stuck to it, the result is nearly always sticky and sweet -- and, sure, to some, offensive. "Dick by the Pound," for example, is self-explanatory: Assault is boasting about his large, er, well, pee-pee and how he's giving it away, well, by the pound to any woman willing. Generous alpha that he is, he's offering a piece of his body. Like a car salesmen, he describes in great detail his merchandise, and it's a genuine eyebrow-raiser.
Big deal -- some dude is bragging about what a strong lover he is. It's shocking and explicit, sure, but, really, these tracks are part of a timeline that can be traced back to early blues shockers such as Bo Carter's "Mashing That Thing" (and, actually, Carter's entire body of work) and Memphis Minnie's "If You See My Rooster (Please Run Him Home)"; the only difference is that DJ Assault has no need for double entendre. Still, anyone raised a good Christian (or feminist, or conservative) will have issues with the subject matter, though the essence of Assault's music is simple: A man is bragging, and he's being explicit about it.
Then, though, something interesting happens in the song. We hear the voice of a woman, a woman who is giving away her special place by the pound, and suddenly the prettier sex, moments earlier the subject of objectification and patronization, is speaking up, responding to Assault's boastful claims with some equally explicit and raunchy claims of her own: "I hope you won't scream, like you're having a wet dream. I hope your back is strong, we can go all night long." It totally changes the dynamic of the song, and once the tender-eared adjust to the shock of it all, Assault reminds you what a master beat scientist he is.
It's funny and subversive and curious party music, the kind of stuff that, played in clubs, is a dance-floor magnet from the get-go; before the words come in, both sexes file onto the dance floor and start dancing. As the lyrics kick in -- say, the lyrics to "Drop Dem Panties," which consist of only those three words, along with a Beastie Boys sample from Licensed to Ill -- you can watch the confusion on the dancers' faces: Laugh, or storm off the dance floor? Complain, or party? Usually it's no contest; the music is so simple and celebratory that it tethers you to the beat.
Assault says that his music is very much the product of his years spent in the birthplace of techno, Detroit, and that city's party scene: "It makes it unique, because, a producer from somewhere else, if you weren't from Detroit, you wouldn't understand how to do it and make it as street as I can make it, because house -- ghetto Chicago house, and techno from here -- it became like real ghetto. When it was really happening in '93, a lot of the clubs got shut down from people getting killed and shot. I mean, it was -- you had to be there. It was Detroit. It was ghetto stuff. Then there's people that try to do the same style, but they really weren't there to do that style, to really understand it. They're just hearing something and, you know, going from there. But the root of where it came from was -- gangsta rap in a lot cities was the ghetto [music] -- that was the urban, inner-city thing. We had the gangsta rap, but we also had house, techno and Miami bass. All of that stuff was ghetto and urban in Detroit."
DJ Assault's most recent mix CD, called Off the Chain for the Y2K, features 83 songs on a single disc. His method is insane: The disc is a continuous mix, with most of the tracks coming and going in mere seconds and each new track highlighting only the most basic snippet: "Aw Shit" gives way to "Push It Up" in the blink of an eye, followed quickly by "Ride in My Truck" and so on. It's fast-and-furious mixing, aided by Protools and digital editing by Ade "Mr. De" Mainor, Assault's former collaborator -- and, some say, the true mastermind of the Assault sound, although now, according to Assault, the two are "total enemies." Live, says Assault, he does things differently.
"I'm working on an actual live performance, more of a stage show, but right now it's basically a two-turntable-type thing, and the CD is multitrack. I might play 100 records or so in my set, because, although it's only two turntables, I do a lot of tricks with two of the same records and, like, mixing another record in real quick. So I'll only play a record for like a minute, minute-and-a-half. I never really play a full song. People pretty much like it. It's a little fast, but if people are into it -- I really haven't had any complaints."
Also on the Lovetronic bill are the Detroit Grand Pu Bahs, whose club smash of last year, "Sandwiches," has yet to yield a follow-up (we're waiting patiently, Pu Bahs), and Ming & FS, who mix hip-hop and jungle to create their own brand of breakbeat, which they call the junkyard style.