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Sir Mix a Lot


Inextricably linked with his pop culture touchstone "Baby Got Back," Sir Mix-A-Lot parlayed a gonzo tribute to women with large buttocks into hip-hop immortality, even despite his failure to score another hit of its magnitude. But even before he struck crossover gold, Sir Mix-A-Lot was one of rap's great D.I.Y. success stories. Coming from a city — Seattle — with barely any hip-hop scene to speak of, Mix-A-Lot co-founded his own record label, promoted his music himself, produced all his own tracks, and essentially pulled himself up by the proverbial American bootstraps. Even before "Baby Got Back," Mix-A-Lot was a platinum-selling album artist with a strong following in the hip-hop community, known for bouncy, danceable, bass-heavy tracks indebted to old-school electro. However, it took signing with Rick Rubin's Def American label — coupled with an exaggerated, parodic pimp image — to carry him into the mainstream. Perceived as a one-hit novelty, he found it difficult to follow his breakout success, but kept on recording, and even toured as part of a rap-rock supergroup called Subset, a collaboration with the Presidents of the United States of America.

Sir Mix-A-Lot was born Anthony Ray in Seattle on August 12, 1963. An eclectic music fan but a rabid hip-hop devotee, he was already actively rapping in the early '80s, and co-founded the Nastymix record label in 1983 with his DJ, Nasty Nes, who also hosted Seattle's first hip-hop radio show. His first single was 1987's "Posse on Broadway," which referred to a street in Seattle, not New York; it became a local hit, and paved the way for his first LP, 1988's Swass, which also featured the popular novelty "Square Dance Rap," and a Run-D.M.C.-style cover of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man," with backing by Seattle thrashers Metal Church. The video for "Posse on Broadway" landed some airplay on MTV, and became Sir Mix-A-Lot's first national chart single in late 1988; that in turn pushed Swass into the Top 20 of the R&B album chart, and by 1989, it had sold over a million copies. Also in 1989, Mix-A-Lot released his follow up album Seminar, which produced three charting singles in "Beepers," "My Hooptie," and "I Got Game"; while none were significant crossover hits with pop or R&B audiences, all performed well on the rap singles chart, and helped Seminar become Mix-A-Lot's second straight platinum album.

Financial disputes with Nastymix resulted in a fierce court battle and ended Mix-A-Lot's association with the label. Fortunately, Def American head Rick Rubin stepped in to offer him a major-label contract. Mix-A-Lot had long had a knack for mimicking (and mocking) the pimps he'd watched while growing up in Seattle, and adopted their visual style with Rubin's encouragement. He debuted for Def American with 1992's Mack Daddy, whose first single, "One Time's Got No Case," was a critique of racial profiling by police. It went virtually unheard, but the follow-up, "Baby Got Back," became a pop phenomenon virtually from the moment MTV aired its provocative video (which was eventually consigned to evening-hours only).

Seldom does a comic novelty song spark such a fierce cultural debate: no matter how ridiculous it sounded, "Baby Got Back" touched on highly sensitive, hot-button issues of race and sex with a cheerful, good-natured crudeness that was guaranteed to offend more than a few. Was it a token of appreciation for women whose body types were rarely given positive cultural attention, or just another sexist objectification? Was it an indictment of narrow, white-dictated beauty standards that left many typical black women (and the black men who loved them) out in the cold, or did it simply build up one type of woman by denigrating another? Feminists picketed Sir Mix-A-Lot concerts all across the country that summer, but despite their efforts, record buyers sided with the rapper: "Baby Got Back" spent five weeks atop the pop charts, selling over two million copies; it also pushed Mack Daddy into the Top Ten, and went on to win a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance. Billboard magazine ranked it as the second biggest single of the year, behind only Boyz II Men's juggernaut "End of the Road."

With 1994's Chief Boot Knocka, Sir Mix-A-Lot tried to follow Mack Daddy — and "Baby Got Back" in particular — with a set of danceable party tunes that, like the strip-club anthem "Put 'Em on the Glass," often played up his obsession with the female form. Although it sold respectably among R&B audiences, the mainstream — perhaps assuming they had already heard Mix-A-Lot's best shot — virtually ignored it. Personnel shakeups at American Recordings preceded 1996's Return of the Bumpasaurus, ensuring that it ranked a very low promotional priority for the label. Mix-A-Lot dissolved his relationship with them, and spent several years off record — partly for legal reasons, partly because of a simple frustration with the music industry in general.

During that time, he managed to hook up with the similarly frustrated members of the grunge/novelty band the Presidents of the United States of America. Mix-A-Lot had long been interested in rap-rock fusions — in addition to his Metal Church collaboration, he'd also teamed up with Mudhoney on the Judgment Night soundtrack tune "Freak Momma" — and started playing with PUSA in 1998. Eventually, they adopted the name Subset, and worked on some material in the studio; they also mounted a small-scale tour in 2000, but subsequently went their separate ways, partly owing to musical differences and partly to a lack of enthusiasm for the process of putting out a record. Some of their studio recordings were leaked over the Internet, but were never officially released. Solo again, Sir Mix-A-Lot signed with the small Artist Direct label and released his sixth album, Daddy's Home, in 2003; the lead single, "Big Johnson," was a satire of men who exaggerated their manhood, written at the behest of female fans who wanted equal treatment in Mix-A-Lot's sex rhymes.

In 1986, Sir Mix-a-Lot and his partner, Nasty Nes, founded the Nastymix record label. His first hit, released in 1987, was the single "Posse on Broadway," whose title referred to Broadway in Seattle's Capitol Hill district. The Godzilla remix of "Posse on Broadway" contained a sample from David Bowie's 1975 hit "Fame," but neither the album version nor the original seven-inch edit version (which was used for the video) used the Bowie sample. Swass, his debut album, was released in 1988, with two other singles: "Square-Dance Rap" and a hip hop cover of the Black Sabbath song "Iron Man" backed by the band Metal Church. In 1990, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified Swass platinum for selling a million copies.

Sir Mix-A-Lot debuted on the Def American label, which also bought the rights of his first two albums, with Mack Daddy in 1992. Its single "Baby Got Back" was a number-one hit that went double platinum and won the 1993 Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance. MTV aired the video for "Baby Got Back" only during evening hours because of its sexual nature. In 1993, Sir Mix-a-Lot collaborated with Seattle-based grunge group Mudhoney for the song "Freak Momma" on the Judgment Night soundtrack.

Low label promotion of his 1996 album Return of the Bumpasaurus led Sir Mix-a-Lot to leave the American label. During the three year break, Sir Mix-a-Lot worked closely with another group, The Presidents of the United States of America under the group name "Subset" with a combination of rock and rap music, but nothing was ever officially released. Sir Mix-a-Lot signed with the independent Artist Direct label for his 2003 album Daddy's Home with "Big Johnson" as its lead single. Despite having taken several years off from recording, Sir Mix-a-Lot is still known to mix frequently.

In 2010, Sir Mix-a-Lot announced his next album, Dun 4got About Mix. The lead single "Carz" was released to YouTube on 23 Nov 2010. By June 2011, the video had acquired over a million views, although no release date for the album has been set. In the same year, his F.U.B.A.R. Remix for the song Conditions Of My Parole appeared on Puscifer's remix album All Re-Mixed Up.

In 2013, Sir Mix-a-Lot produced the album "Dream" for the up-and-coming Urban Rock band, Ayron Jones and the Way. Mix-a-lot opened for Ayron Jones and the Way for their album release party at Neumos on November 2.

Also in 2013, Sir Mix-a-Lot promoted the Washington State Lottery over the Christmas season, and advertisements featuring his music even appeared on Spotify.

On June 6, 2014, Sir Mix-a-Lot collaborated and performed with the Seattle Symphony on a new composition by Gabriel Prokofiev as part of the symphony's Sonic Evolution series of new orchestral pieces inspired by Seattle's music icons.

Also in 2014, Nicki Minaj released the single "Anaconda," prominently featuring a sample from "Baby Got Back." Sir Mix-a-Lot effusively praised both the artist and the song, calling it the "new and improved version" of "Baby Got Back."

His height is 5'11" (1.80 m).
His music video for the early 1990s and the #1 hit "Baby Got Back" was actually one of the first music videos to get banned by MTV for its gratuitous depiction of a female backside. MTV had relegated it to a late-night viewing.

 

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