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.”

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from


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.

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