Q&A: Sir Mix-a-Lot Talks "Baby Got Back," Big Butts, and Big Women
In 1992, the Seattle rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot mounted a deeply dented half-peach hill and boasted proudly, defiantly, ravenously: I Like. Big. Butts! And I cannot lie! Nearly 20 years later, "Baby Got Back" still reigns as the big-booty anthem of the 20th century. Although the archetype of feminine pulchritude lyrically sculpted by the Billboard chart-topper was one with an "itty bitty" waist planted atop a "real thick and juicy" backside, the double-Platinum classic has since been adopted as a fat-people psalm, something that Guys Who Like Fat Chicks could "nod solemnly in solidarity with," as one 28-year-old Fat Admirer interviewed for this week's feature story put it.
The 48-year-old gearhead--born Anthony Ray--didn't intend this, though he's certainly not mad at it. As the Grammy winner explained over his cell phone from Grange, Atlanta, where he'd been for a convention, he was talking more about women shaped like J. Lo "at her peak" than Nell Carter. After the jump, hip-hop's most famous ass man elaborates.
"Baby Got Back" came out almost 20 years ago.
Yeah, 20 years next year. Thinking about doing something for that. I don't know what it's going to be, but I'm really considering doing something.
It is one of the first pop songs that ever really talked about big women.
It's not the first, but it's the first to ever put it in that context. I was doing a video and I remember a director asked me what kind of girls I wanted for the video. I said, "Curvy, blah blah blah." So he got in this debate with me about what beautiful is. His perspective of "curvy" women was sluts, only good for sex. And I was like, "Where are you getting this from?" I realized it was coming from us, it was coming from my own culture. By culture, I don't mean African-Americans, I mean rap.
I realized, "Jesus Christ, what are we causing here?" That's when I said that I wanted to do a song about this from a little different perspective. I still wanted to make it fun and sexy, but at the same time I wanted to let the world know that we think these women are beautiful, not just objects.
I'm writing a story about young guys who like fat women, who prefer fat women, and your song keeps coming up.
That's funny because that's not what the song is talking about. It cracks me up. I've seen girls that look like me and been like, "Ohhhhh, I'm Baby's got Back!" And I'm like, "No, no, no, no." It wasn't "Baby Got Back and Center, and Middle, and Front." You know?
Do you get a lot of that? A lot of fat women have taken the song as their anthem.
That's fine. But if somebody asked me what I had in mind when I did it, it would definitely be someone like Shakira. J. Lo at her peak. That is exactly what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the dumbbell shape. The coke bottle.
I have friends of mine--like white friends of mine--that say, "White guys just don't like that." And I say, "There was a time that you did"-- that's why Marilyn Monroe is considered beautiful. There was a time when you liked curves, and a woman looking like a woman and not a heroin addict. Now, if a girl is anything over 15 pounds we think she's fat, which is funny.
What's the white-guy response to "Baby Got Back?"
Obviously, more white people like the song than black. Black people kind of view "Baby Got Back" as like, "Oh, yeah, we already knew that." It's not even an issue to them. They wouldn't even think to sing about it. Whereas white guys are kind of like, "Yeah, finally!"
I go to LA Fitness now, and the first thing that I notice is that every girl who comes in is like, "I want to build this up" and they're always pointing at their ass. Think about that? Going back to the '80s, you would never have a white girl being like, "I really want to pump this up." They usually wanted to get rid of it, which, I never understood that.
In black culture, it seems far more common to see a big woman in a sexual way.
That's where women get confused, when they say "big women." See, Shakira's not big. That's what black guys are singing about. People confuse it with Nell Carter--and it's like, "No no no. That's not what we are talking about! We are talking about a 22-inch waist with 35-inch, 38-inch ass." That's what we're talking about. And they are usually in shape, they usually have six-packs. They usually are really buff, and they work out, and they have beautiful, round butts.
So then, do you ever get too much love from fat women?
It doesn't bother me. I just like to make sure people have a good understanding as to what I'm talking about. A lot of people have tried to stretch it into something else. I mean, Beyonce, another example. And I don't think anybody would call Beyonce a big woman.
It's not that you don't love a girl that's heavy-set, that's not what I'm saying. I just think that some people confuse the ideal. I get into that a lot, when [people are] like, "Well, isn't that what you like?" And I'm like, "Dude, I can fall in love with any woman. But if we're being strictly shallow here, I'd have to say it's the coke bottle."
There've been so many parodies of "Baby Got Back" over the years.
There are a lot of them. I am real careful how I use the song. Even more so than "Mix-a-Lot," the song's its own brand.
You have to be real careful how you use it. Other people can use it, but you can't. Like when I did the Butterfinger commercial? There were things they wanted me to do in the commercial--excuse me, I mean Burger King--there were things they wanted me to do in that commercial that I wasn't going to do.
I wasn't going to dance with SpongeBob.
What happens is the song starts to turn into a joke and then nobody wants to use it anymore. There's no value in paying for the publishing if you whore it out a little too much. I use it--I mean I use it, because what's the point of owning your publishing if you are not going to monetize it--but I just don't go nuts with it.
Because of the song, have you gotten invited to crazy events in the last 20 years?
I've had some crazy shit happen! For some reason, girls want to prove themselves to me. I kind of like that part. The cool thing about being down here in Georgia is that the culture down here, they get it. They know exactly what I'm talking about, and they'll show me they know. In Seattle, they are a little confused.
Back when the song came out, there were a lot of people who were offended by it. I remember getting in this debate with a bunch of girls at a college that were boycotting my show. Their point was, "You've reduced a woman to a body part." They were shocked by it. I said, "Yeah, I agree!" But I said, "Understand my dilemma here. If you're an entertainer, you've got about three minutes and 35 seconds to hit them with a hook." So if I did "Baby Got Brains," "Baby Got A Job," "Baby Has Intelligence"? Nobody wants to hear that. You have to give them a little bit of a 'Wow' factor. So I told them, "If you listen to the song, though, I'm talking about the body, but I'm talking about acceptance. I am talking about girls who have naturally curvy physiques being able to take the sweater from around their waists and be proud of it."
But what about the belly? Plenty of girls have the sweater around their waists because they're hiding their bellies. They shouldn't take the sweater off if they've got bellies?
No, they're usually covering up their butts. That's what they used to do.
I used to date a girl--the one who does the "Oh my God" part on "Baby Got Back." She was so in shape, ran five miles a day, stomach flat as a pancake, but she had a big juicy butt. She was adopted, so she went to an all-white school, and they teased her about her butt being fat back then. Even though it wasn't! I mean, that girl was in shape. This girl made J. Lo look horrible, that's how dangerous she was. I used to walk her out onstage and the white girls were like, "Ya-ow!" And I was like, "Well, that changed pretty quick."
But [2 Live Crew's] Luke Skyywalker was doing this long before I was. It was just a little more about sex.
He was a lot more coarse about it, and people weren't necessarily ready for that. You were the guy who crossed over, though.
Yeah, and I intended to do that. I intended to make the song a little more accessible. If I just said, "Bitch got a big ass and give me head," all you're doing is feeding into a stereotype.
Here's another stereotype that people have. I was talking to a friend of mine, he works at a radio station, he was inviting me to something the radio station was doing. He's never talked to me about women--at all--and by default he says I should come, "Because there's a lot of white women, and I know how you guys like that." I was like, "Let me get that straight. Who did you hear this from?" He was like, "That's what rappers say." And I was like, "What rapper?" I said, "Last I checked, rappers are equal-opportunity fuckers."
It's like there is some stereotype that comes more from athletes. I have noticed in football that's the tendency. But in hip-hop, the last I checked, we don't care what color they came.
Have you ever gotten tired of being the "ass guy"?
Nah. Here's another thing that cracks me up: a lot of people hate their hit song. Have you ever noticed that? They're like, "I'm bigger than just that song." They say that stuff, and then they yank the credibility right out from their own song. So with "Baby Got Back" I said, "Hey, it's a blessing. I'm going to live it, I'm going to have fun with it, and I've been doing it for over 20 years."
I'm not ashamed of it either. You'll never hear me complaining about the song. My manager told me the other day, "Dude, that song is now Americana!"
It's funny to hear you call the song "Americana," but it kind of is--talking about body types in that way in 1992?
For me, personally--and call me chauvinist--but I don't like a girl that looks like a 10-year-old boy from behind. There's nothing sexy about that. I like when a woman is shaped like a woman.
That being said, I have to get rid of this big stomach I have. But that's another issue.
I'll tell you what I do get a little tired of: When people walk up, and they kind of know who I am, but they're not sure, and they'll say, "Who are you?" And I'll go, "Well, I'm Anthony." And they'll say, "Okay, you're not him." Then they come back and they are like, "You're Mix-a-Lot." And I'm like, "Yeah!" And they're like, "No, you're not. Sing the song!" And I'm like, "Are you kidding me? You really want me to sing the song in the middle of a restaurant? You really work at FedEx? Prove it to me. Deliver me a package."
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