When Sir Mix-A-Lot recorded “Baby Got Back” for his third studio album in 1992, he didn’t believe it had hit potential. “I thought that it was more of a filler,” recalls the 53-year-old, born Anthony Ray. Co-produced with Rick Rubin and released as a single that May, “Baby Got Back” lasted five weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was officially declared that year’s Song of the Summer. Mix reflects on how the song came to fruition, and how to craft a summer smash that lasts.
“I got a call from Heidi Robinson, who did PR for Def American Recordings. When she [mentioned] Rick Rubin, I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness! That’s one of my heroes.’ I jumped on a plane and met with him — we went to this weird restaurant where Rick was eating this green pasta. I had never seen pesto. He tells me about one song in particular of mine that he liked that never hit, [1989’s] ‘I Got Game.’ We went through the whole negotiating process, and once that got worked out, the creative stuff started.
“I would send him songs and he would write notes and fax them back to me. I took ‘I Got Game’ and used the same sounds. ‘Baby Got Back’ was originally supposed to be a slow, serious song, and that sucked. That didn’t even raise Rick’s eyebrows. So I sped it up and did it again. When I sent it back to him, he put an exclamation point behind one of his comments and wanted me to take the music out [during] the punchlines, because that’s what was going to last forever. Boy, was he right.
“When I released it, gangsta rap was pretty big. I wasn’t talking about shooting or killing nobody. I was just talking about something we all could agree on, or at least most of us. It’s a little harder now to make something sticky. ‘Baby Got Back’ is a brand unto itself. I used to not want to accept that, but ‘Baby Got Back’ is bigger than Sir Mix-A-Lot.”
This article originally appeared in the June 3 issue of Billboard.