A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Daddy's Home

Hmmm... There's not a lot of information about this project in the museum encyclopedia. We'd love your help! TOWN LOVE is maintained by an awesome community of passionate volunteers who keep it all up to date.

Do you know something about the history of this record? Do you have a favorite lyric or a favorite memory? Send us an email on why this is one of the great hip-hop albums from the Northwest. Thanks!

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Return of The Bumpasaurus

Sir Mix-A-Lot is an absolute genius. How else could he have come up with such a perfect metaphor to use for his newest LP, Return of the Bumpasaurus? The record is dinosaur-like in every way: small-brained, slow-moving, and, not least of all, extinct.

Return of the Bumpasaurus, as much as any of Mix’s recent offerings, reeks of Velveeta pop platinum. The only way I could categorize these tracks as hip-hop would be in the area of bad parody.

The song “Mob Style” should carry a “contents under pressure’ warning sticker for all the clichés and stereotypes that have been mercilessly crammed together. Mix uses the Sugarhill Gang’s “Jump on It” to simultaneously kiss asses in at least two dozen states across the U.S. (Yes, he did use this same idea in “Square Dance Rap” almost ten years ago-it’s not just your imagination.) Don’t worry, the lifted Kraftwerk-/Miami-bass-style beat is here just like on every other Mix record. Disses, put-downs, and egomania run amok throughout the entire album.

This wouldn’t be so bad if Mix were 18 or 19 years old and not pushing 35. It would take a city as recycling crazy as Seattle to produce an album that is so blatantly reused. The only points I can give Mix are for letting my man Funk Daddy rumble things up on the track “Top Ten List,” reminding me of skills like the track “Yo Flow” on Funk’s album Is Tha Source. It’s easy to see why so many artists are clamoring for Funk Daddy’s keyboard and production talents. As for Mix-A-Lot, extinction looms baby. (This review originally appeared in The Rocket and was written by Novocaine132.)

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

I Got Game

The song “I Got Game” starts as yet another riff on “Posse on Broadway.” Sir Mix-A-Lot is again driving along 23rd in Seattle’s Central District neighborhood, except this time he’s a the wheel of a fancy new Corvette, and unfortunately, he’s only got two seats.

You commonly hear Mix criticized for not reppin’ Seattle enough. But in his lyrics, he’s regularly shouting out Seattle landmarks, his fellow Northwest rappers, and on this vinyl jacket, he’s sporting a Seahawks bomber, a Mariners cap, and has custom “MIXALOT” Washington plates.

B-Side track “Flow Show” is five minutes of amazing, unstoppable madness. Mix unloads bars upon bars upon bars of quick dodges and vocal acrobatics, landing lyrical blow upon blow and demonstrating how truly formidable a talent he is as a rapper. The verses are set against a restrained rolling and crackling thunderstorm bucket-drummer beat and a super-low bassline.

I Got Game was Sir Mix-A-Lot’s final record with NastyMix.

Throughout 1990, he’d been critical of how the label had promoted his album Seminar and resented how NastyMix was spending the money he was earning on funding a smorgasbord of newly-signed rock and pop acts, few of which were rappers.

In a September 1990 interview with The Rocket, he made clear his plans to start a brand new label, one where he’d have full creative control and that would be dedicated exclusively to Northwest hip-hop.

When I Got Game was released, NastyMix canceled the planned music video. Mix was quoted as saying “and that’s when I said ‘Uh-huh’” and he made plans to leave. Mix started negotiations with Def Jam, but NastyMix label owner Ed Locke threatened breach of contract, Mix countersued for unpaid royalties, and the two were then caught up in a protracted legal battle that took two years and cost a reported $1.2 million to untangle.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

One Time's Got No Case

When “One Time’s Got No Case” dropped at the very end of 1991, Sir Mix-A-Lot was wrapping a two-year court battle with his former label NastyMix. So it’s a curious coincidence that his first new song—the first from his own new label Rhyme Cartel—is also legally themed.

(The court case in short: Mix left NastyMix in 1990 to start a brand new Northwest hip-hop label with backing from Rick Rubin and Def American. But it was a messy divorce. NastyMix threatened breach of contract, Mix countersued for unpaid royalties, and the protracted legal battle took two years and cost a reported $1.2 million to untangle, nearly bankrupting both parties. Mix ultimately won his exit and his masters.)

Mix’s new label, Rhyme Cartel, would be devoted exclusively to Northwest rap. “My goal is to solidify the Seattle base,” said Mix to music mag The Rocket, “I kind of feel like the dope man—feed Rick Rubin a little and when he gets hooked he’s gonna want more.”

Backstory aside, “One Time’s” is a song that brings attention to racial profiling by King County police, about cops harassing a Black guy because he’s driving a def car. Mix is dragged to jail for some bullshit and his verses explain how he prevails. It’s an autobiographical caper in the style of Mix’s many other hits. The beat is built around a catchy looping guitar riff, one that feels like a rubber band bouncing his troubles away.

This vinyl includes the extended “Bass Mix” with additional lyrics, an instrumental version, and two new songs—“Lockjaw” and “Sprung On The Cat” from his then-forthcoming 1992 atom bomb album Mack Daddy. What this record made clear—when it promptly sold more than 50,000 copies—was that Mix was finally back on the scene, and victorious.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Baby Got Back

Hmmm... There's not a lot of information about this project in the museum encyclopedia. We'd love your help! TOWN LOVE is maintained by an awesome community of passionate volunteers who keep it all up to date.

Do you know something about the history of this record? Do you have a favorite lyric or a favorite memory? Send us an email on why this is one of the great hip-hop albums from the Northwest. Thanks!

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

My Hooptie

“My Hooptie” recounts another comic book caper from Mix-A-Lot, Attitude Adjuster, and the rest of the posse. It’s a bit of a revisit of “Posse on Broadway”: The crew are driving around the CD neighborhood, being fly, picking up girls, this time visiting McDonald’s. They run into Mix’s ex who tries to shoot out their headlights, but he runs over her toes instead. A bunch of silly stuff happens. The bass line is spectacular.

Mix namedrops “Hilltop” as a way to establish his street cred—and works in samples from N.W.A. and Public Enemy in case you didn’t think he was gangster enough. The posse roll into Tacoma to pick up the new Criminal Nation cassette and then visit a military club to size up the competition: Both obvious nods to the strength of Tacoma’s burgeoning NW rap scene. But Mix is hip to it, too.

This brings us to the key question: What is a “Hooptie” exactly? Mix explains that how his Benz is in the shop. So, for now, he’s gotta drive this loaner junk car, and it’s making him look bad.

It’s not hard to see “My Hooptie” as a clear metaphor for Mix’s increasingly strained relationship with his own label, NastyMix. CEO and money man Ed Locke was investing all those dollars Mix was generating into rock, speed metal, euro-disco, and synth-pop acts, diluting NastyMix’s identity as a Northwest rap label. Like his “Hooptie,” he’s gotta make excuses for this reliable clunker that he’s currently stuck with.

Throughout 1990, Mix stated his desire to start another rap label—this time his own, “so I can get a little more creative control over what goes out… I know rap… I don’t think NastyMix [does],” he said to The Rocket that year.

This 12” single features the stripped-down “Still Runnin’” remix and bonus song, “Society’s Creation,” about the government’s role in the nation’s crack epidemic.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Seminar

On the cover of Mix’s second full-length album, he and the posse—Kid Sensation, Maharaji, and Attitude Adjuster—sit in Greek robes, carving their songs into stone. But flip it upside down and there they are again, in reflection, dressed as revolutionaries.

When interviewed about his latest album, Mix was defiant: “I don’t care if it sells just one copy… I’m happy with this record.” But Seminar was a smash. It sold a million copies. It went gold… And eventually platinum, too. It spawned three massive hit singles: “Beepers,” “My Hooptie,” and “I Got Game.”

It’s clear from the moment you drop the needle that Mix is trying something new. One year previous, Public Enemy’s Nation of Millions blew up rap like an atomic bomb, and every artist was now scrambling to incorporate messages of justice and race into their lyrics.

When asked about his own politics, Mix replied, “I love this nation… that’s why I criticize it. I love my car… that’s why I tune it up.” In the song “National Anthem,” he criticizes the systemic racism in our government and policing—as relevant in ‘89 as it is today. It will probably also inspire you to read about Iran-Contra affair on Wikipedia in order to decipher the lyrics.

The second side opens with “The (Peek-A-Boo) Game,” a sad story ripped from the headlines: A young woman is forced into the sex trade only to meet her end at the hands of the Green River Killer. In the late ‘80s, there was an active serial killer who murdered 71 young women in the Seattle and Tacoma area, and so people were understandably scared. (The killer wasn’t caught until 2001.)

The most baller track on this record is “Goretex,” an ass-kicking, foot-stop ode to great boots. The beats and synths here are massive, floor-shaking thumps. Mix’s verses weave and dodge and land punches. I always laugh when the chorus sings “sound effect” in response to each of the posse’s activities.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Beepers

Three years before he dropped “Big Butts,” Mix-A-Lot was already a certified hitmaker. “Square Dance Rap,” “Posse on Broadway,” and “Iron Man” had all climbed national and international charts, and his 1988 debut LP, SWASS, had sold a million copies, achieving platinum status.

The single “Beepers,” which landed at the end of 1989, further demolished the charts, spending 19 weeks near the top of Billboard’s rap rankings, peaking at #2.

The song begins with some iconic kick drums and adds a Prince guitar riff. Here, Mix samples one of 1989’s biggest songs, “Batdance” by Prince, which had appeared in the soundtrack of Tim Burton & Michael Keaton’s mega-popular Batman movie that summer. This no doubt contributed to the song’s chart success.

“Beepers” is an undeniable classic, recounting yet another of his adventures of the posse. This time we learn Attitude Adjuster is a player, and we learn about a woman who thinks she’s hot shit because she’s got a beeper… But she ain’t so fly: Mix has one, too.

Like a lot of early Mix, there’s an enthusiasm for new technology combined with posturing and oneupmanship. In 1989–before cell phones—having a beeper was a mark of luxury and status. The tune also provides plenty of opportunities to turn old and new telephone sounds into beats and melodies.

On the flip side, “Players” covers similar terrain: hanging out and driving around with the posse, doing a roll call, meeting a woman who thinks she’s hot shit because she’s got a beeper… “Both of us are playing the same damn game, we’re players.” Hmmm. Mix continues to warn against drugs: “I’m a dope rhyme-sayer, but don’t smoke me.” In the music, there’s an odd tension as sitcom theme song keyboards run up against some dark, deep sub-bass.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Iron Man

This revenge song from the man you love to hate lit the fuse that ushered in the Grunge explosion.

In 1986, Run D.M.C. had a huge hit with “Walk This Way,” by sampling (and later collaborating with) hard rockers Aerosmith. The huge commercial potential of crossover rap-rock meant that everyone in hip-hopdom went in search of their own guitars + bars anthem. Mix-A-Lot’s entry was “Iron Man,” a tune that first appears on the B-Side of SWASS and heavily samples that Black Sabbath song that today everyone knows because of the Marvel movies.

Mix wanted to double down on an authentic “Metal” sound, so he re-recorded the song with NW thrash group Metal Church, who lay down some electrifying riffs and thunderous chords throughout.

Okay, so… Metal Church were from Aberdeen, WA, and fronted by guitarist Kurdt Vanderhoof. The group’s newfound fame working with Mix inflamed a petty rivalry between Kurdt and unknown 21-year-old guitarist Kurt Cobain, who often hung around at their practice space and who felt Metal Church were lame and worthy of ridicule.

Indeed, Cobain’s desire for Nirvana’s debut to surpass the popularity that “Iron Man” had bestowed upon his musical rivals fed into their songwriting, and led him to intentionally misspell his name “Kurdt” on Nirvana’s debut LP, “Bleach,” which dropped in summer 1989. (Ironically, the album’s two opening cuts, “Blew,” and “Floyd The Barber,” channel some serious Sabbath amp sounds and guitar riffs.)

Mix-A-Lot’s “Iron Man” spent 12 weeks on the national Billboard charts, peaking at #17.

The single’s flip is “I’ll Roll You Up!” You might assume it to be a cannabis anthem, but early Mix was pretty anti-weed, making fun of “tokers” on his early tunes. This song is another battle rap, repeating his supremacy, stating “I did ‘Posse on Broadway’ in cruise control” and criticizing overuse of the funky drummer sample by his rap rivals, adding “I never jumped on a James Brown bandwagon.”

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Posse On Broadway

Mix famously came up with the idea for this song on tour after noticing how there was a “Broadway” in every town in America, and he wanted to tell the world about the one he knew best, here in Seattle.

The cover photo on this EP shows “the posse” standing on the corner of Broadway and John, across the street from what is now the Light Rail station entrance. You can see Dick’s in the background.

Everyone knows this song: Mix and the crew go cruising around Capitol Hill and the CD in their black Benz limo, picking up ever more homies and women until their car’s muffler is hanging on the ground. (You can even look up the route on Google Maps.) They decide to go to Dick’s only to spar with a local rival crew, played by Incredicrew in the music video. (The video wasn’t actually shot at Dick’s because, at the time, the owner wouldn’t give Mix permission.)

Contrary to views expressed on “I’m A Trip” a couple of years earlier, gear head Mix shouts out his fandom for the Roland 808, noting how “the 808 kick drum makes the girlies get dumb.”

This 12” EP contains “The Godzilla Remix,” a glorious seven and a half minute version of the song, featuring sub-bass beats, scratching, new bass lines, and extra verses. The remix is followed by a further two minutes of bonus beats.

On the flip side is the cut “F The BS,” a track that appears on the cassette and CD versions of SWASS but not the vinyl, so this is where I always go looking for it. The beats on this song simply roar and Mix tears it up with rapid-fire raps.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

SWASS

Sir Mix-A-Lot is one of Seattle’s Greatest Of All Time Rappers. It’s surprising how often Mix gets written off as a one-hit-wonder, as though the dude doesn’t also have multiple platinum and gold records to his name. (He’s also made $100+ million dollars from that “big butts” song, making him not only our first major rap star but also our most-ever commercially successful one.)

His debut album, made four years prior to “butts,” is a self-released gem called SWASS. It’s the one with “Posse on Broadway.” The album sold so many copies on vinyl and cassette and CD that it went gold, and then platinum, and indeed, between 1988 to 1991, it was the bestselling record to ever have been released in the Northwest in any genre of music.

Think about that for a second.

For the three years prior to Nirvana’s Nevermind, Seattle was suddenly on the map as a rap success hotbed, known all around the world as Sir Mix-A-Lot’s town.

This album—a debatable acronym for “Some Wild Ass Silly Shit”—is a gonzo trip, full of West Coast attitude, electro-gangsta beats, and humorous stories. On the front cover, Mix grabs the Space Needle as if it were a giant cock. The album plays like a concept album: you follow Mix and his posse as they pull heists, go clubbing, drive around the CD and Capitol Hill, and end up at Dick’s. (Note that the song “Bremolo” towards the end is an unfortunate blight of sexist trash and you should skip it.) This record put Seattle on the national rap map for the very first time, the beats and rapping are fire, and it’s as bizarre and entertaining to listen to today as it was 33 years ago.

You can find SWASS on Spotify, and I strongly encourage you to go listen to this slice of Seattle hip-hop history today.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

&

Rippin’ / Attack On The Stars

The “Rippin’” EP is a true double A-side: Center circles are labeled “1” and “A.” Both singles are strong, but the best cut by far is a mind-boggling three minutes and forty seconds called “bonus beats.” Mix chops up Kid Sensation’s beatboxing into a wild construction, demonstrating how truly skilled he is as a beatmaker, sampler, and turntable scratcher. At the end, he boasts to Nes that his competition “better retire.”

To best understand early Mix-A-Lot, picture him as an identity worn by Anthony Ray, the same way Bruce Wayne dons the guise of Batman. Early Mix was “Adam West”—a campy, computer-obsessed nerd with style who knows how to rock a party.

“Rippin’” plays like a send-off for this early Mix, looking back at his early hits and summarizing his rise to success. The lyrics revisit the themes from “I’m A Trip,” a section of “Square Dance Rap” makes a reappearance, and he samples vintage Electro greats Kraftwerk and Gary Numan.

After this record, the Mix character becomes brasher, bolder, more gangster… a guy who’s tough because he’s a gun-toting badass with a posse, and not just because he knows how to oscillate the bass kick on his computerized gear.

It’s always been curious that most of Mix’s earliest tunes have never been released digitally or on streaming: These songs are mostly great fun, weird, geeky, production marvels. Go seek out the original vinyl records! I found many of these in used bins for $1. You’re in for some wild ass silly shit.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

I Want A Freak

“I Want A Freak” has not aged well. There’s no tiptoeing around the fact that this song is mostly sexist trash, one of many regrettable rap tracks by many, many rappers from this period. Mix complains that too many unattractive “mud ducks” think they’ve got a chance with him when all poor Mix needs is a “freak”: A sexually adventurous mini-skirted woman who’s down to go “all the way” and party. This song is a lot of insults directed at women.

Someone’s inevitably going to argue that these lyrics are just some innocent “boys will be boys” locker room talk, but that’s exactly the issue with dick-dominated songs like these: Too many rap songs tell young men that a woman’s value only extends to how far she’s “willing to go” and that it’s totally okay to insult girls who refuse to “put out.”

But let’s not blame Mix entirely: “I Want A Freak” began as a B-side on his 1986 “I’m A Trip” EP. The song proved so popular that NastyMix re-released it here as its own single, with two new remix versions. A surprising number of online commenters—both men AND women—cite this as their favorite Mix-A-Lot track, so IDK.

This vinyl’s B-Side cut is worth a listen. “Electro Scratch” is a delightfully weird rap song, with vocoder vocals and beatboxing. You also have Mix-A-Lot showing off his prowess at scratching the platters, demonstrating he’s not only about computers. It includes the first appearance of Kid Sensation, Mix’s teen protégé who would soon launch his own successful NastyMix career…

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

I'm A Trip

Sir Mix-A-Lot’s first commercial single, “Square Dance Rap,” was a bonafide international hit. When he returned to Seattle he found the local scene had become filled with haters, everyone accusing him of “trippin’.”

His second EP is a battle rap response to “you jealous boneheads: you know who you are” from “the man you love to hate.” On it, he proudly declares that “my game is never lame,” while adding “To rock the West Coast you must know more than turntables, yeah I said it, and I’m right… I’m the only DJ with computers in Seattle.”

Indeed, the superiority of his computer music is a theme that carries throughout most of the EP’s five tunes. Mix itemizes his gear, explains how to use bass oscillators to improve your drum sounds, dismisses anyone using the Roland 808 or Technics SL-1200 all the while praising his own choice of the Oberheim DMX drum machine. This EP is musically awesome but also nerdy AF. The last song begins, “I demolish DJs with computer technology.”

A skit at the end of side A is the first recorded appearance of the word “Swass,” as Mix and Maharaji discuss their fashion sense: “I’m Swass. That means I look good, and I know I look good.”

One crazy little story to add: Vanilla Ice, in his 1991 autobiography, included several pages of verses that he wrote when he was young… Except these were actually the plagiarized lyrics of “I’m A Trip.” Mix threatened a lawsuit, leading to a tabloid-fodder beef between the two in the early ’90s.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Square Dance Rap

You could write a whole book on the importance of this record to Seattle music. Released seven years before “big butts,” it was the first record from local label NastyMix, started by radio DJ “NASTY” Nes and artist Sir “MIX”-A-Lot, in partnership with Ed Locke, the business guy.

It was the mid-’80s, and hip-hop was still trying to figure out what it was. “Square Dance Rap” is a strange entry into the canon. It has sped-up chipmunk vocals. At the time, super-fast rapping was a thing, and Mix achieved this by slowing down the song, spitting his verses, and then speeding the song back up. He then performs as a Southern hillbilly character, instructing us how to square dance. But also, the beats are monstrous, the bassline is groovy as hell and you’ll find yourself singing along while contemplating the racist history of the United States. It’s one of those rare songs that becomes all the more perplexing the more times you listen to it.

NastyMix sold more than 45,000 copies of this record, kicking off an empire over local rap that lasted almost a decade, and launching Mix into the stratosphere. Also note that this record was “written, arranged, programmed, performed, produced, and engineered by Sir Mix-A-Lot.” The man did it all himself.

The song did well locally in Seattle, but it was a runaway hit in England. In 1986, Mix-A-Lot was invited to play the UK Fresh ’86 festival at Wembley stadium in London. He performed in front of 80,000 people, alongside his peers Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, Dr. Dre & World Class Wreckin’ Cru, and numerous other golden age greats. (You can find the whole two-day festival on MixCloud, and it’s well worth a listen.)

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Mack Daddy

An undeniable classic. All Seattle rap today, in many ways, is indebted to, influenced by, a reaction to, or a refutation of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Mack Daddy and its mega-mega-mega-hit “Baby Got Back.”

This rocket ship blasted off from the Emerald City space pad in 1992–during the pinnacle of grunge–marking a time when Seattle was momentarily the ultimate hub of mainstream cool for both ’90s rap AND rock music. Go give this a spin. It still sounds fresh today.

Here’s some fun facts: Mix recorded this whole record at home, in Auburn, WA, in a digital home studio off the side of his dining room. Mack Daddy was self-released by Mix on his own new record label, Rhyme Cartel, having finally completed his divorce from NastyMix by early 1992. The album’s working title was Possessed. The record was distributed by Rick Rubin and Def American, who reportedly invested one million dollars into the promotion and marketing. Mix-A-Lot once estimated he’d made more than $100,000,000.00 from royalties from the song “Baby Got Back.”

A couple of years back I was lucky to catch Sir Mix’s semi-secret show in front of Dick’s Drive-in on Broadway. And man, the guy is still on fire almost 30 years later.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Chief Boot Knocka

Hmmm... There's not a lot of information about this project in the museum encyclopedia. We'd love your help! TOWN LOVE is maintained by an awesome community of passionate volunteers who keep it all up to date.

Do you know something about the history of this record? Do you have a favorite lyric or a favorite memory? Send us an email on why this is one of the great hip-hop albums from the Northwest. Thanks!

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!