A film about Northwest hip-hop from 1986
Square Dance Rap
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.
It was a surprise hit song, a B-side cut on Mix-A-Lot’s debut four-song EP. It’s definitely a memorable listen. While “Square Dance Rap” did well locally in Seattle, it was a runaway hit in England. British record label Streetwave issued this eye-catching UK single in 1986. Mix-A-Lot was invited to play at the UK Fresh ’86 festival held 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, especially for the moment when Mix-A-Lot convinces the crowd he can now rap very fast without needing to speed up the record.