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The only thing I can compare it to was working with the Sex Pistols.
December 20, 2013 8:00 PM   Subscribe

The oral history of Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back."
posted by Chrysostom (73 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
TIL that the guy who directed the "Baby Got Back" video also shot some of "Breaking Bad." I am the one who knocks boots.
posted by ColdChef at 8:07 PM on December 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


My favorite version of the song is by Richard Cheese.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 8:10 PM on December 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh my god, Becky, look at this post. It is SO big.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:11 PM on December 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


Wow. I always wondered what happened to that ass but never expected to find out.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:17 PM on December 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Metafilter in a nutshell: "I always wondered what happened to that ass but never expected to find out."
posted by Itaxpica at 8:23 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow. I always wondered what happened to that ass but never expected to find out.

It should be in the EMP!
posted by Artw at 8:30 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Adam Bernstein: "I thought that the song objectified women... but ... I needed to get out of New York because I broke up with my girlfriend and she got the apartment. So doing this video was a matter of good timing"

Patti Galluzzi: "But banning is not the same as a programming decision with respect to a video that directly flouted a then-recently instituted [MTV] rule against showing female body parts with no reference to a face"

You don't see these attitudes so much anymore. It's almost as if we have hipster nostalgia for the exact wrong things.
posted by dgaicun at 8:38 PM on December 20, 2013


Seriously, Paul Allen should get on that, it would go great in the Sky Church...
posted by Artw at 8:41 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


So proud to be a Seattlite!
posted by MoonOrb at 8:41 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Sometimes I would be on conference calls: “Well, Mix can’t come to Texas, but I can offer you this inflatable ass.” It was so popular we had to make a second one."
posted by idiopath at 8:49 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"It was often shot at with arrows and bullets, then had to be patched up and re-inflated. I was the butt-balloon manager."
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 8:56 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hollister: ...He was wearing all brown, and he would have been standing on the butt, looking like...you know!

Sir Mix-a-Lot: I was wearing a brown shirt and brown pants, and they were taking Polaroids, and I saw that I looked like dancing turd. My boys said, “You always talking like you’re the shit. Well, now you really the shit.” They still ride me on that.

posted by Beardman at 8:57 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


MetaTalk: I saw that I looked like dancing turd
posted by Beardman at 8:58 PM on December 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


If you pull this song off at karaoke (and it's harder than it looks) I guarantee you girls will get up on stage and hug you and dance with you and then you will spend the rest of your life on the internet trying to relive that moment.
posted by furtive at 9:15 PM on December 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


Metafilter: I guess I did a lot of ass stuff at that time.
posted by jquinby at 9:19 PM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Worth it, for this:
Sir Mix-a-Lot: Now, ass isn’t a big deal. I go to the gym, and I’ll hear a white girl saying to her trainer, “I want this to be round.” They realize that it doesn’t mean that you’re out of shape if you have a nice ass. Anybody who’s ever seen a stripper pick up a dollar bill with her ass knows you can’t do that with fat.
Indeed sir, indeed.
posted by jadepearl at 9:28 PM on December 20, 2013


On the other hand, the itty-bitty waist requirement.
posted by Artw at 9:43 PM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


The MTV person referenced that awful Warren song "Cherry Pie" as an example of pie-in-lap objectification, but watching it now it seems pretty tame. The "Baby Got Back" video is also milder than I remembered it. Either I was young and impressionable, or standards of objectification have progressed.

Also, this: You’d see these girls in the ad: Each one was shaped like a stop sign, with big hair [and] straight up-and-down bird legs.

Ouch.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:55 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


LA face with an Oakland booty? Clearly the song is some kind of blatant Illuminati treatise on genetic engineering in showbiz.
posted by planetesimal at 10:03 PM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: We took all the Polaroids, and made a giant grid of the buttocks
posted by Sebmojo at 10:36 PM on December 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


So he was protesting the objectification of women by objectifying women. If the song wasn't so good, I would storm right out of this thread in protest.
posted by Literaryhero at 10:46 PM on December 20, 2013


Well, see, it's about diversity in objectification...
posted by Artw at 11:06 PM on December 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


I consider the song a net good, rather than an unmitigated good.
posted by solarion at 11:08 PM on December 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Oh, the genius that is Rick Rubin:
There was one change he suggested: “On your punch line, I need you to hit mute, and drop the music out so that people can hear what you’re saying. That’s gonna drive the song.” That’s where “my anaconda don’t want none” or “I’m thinkin’ about stickin’” came from. As soon as he heard the finished track, he said, “People are gonna be talking about this twenty years from now.”
Yup, and they are.

I was at a camping trip with some bikers a few years ago, a Labor Day camping trip to an overly crowded campground with a lot of people doing their own things generally disconnected with each other. There was music playing on the sound system the biker brought, standard biker rock stuff, nothing that groundbreaking. Everyone was standing around and talking and having beers, typical biker party stuff.

I was getting fed up with the music and asked if I could DJ for an hour. I queued up some stuff on my iPod I thought would be more fun, but it was mostly ignored. Until Baby Got Back came on. By the end of the song, not only had our little campground turned into a pretty rowdy dance party but people from other camps had come over to join in the fun. (All this in under 4 minutes!) I got to DJ for a few more hours that night until it was truly time to wind things down.

The genius of Rubin -- from tracks like Baby Got Back to getting Johnny Cash to cover NIN. He continues to astound me. (And I still use Baby Got Back to liven up dead parties -- it's like the magic song!)
posted by hippybear at 11:14 PM on December 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


Literaryhero: So he was protesting the objectification of women by objectifying women.

Yep, that's the inherent tension of Baby Got Back. On the one hand, it's hard for me to hate a song that's (apparently) made a lot of women feel better about their bodies, especially women of colour, who have been tradtionally shut out of discussions about female body image and beauty. Though it's better now than it was twenty years ago, we've still got a long way to go.

On the other, it's yet another song reducing a woman to her body parts.

What really would've been radical is Baby Got Brains.
posted by Georgina at 11:26 PM on December 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


What really would've been radical is Baby Got Brains.

Zombies are a popular cultural meme right now. Perhaps it's time.
posted by hippybear at 11:28 PM on December 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


The same director of the video also did a bunch of They Might Be Giants videos.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 11:45 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The butt heard around the world.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:49 PM on December 20, 2013


This song is so ingrained into me that whenever my kids start to list all the things they would like (in true first world fashion), I always respond with:

"Well... I like big butts and I can not lie. You other brothers can't deny"

My partner always looks at me like I am insane, not sure why.
posted by greenhornet at 12:16 AM on December 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm so glad this wasn't actually a bunch of audio because that was a good read.
posted by Mitheral at 12:40 AM on December 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I concocted the visuals based around the giant ass.



Coincidentally, this is how I think when I get dressed.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:44 AM on December 21, 2013 [15 favorites]


MetaFilter: butts
posted by Mikey-San at 12:57 AM on December 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have always felt that the women in this video really don’t have very big butts.
It’s as if the producers toned it down for commercial reasons.
I did notice that the biggest butt in the video is... Sir Mix-a-Lots.
posted by quazichimp at 12:57 AM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


BUTTS
posted by louche mustachio at 12:58 AM on December 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have always felt that the women in this video really don’t have very big butts.

It mentions a later video where the producers balked saying "You want to put fat women in the video?" So I think he was fighting the good fight, but there is only so much you can do.
posted by Literaryhero at 1:03 AM on December 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the concept of "thick" didn't really exist in popular media at the time.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:13 AM on December 21, 2013


The butt heard around the world.
*clap*
posted by Mezentian at 1:48 AM on December 21, 2013


I've always entertained the idea that Sir Mix-a-lot was actually knighted. Like, for his service to the realm, we bestow this honour on Citizen Mix-a-lot.
posted by mhoye at 2:24 AM on December 21, 2013 [16 favorites]


I have always felt that the women in this video really don’t have very big butts.

Try this video.
posted by Pendragon at 3:08 AM on December 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


This quote really made me respect Mix a ton as a performer:

Sir Mix-a-Lot: I still love “Baby Got Back.” I will perform it until I drop. It’s completely ignorant when an artist has a successful, iconic song that makes millions of dollars, but slaps his fans in the face when he says, “That song ain’t shit, I’m bigger than that.” I appreciate the fact that people got behind that song back in the day, so I do a fuckin’ ten-minute-long version live.
posted by 256 at 7:17 AM on December 21, 2013 [33 favorites]


I must have heard it before but it was hearing in on Futurama had me tracking it down

[Fry is playing a compact disc recording of Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back;" Leela turns it off.]
Leela: Fry, you can't just sit here in the dark listening to classical music.
Fry: I could if you hadn't turned on the light and shut off my stereo.


Though I think I prefer 'Monster Mack' esp with Beavis & Butthead introducing it.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:29 AM on December 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Rubin: I had these old-fashioned, engraved desk plaques made that read "Call MTV Re: Mix-a-Lot" and left them on the desks in the office of every staff member.

Amazing. I wonder if (provided he's not taking the piss here) any of them are still around.
posted by Kreiger at 7:34 AM on December 21, 2013


We will hit Peak Oral History next week with An Oral History of Studs Terkel Turning Over in His Grave, coming soon on Upfeed and Buzzworthy.
posted by Cookiebastard at 8:09 AM on December 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


A local barbecue joint has T-shirts displaying a pig's hindquarters and the slogan I LIKE PIG BUTTS AND I CANNOT LIE.

I cannot deny.
posted by delfin at 8:12 AM on December 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


"I appreciate the fact that people got behind that song"

I see what he did there
posted by Elsa at 8:14 AM on December 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have always liked this song, and been unclear on why I liked this song because usually I don't like woman-body-part songs, but this one felt fun rather than objectifying. Reading this interview, he actually seems pretty thoughtful about women in popular media and how those stereotypes and limited images can hurt women. I guess it sounds fun rather than objectifying because he actually is celebrating a diversity of women's bodies and somehow that comes across. I mean, it's still a kinda rowdy song, but joyfully rowdy, if you know what I mean.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:18 AM on December 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


The funny thing to me is that I completely deplored this song when it came out, because I was in peak no-humor-super-serious-grunge-fundamentalist mode, where the only music worth listening to was Eddie Vedder telling stories about abused children (I remember a conversation with a friend where I earnestly argued that the Stones were sort of acceptable because songs like "Sympathy for the Devil" addressed social issues and that was a little bit of balance about all of the songs about sex).

The point a few years later when I loosened up and realized "Baby Got Back" was fucking hilarious and awesome is as good a point as any to mark when I finally grew the fuck up.
posted by COBRA! at 8:25 AM on December 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


I remember a conversation with a friend where I earnestly argued that the Stones were sort of acceptable because songs like "Sympathy for the Devil" addressed social issues
"Sympathy for the Devil" is about The Master and Margarita.

As you were.
posted by pxe2000 at 8:58 AM on December 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I hated this song when it came out, because I was one of those girls with a small waist and round butt and I already got too much unwanted attention for it. I didn't want anyone looking at me in a sexual way (because I was 12!) but damn if the world didn't insist on doing that anyway. I felt like the song made me a joke and made it easier for other kids to find the words to taunt me with.

As I got older, I liked it more, though I think my original objections are still valid. If you were 12 when this came out and had an hourglass shape, it was mortifying. But I also think it's pretty fun and clever.
posted by Ouisch at 9:05 AM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Very cool oral history, thanks!

Also, Metafilter: I guess I did a lot of ass stuff at that time.
posted by digitalprimate at 9:52 AM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like live brains and I can not lie
You other zombies can't deny
That when a girl walks in with a beating heart
And a head that's full of thoughts
You go BRAAINS!, wanna use your teeth
'Cause you know that that head is stuffed
Full of the things you're craving
I'm hooked and I can't stop raving
Oh baby, I wanna consume you
And bite your cranium
Your ball bat tries to stun me
But that brain you got makes me so hungry
Ooh, Heart-o'-beat-ing
You say you wanna get to flee?
Well, fight me, fight me
'Cause you ain't just no other zombie
I've seen them shamblin'
To hell with that gambling'
She's live! I've
Gotta chew on that cranium
I'm tired of the undead
With nothing in their heads
Take the average undead and point him at
A living human back
So, zombies! (Uuuuugh!) Zombies! (Uuuungh!)
Has your victim got the brains? (Ugh Unnnngh!)
Time to bite it! (Bite it!) Bite it! (Bite it)
Bite that healthy brain!
Baby got brains!
posted by hippybear at 10:45 AM on December 21, 2013 [15 favorites]


Sir Mix-a-lot likes big butts and cannot lie. His twin brother does not like big butts and cannot tell the truth.

You may ask one question.
posted by moonmilk at 12:17 PM on December 21, 2013 [34 favorites]


I have always felt that the women in this video really don’t have very big butts.

Remember it came out in 1992 and we were just coming out of the phase where women wanted to look like washboards. Jennifer Lopez having an ass was a big deal when she came out, even though hers isn't especially huge.

Also remember the idea of women weight-lifting at all or doing anything to look muscular is incredibly recent. In '92 you'd have been doing cardio until your legs fell off in the relentless quest for skinny. A lot of women still think a fit looking woman with muscles is gross and are terrified of using weights at all for fear it'll make them into a behemoth.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:27 PM on December 21, 2013


Georgina: "On the other, it's yet another song reducing a woman to her body parts."

But how is reducing a woman to her body parts? Saying that he is sexually attracted to a specific physical feature is objectifying? I see it as himself treating men and women as sexual beings, not sexual objects, and saying "It's okay that you have this body. I find it sexually attractive. Don't let people tell you that you're not sexually attractive to others."

Sometimes it feels to me that things that bring up the fact that we are sexual beings get dismissed as "objectifying".
posted by I-baLL at 12:51 PM on December 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think on balance, the message that women should be happy with their bodies and not feel like they should aspire to some waif ideal put forth by stupid magazines is a pretty good message.
posted by planetesimal at 1:05 PM on December 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


A local barbecue joint has T-shirts displaying a pig's hindquarters and the slogan I LIKE PIG BUTTS AND I CANNOT LIE.

I cannot deny.


I have a pullover sweatshirt that says "I Like Big Mutts and I Cannot Lie". The puns, they write themselves.
posted by echolalia67 at 2:48 PM on December 21, 2013


My 15 year old stepson can karaoke the hell out of this song. I am very proud of him.
posted by Cookiebastard at 3:38 PM on December 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really do love this song and I love the fact that Sir Mix-a-lot still plays all the time here in Seattle and has active new collaborations with other artists. I debate which show I most miss seeing -- White Stripes at the Crocodile, Op Ivy at my friend's house party, Jane's Addiction at One Step Beyond? -- but certainly Sir Mix-a-Lot and the Presidents of the United States a few years ago at the Showbox is up there.

Oh, and Macklemore's shout out to Sir Mix in the video for White Walls on top of Dick's -- hell yeah.
posted by Random Person at 4:44 PM on December 21, 2013


Red beanplates and rice didn't miss her
posted by thelonius at 5:06 PM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I-ball: But how is reducing a woman to her body parts? Saying that he is sexually attracted to a specific physical feature is objectifying?

Sir Mix-a-Lot isn't just saying that he's sexually attracted to big butts. He's saying that this is his only criteria for whether or not he wants to fuck somebody. This song is, literally, one of the most objectifying pop songs ever, because it sets up a binary: big butt = sex with me, small butt = no sex with me. If that's not reducing a woman to her body parts, I'm not sure what is. Even more than that, SMaL wants a small waist, i.e. the classic hourglass figure, which is, for many women, just as unattainable as the very thin, straight-up-and-down look that was popular when the song was written and is still largely the standard of beauty today.

In other words: "Your narrow standards of fuckability are wrong. My narrow standards of fuckability are better." We largely give him a pass for that because he's working against the dominant image of beauty, but it's still judging a woman solely on her body. It's still reducing women to two categories: women I would fuck and women I would not fuck, something you see over and over again in male-driven media.

Sometimes it feels to me that things that bring up the fact that we are sexual beings get dismissed as "objectifying".

Can't really argue that without examples, but I don't think it's the case. "Baby, I want to make love to you," is not necessarily objectifying. Take a look at this list of The 50 Sexist Songs of All Time by Billboard. The winner? Let's Get Physical by Olivia Newton-John. That's not objectifying. At least two-thirds of the songs on that list aren't objectifying either (and it might well be higher, I haven't heard of some of them).

Brown Skin by India.Arie is interesting to look at in light of this discussion. It's also a song about a specific aspect of somebody's body, but it doesn't feel objectifying to me.
posted by Georgina at 5:10 PM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Shouldn't this, by all rights, be called an Anal History?
posted by inturnaround at 5:16 PM on December 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


This song became the "rap song all white people know" for a while, its apex, perhaps, being Ross and Rachel's rap to baby Emma on Friends.
posted by the sobsister at 5:33 PM on December 21, 2013


Geogine, can you post the lyrics where he says what you claim he is saying?
posted by I-baLL at 5:38 PM on December 21, 2013


'my anaconda don't want none unless you got buns, hon' sort of seems to be the song's thesis, I-baLL.

In addition to the part that everyone, even the people who hardly know any of the lyrics, shouts out when you're doing the song at karaoke.
posted by MoonOrb at 5:46 PM on December 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did any of you catch that bit in the Arsenio Hall clip in the middle of the article where he holds up the CD box? I'd totally forgotten the horrible cardboard packaging CDs came in back then.
posted by snwod at 5:58 PM on December 21, 2013


The Internet Archive informs me that I've had a "Baby Got Back" section on my journal's page'o'links since at least early 2006. It started off small, but has since gotten a bit out of control. I've been meaning to spin it off onto a page of its own for awhile, and this article finally spurred to me to do so. Should you be interested in covers and translations of the song, feel free to have a look.

(Note: it's not a comprehensive list, nor do I aspire to make it one.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 6:21 PM on December 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


The girls in the video were cast by people who didn’t quite understand what they were engaged in culturally.

Based on my interactions with reality TV casting people, this observation rings true.
posted by mrhappy at 7:40 PM on December 21, 2013


I-baLL : Geogine, can you post the lyrics where he says what you claim he is saying?

Sure.

I assume you mean the part where I said the song is saying: "Your narrow standards of fuckability are wrong. My narrow standards of fuckability are better.” Let’s break that down a bit.

Firstly, the song is about sex. (Lyrics here.) It’s not body-positive in and of itself; it’s not saying, Hey, you women with curves are sexy and you should feel good about yourselves. Almost every line is about how Sir Mix-a-Lot wants to fuck these women. When I used the word “fuckability” in my original post, I did so deliberately.

Secondly, the song rejects the skinny body type. At the time the song was written, the representation of women that we saw in the media was even narrower than it is today. The standard was a tall, skinny woman with long legs, no hips, and a flat butt.

(And not just any woman. A white woman. More on that in a moment.)

The song dismisses skinny women and/or states that Sir Mix-a-Lot does not want to fuck skinny women multiple times. Examples:
I’m tired of magazines
Sayin' flat butts are the thing


So I'm lookin' at rock videos
Knock-kneeded bimbos walkin' like hoes
You can have them bimbos
I'll keep my women like Flo Jo


So your girlfriend rolls a Honda,
playin' workout tapes by Fonda
But Fonda ain't got a motor in the back of her Honda
My anaconda don’t want none
Unless you’ve got buns, hun


To the beanpole dames in the magazines:
You ain't it, Miss Thing!


Yeah, baby ... when it comes to females, Cosmo ain't got nothin'
to do with my selection. 36-24-36? Ha ha, only if she's 5’3”.
Thirdly, the song links big butts with black women. Examples:
(Valley Girl intro): She's just so ... black!

The Flo Jo reference.

A word to the thick soul sisters, I wanna get with ya

Even white boys got to shout

Give me a sister, I can't resist her
Red beans and rice didn't miss her
The video makes this racial aspect even more apparent, showing curvy black dancers contrasted with a skinny white Cosmo model.

Combine these three things (sex + rejection of skinny/white beauty ideals + focus on black women), and this is what you get: “Your narrow standards of fuckabilty are wrong.”

As for, “My narrow standards of fuckability are better,” well, that’s pretty much every other lyric. Sir Mix-a-Lot is very specific about what he wants: a woman with a big butt and a skinny waist, a woman who's thick. If you don't meet his standards, he's not interested in fucking you, as described in what's probably the best-known rap lyric of all time.

So Sir Mix-a-Lot has a narrow idea of fuckability, too. Is it different from the mainstream? Definitely. Is it better than the mainstream? He certainly thinks so. But it's still narrow.
posted by Georgina at 6:13 AM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is an excellent point, songs written in the first person narrative have a narrow perspective. Also, having an opinion and preferences about things implies that you think other other people with different perspectives and opinions are bad. Furthermore, physical attraction means objectification unless you make it clear that you simultaneously appreciate another's less tangible qualities.

Now I am ashamed for appreciating a song simply because it was funny, non mean spirited, and manages to rhyme "Honda", "Fonda", and "anaconda."

I realize you were called out to defend your position, Georgina, I just think we are going too far down the bean plate hole for what is essentially a silly song. Sir-Mix-a-Lot has the biggest heart in the world, this is one of those edgy adult songs I have no problem letting my kids rock out to in the back seat, and there are much better hills to die on. In the just, socially conscious, equality-driven fantasy world I will impose by force when I am all-powerful dictator, there will still be room for Baby Got Back.
posted by Random Person at 7:38 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sir Mix-a-lot likes big butts and cannot lie. His twin brother does not like big butts and cannot tell the truth.

You may ask one question.


23 favourites at time of writing on MeFi, 1243 on Twitter, with 2000 retweets. Congratulations moonmilk.
posted by ambrosen at 8:18 AM on December 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sir Mix-a-lot likes big butts and cannot lie. His twin brother does not like big butts and cannot tell the truth.

You may ask one question.


Do these jeans make my ass look fat?
posted by radwolf76 at 6:18 AM on December 23, 2013


I remember seeing a mash up of Sir Mix-a-lot's video synced to JoCo's version of the song that made the video an epic slo-mo treat! But it's gone now, down the interweb hole of copyright infringement. :-(
posted by drinkmaildave at 8:37 AM on December 23, 2013


I remember seeing a mash up of Sir Mix-a-lot's video synced to JoCo's version of the song that made the video an epic slo-mo treat!

Here you go!
posted by Shmuel510 at 9:07 AM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


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