The memories of Sisqo's breakthrough hit “Thong Song” come flooding back to the 38-year-old like he's back in the kitchen of his Baltimore County abode, where he penned the undergarment ode with his cousin Marquis "DaKidd" Collins nearly two decades ago at the age of 19. At that point -- weeks before he received a mix of beats from producers Tim & Bob to create songs for his 1999 debut, Unleash the Dragon, and years before Billboard would name the "Thong Song" chorus one of the greatest of the 21st century -- the Dru Hill frontman did not know what a thong was.
"I had never seen one before," he tells Billboard. "Apparently none of my friends had actually seen one, before because in 1999, there wasn’t a whole lot of thongs being worn unless it was in some sort of swimsuit ad. I just remembered first seeing one and it was like... you ever seen The Ten Commandments, when Moses went up and his hair was black, and then he came back down and his hair was all silver? That was literally the joke I was making with [my] silver hair. [The thong] was stone tablet-ed into my mind."
The beat for "Thong Song" was the last of 22 tracks he received from Tim & Bob that initially sampled The Beatles' 1966 classic "Eleanor Rigby." To prevent paying Michael Jackson (whose estate previously owned the publishing rights to The Beatles catalog) and a clearance fiasco, Sisqo rewrote the strings section and hired violinists and cellists to tackle the beat. "A lot of people think that those strings on the song is the sample, but it’s live," he says. "I wrote it enough that it’s nowhere near 'Eleanor Rigby.' If you try to play 'Thong Song' and 'Eleanor Rigby' together, you can’t even hear the similarities. Trust me, if there was a similarity, Michael Jackson would have been doing the remix to the 'Thong Song.'" (Fun fact: the song also includes a little snippet of the classical Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov composition "Flight of the Bumblebee.")