Whatever Happened To Sir Mix-A-Lot?

We all know Anthony Ray, better known as Sir Mix-A-Lot, from his famous 1992 megahit "Baby Got Back." Strangely enough, we don't know much more about him. Where has he been since the early '90s? Is he still making music? Does he still like big butts? Did he ever like big butts? These are questions you can never un-ask, folks. Let's dig a little deeper (we totally did not mean that in a dirty way) into the life and art of Sir Mix-A-Lot, and see what we can learn.

The very beginning of his career had a big ol' hiccup

Born in Seattle, Anthony Ray (Sir Mix-A-Lot) grew up on the greats, like James Brown, Michael Jackson and Prince. He also liked heavy metal and rock-and-roll. So, he founded his own record label in 1985, called Nastymix Records — along with Edwin Locke and DJ Nasty Nes Rodriguez, Sir Mix-A-Lot made a four track EP that almost bankrupted the small label. The pressing house sent out too many copies, and Ray, Locke and Rodriguez had to pay for the overage.

They eventually had a hit on KDAY radio LA with "Square Dance Rap," and then even more success with "Posse on Broadway" from the 1988 album Swass. A lot of success, actually — the record sold over a million copies and went platinum. So why didn't we hear about Sir Mix-A-Lot then? What were we doing, if not square dancing and swassing? Considering that the top mainstream albums in 1988 were from Madonna, George Michael, Guns N' Roses and Michael Jackson, clearly there was a lot going on. Regarding Mix's main genre, Rolling Stone went so far as to say that 1988 might have been the best year ever for hip-hop. So, despite Mix's comeback, maybe he just got lost in the noise.

He may be too eclectic for mainstream

Quite simply, Mix was too creative and experimental for his time. Swass was successful, but it sampled Iggy Pop, Gary Numan, Kraftwerk, Black Sabbath, and Italian disco pioneer Giovanni Giorgio Moroder. Oh yeah, and B.B. King. Not exactly the derivative sampling we hear nowadays, so even though Swass did go platinum, it might have been a little too interesting for the neon-soaked late 80's crowd to truly grasp onto and never let go.

All throughout his career, Sir Mix-A-Lot has wanted to mix things up. Maybe that's why he chose that name. In the 1990s, he started collaborating with the Presidents Of The United States of America (not Clinton and Reagan, the band), and they went on tour together briefly. They also recorded some songs under the name Subset, but never released them. In 2014, he announced that he was picking up that project with POTUSA — unfortunately, the indie band broke up in the summer of 2015, presumably to do nothing but eat a lot of peaches.

Mix also did a super performance of "Baby Got Back" with the Seattle Symphony in 2014, because Gabriel Prokofiev wanted to get "inside the musical mind of Sir Mix-A-Lot." So, at least some people recognize his eclectic, interesting spin on hip-hop. Besides, watching the video is a genuine treat. Not to break form, Mix invited several dozen ladies up on stage. It was glorious.

A pre-Back label switch may have hurt him

Backing up a bit into the time between Swass and "Baby Got Back," let's talk for a minute about Nastymix Records. Sir Mix-A-Lot was a founding member, and the only talent on the label to have any real success. However, some financial ugliness landed Nastymix in court with Mr. Sir, and he had no choice but to leave the label. Rick Rubin from Def American quickly offered Sir Mix-A-Lot a contract, and while his first single, "One Time's Got No Case" registered barely a blip, "Baby Got Back" came next and blew up. Sadly for Nastymix, they shut down soon after.

Who knows if Sir Mix-A-Lot's career might have taken a different, more steady path had he'd stayed with Nastymix, or if "Baby Got Back" would have never been heard had the artist not signed with Def American? We're thinking the latter, since Rubin was instrumental in some of the hooks and tricks in the track that really made it pop. In an interview about the song, Sir Mix-A-Lot says that Rubin, in fact, came up with the idea to drop the music out on certain lines. So, all the lines the drunk girls slur-scream at karaoke? Yep, thanks Rick Rubin.

He did other things, but nobody was paying attention

It's a shame so few care about Mix beyond butt anthems, because the more we learn about him, the more we like him. So, after the stunning success of "Baby Got Back," Mix did other things. However, it's hard to top a Grammy for "Best Rap Solo Act" and 1992's second-best selling song. He did some more songs, did the aforementioned collaboration with the presidents of the United States of America, and did a movie in 1997 called Meet Wally Sparks. He also had his own anthology TV show on the UPN network called The Watcher, where he was a host that presented little stories set in Las Vegas. It was cancelled after a single season. He's also appeared on successful shows, playing himself on The Simpsons and showing up on The Daily Show twice.

Right after the success of "Baby Got Back," Mix went a little wild with fame, as many do. He bought fancy cars (more on that in a minute), and hung out with a lot of different non-average groupies. He later said, "my money had to get old for me to calm down." He says he still has a good time, but he's a lot smarter about his choices now. Indeed — a quick look at his Instagram account shows us a well-balanced professional who still knows how to party.

It's never been about ego, nor about street cred

Despite the pimp-daddy image that his label, SPIN magazine (see slide image), and the rest of the industry wanted Mix-A-Lot to have, he's actually a down-to-Earth guy who wrote "Baby Got Back" as a commentary on Eurocentric beauty standards. In the oral history, he talks about seeing an ad during the Super Bowl, and he was so sick of "straight up-and-down bird legs." He says "Black men like curves. When they're crooning to women about how beautiful they are in an R&B song, the ladies you see in the video don't reflect what those guys like." So, apparently he didn't lie.

In a SeattleMet article, Mix also says that his ego has never been what drives him, nor has the idea of gaining street cred. He's really just a hard-working guy who had always tried to have a good career. Of course, he's sometimes forgotten this too, like in 1996, when he had to pay the IRS $150,000. At first he was enraged (understandable, we'd be too), but his brother came out and simply asked him the last time he'd seen their mom. That woke Mix up to how he owed so much because he'd focused too much on work and fame, and not on family.

As you can see, his family always tried to put things into perspective for him, and it worked. Mix started seeing his mom way more after that, to the point where she could recognize him long after she lost most other memories to dementia. Gah, could we love this guy any more? He actually DOES like big butts, and his mom. Not her butt, though. Eww.

He might like cars as much as he likes big butts

In a Magnet Magazine article, Mix referenced a car he bought right out of the gate, and talked about how gaudy it was. That doesn't mean that Anthony Ray stopped buying cars. Nope. He owns some real beauts, as chronicled in a website dedicated to cars owned by celebrities.

Mix has a McLaren MP4-12C, Lamborghini LP640 and many, many more. In October 2013, Sir Mix-A-Lot made the news by putting his 1984 Gemballa Porsche 935 slantnose convertible (purple) up for sale for $49,880. Sir is a bit of a gearhead, you see, as evidenced by a 2014 Reddit AMA. It was so notable, even Gear Box Magazine wrote about it. It wasn't just cars though — someone asked what it was like on the set of the "Baby Got Back." video. Mix answered with a tale about being dressed in brown, standing in the crack of the big butt used as setting. He claims, "I was like a dancing turd." To hell with romancing, indeed.

He's generous with the rights to his music

Sir Mix-A-Lot knows that, when a song gets as big as "Baby Got Back," people are going to want to use it. As a music engineer who sampled songs he liked on his earliest records, he wasn't mad at all when Nicki Minaj sampled his hit tune on her single "Anaconda," AKA "Baby Got Back The Cover Only Not A Cover Cover." Both Ray and Minaj have deals with Universal, so the two talked one night, but he'd already said it was OK to sample his song. Plus, he likes her song, and said the music video "was a sexy ass video."

In a "Oprah: Where are They Now?" segment, Mix says that he doesn't ask for a bunch of money up front when someone wants to use his material. He says "I just want to see how the track goes and let it blow up." Well, "Anaconda" sure blew up, and that was good.

Minaj wasn't, however, the first hit-maker to sample a Sir Mix-A-Lot track. In 2004, Cee-Lo Green recorded "Don't Cha" with Ms. Alamaze, which sampled the title track from Swass, changing the chorus from "Don't you wish your boyfriend was Swass like me" to "don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me" and so on. The New York Times documents the whole journey of the song, all the way to the Pussycat Dolls' single in May of 2004.

Funnily enough, most of the controversy centered around the difference between Alamaze's version and the Dolls'. (Alamaze calls them "The Copycat Dolls," which ... alright, fine, that's pretty clever.) Either way, we're sure Mix is getting paid, just like he got paid for this Burger King commercial. You're welcome. Yep, that's Sir Mix-A-Lot singing about square SpongeBob butts.

He's basically doing his own thing

Sir Mix-A-Lot still has a lot going on. He tours regularly, goes out for Chinese food, spends mad time in the studio, and recently hosted a five-hour hip-hop radio show called "Explicitly Old School with Sir Mix-A-Lot" that has now been broken up into a one-hour weekday show that you can listen to for an hour per day, or for five hours on Saturday and Sunday. The show features stories about the artists and the era of '90s hip-hop, ones only Sir Mix-A-Lot can tell. Sign us up.

He also came to Blake Lively's defense after she was harshly criticized for posting a picture of herself at Cannes captioned with the "Baby" lyrics, "L.A. face with an Oakland booty." People were really, really mad, but Sir Mix-A-Lot came to her defense, saying that the song wasn't about a race battle, but about celebrating curves. He actually wrote a bit of a missive about it, where he defends her totally, and wonders why Katy Perry and Kim Kardashian can do the same type of thing and not get lambasted by the media.

See, folks? Sir Mix-A-Lot is a cool, cool guy. So cool, in fact, that when one writes an article about him, one ends up following him on Facebook. And Instagram. And maybe, just maybe, is thinking about a ticket to Seattle to see him in person. No lie.