Once upon a time doing an entire song about butts was a novelty. Before we were inundated with odes to shaking backsides, the music industry was actually not a hospitable place to women gifted with curvier than average bodies. Then in 1992 Seattle producer and rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot released his now ubiquitous hit record, “Baby Got Back.”
The bouncy departure from the gangster sounds of the west and the boom-bap of the east, “Baby” didn’t find its audience immediately. In fact, MTV initially refused to play the video because they found it offensive. But eventually the network–and millions of listeners–got…ahem…behind it.
As part of their micro oral histories week, Vulture corralled Rick Rubin, Sir Mix-a-Lot (real name: Anthony Ray), the video’s director Adam Bernstein (also of “Breaking Bad” fame), and others to bring you the story of this cheeky classic.
Sir Mix-a-Lot (producer/writer/performer, “Baby Got Back”): Amylia Dorsey was my girlfriend at the time, the girl that did the “Oh my gawd, Becky” intro [to the song]. You think J.Lo had a body? No contest! We were together eight, nine years.
Amylia Dorsey-Rivas (voice artist, “Baby Got Back”): I have about 40 to 50 different voices that I do. There were so many kids coming in and out of my household — my parents had about 40 foster kids; I was adopted — that I picked up lots of different accents. The one [at the beginning of] “Baby” was based on girls I grew up around.
Adam Bernstein (director, “Baby Got Back” video):
I had previously been offered the chance to direct an LL Cool J song, “Big Ole Butt,” but I didn’t do it. This time, I needed to get out of New York because I broke up with my girlfriend and she got the apartment.
Dana Hollister (costume designer, “Baby Got Back” video):
I concocted the visuals based around the giant ass. Dana and I leafed through a book about Jean-Paul Goude, a French fashion photographer who happened to be ass-obsessed. So the shape of the butt was inspired by his work.
Rick Rubin (owner, Def American/American Recordings): 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. I knew if we could get MTV onboard, word would spread.
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