It took more than a decade, but booty-obsessed rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot has finally moved from the rear to the front.
The man who made "Baby Got Back" a Grammy-winning dance-floor anthem in 1992 is returning from a self-imposed six-year retirement with a new album, Daddy's Home, and a fresh anatomical rap that should please the females in his audience.
"I had a lot of ladies saying to me, 'You have all these songs about t--ties and asses, but what about us?' " Mix-a-Lot said, explaining "Big Johnson," his new ode to measuring up. The raunchy song about how most men fib about what caliber pistol they're packing was inspired by a heated debate with an old friend.
"I had this massive argument with this woman I've known for a long time about 'Baby Got Back,' " Mix said. "She didn't like it at all, and she said, 'If someone did a song called "Baby Got Di--," would you like it?' I said, 'Yeah, that would be cool.' "
"Big Johnson," with its staccato, techno-inspired rhythms, signals a return to spare beats and sex-obsessed lyrics for the Seattle rapper, who walked away from the biz in 1997. "It felt like it was my time to quit," Mix, 39, explained. "I never wanted to beg to make records, and I started making them to pay bills, and that's not cool."
The author of such strip club classics as "Put 'Em on the Glass" and "My Posse's on Broadway" said he thought the rap business was getting too predictable in the wake of the murders of Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. After a pair of disappointing albums, he decided he'd rather quit rapping than try to mold his style to the thugging/bling bling mentality of the late '90s.
"I had checked out bands like Nirvana and it was about people, not who had the biggest necklace and wheels," he said. "Bragging about wheels? I had two Lamborghinis before brothers could even spell it. I was doing that 15 years ago!"
Mix retired to his hometown and set up a home studio and recorded a still-unreleased album with rockers Presidents of the United States of America under the name Subset and began work on a rock/rap mixture that he said nobody has ever attempted before.
"While doing Subset, I found this true hybrid between hip-hop and rock, from drum machines to real drums and guitar to synth that is really unique," he said. "You look at a lot of these cats doing rock-rap now and the problem is a lot of them can't rap."
Though that hybrid sound doesn't appear on Daddy's Home, due in September, the rapper promised fans will hear it on the upcoming debut from the newest member of his posse, rapper Outtasite, as well as from his rock group, Effective Resistance.
Mix, an avowed fan of everything from '70s rock to Soundgarden, does share his love for classic rock on the Home track "Ya'll Don't Know." The biographical trip through the ups and downs of his career employs a fat '70s guitar-rock groove that might have Kid Rock looking over his shoulder. But even though much of his motivation these days comes from dabbling in rock sounds, Mix-a-Lot said it was hip-hop that inspired him to mount a comeback.
"I started to listen to cats like Ludacris, Timbaland, the Neptunes and Missy, and I realized that creativity was coming back [to hip-hop]," he said. "They're getting away from the typical, rehashed R&B [sound] with thug rhymes over the top. I was listening to rap songs that made me want to dance and I thought, 'What a revelation!' I hadn't felt that way in 10 years."
Rather than pack Home with a bunch of big names ("that just looks desperate," he said), Mix went the other way, using only members of his crew for cameos. The exception is a brief rhyme from old pal Humpty Hump of Digital Underground on the P-Funk-inspired groupie song "At the Next Show."
He may not have superstar cameos, but Mix calls out a few major players on songs like "Big Screen" and the album's title track. On the latter, without naming names, he warns, "Baller crowns are earned, never bought/ Nowadays you got cats that will rent a look/ Rent some pimps/ Rent some big-booty girls for your video / But your daddy's home/ And the rent is due."
Calling out wankstas is one thing, but Mix realizes it takes more than disses to get back on top. "Is anyone going to get out of the way for me now? No," he chuckled. "I know I won't sell 5 million on this album, and man, that would scare the sh-- out of me at this point. I'm just making some songs that are about having fun again."