I Like Big Butts – 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.
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