Before we jump back into part two let me clarity something. I’m not trying to suggest that Sir Mix A Lot is a lyrical mastermind. I’m merely saying he is significantly better than he is given credit for. That’s mostly of his own construct because of the career path he chose to take. Had he decided to take the Underground Rap route then I’d personally still feel the same, but writing this would have a different context and most likely most people wouldn’t be as aware of who I’m talking about. Regardless, the songs I’m covering here, I’m personally a fan of them and they bring back some great teenage memories…
When Sir Mix A Lot came with the debut album “Swass” in ’88 I picked it up with no question. Quite honestly I didn’t love the whole record, but I wasn’t mad at it and I found myself entertained enough through out. The title track was just ridiculous and catchy enough to keep you smiling. “Iron Man”, particularly the 12” remix was a cool Rock/Rap combo. “Posse On Broadway” was the hard-hitting, light-hearted hit single. “Rippin” was the high-speed braggadocio joint with his partner in rhyme, Kid Sensation. It’s also the song that drops science on how Sir Mix A Lot started to build a fortune without Rap as a “Real Estate Investor”. Yet, the song that grabbed my attention was “Hip Hop Soldier”.
“Hip Hop Soldier” is the ill joint. It’s apparent from most of this album that he rethought his opinion on the Roland TR-808. This track is the best programming of the bass beast machine on the album. It’s heavy on cowbell and sharp snares that drop like karate chops to the neck. In the way that “In The Studio” gave you an open view into the world of studio equipment, “Hip Hop Soldier” is a lesson on guns and artillery. My gun knowledge is non-existent for the most part, but assuming he is accurate here, you could use this track as a gun buyers guide, learning the pros and cons of the various options up to ’88. It’s mostly filled with tough talk, but he does touch on his thoughts on gun laws, the lack of positive police presence in the urban areas, and also his own safety, which is a inspiration for the excessive artillery, “In Seattle they are jealous because a brother has made it” or later he adds, “People in Seattle hate me because I’m not like a hood”. Also, to ensure us he’s not just on a violent rampage of any and all around, “I never beat women, romance is better/If a freak wants to leave, boy, you might as well let her”. Excellent advice I say...
For his “Rippin” 12” he unleashed his “Attack On The Stars” on the B-Side. The title is a simple play on words, which he covers in the introduction. The “Attack On The Stars” is presented as space mission by NASA or something of the sort, but is actually about him taking shots at Rap Stars or as it seems to suggest, an un-named specific target. The beat is a bit more musical than “Hip Hop Soldier”, rather than the pure raw, but it has a somewhat unique swing to it. The lyrical peak is when he decides to “launch phase two of the attack” and get a bit more specific, “What about this other group dressed like GQ/Yeah, I’m talking about you/You call yourself Rappers? Crack another joke/You ol’ smoker, take another toke/You bought Cane back in San Diego/I saw it when you laid it on the table/Big disappointment to your fans/You wanna throw? Let’s go for the floor man/Ohhh! That’s controversy/Yeah, I said it and I showed no mercy/Superstars watch your back/Yo D, your game was wack!/Nuclear warhead, aimed at your head/Your girl calls my name in your bed!/Fire, this beat’s so hard/My new song, the Attack On The Stars!”
He also has two highlight lines in the final verse that he delivers with a great flow, “Always getting caught with tactical equipment/Bringing in my Uzi on the UPS shipment!” and “Old School? New School? Makes no never mind/Your foundation’s just be undermined!”
When the “Posse On Broadway” single dropped, which was a hit by then, I picked it up to have the instrumental. I also took notice to the unreleased B-Side track “F The BS”, which sounded like it had promise. It’s probably worth mentioning that “Posse On Broadway’ showcases Mix’s story-telling abilities. It also allows him to refer back to his silly side as he dons a playful voice that is slightly harmonic with an over-exaggerated accent on key words for emphasis, such as when dropping catchy one-liners like, “The man you love to hate, the JR Ewing of Seattle…”
However, “F The BS” is the straight hardcore, with impressive Roland TR-808 programming. The basics of beat are simple, yet well done, but during the second verse he strips away the keyboards and adds some additional flavor to the snare drums. He enhances that on the third verse with some effects and echo on the drums to add to the intensity. This is all related to the fact that Mix A Lot usually made a point of spending time on the arrangement, so there’s plenty of drops and changes up to keep things interesting.
I would say from a strictly rhyming ability standpoint, this is the best song in his catalog. His flow is sharp and tightly structured, making a stronger presence for when he loosens up the tongue and flexes a swift flow on select sections. There are a few great quotes through out the song. Perhaps my favorite is in the second verse when he hits the competition with, “Bring it to my level? Boy, you better start climbing/Machines grinding, I’m hardcore rhyming/Lyrics to your gut and all your lines just buckle/When you make it to the top I put these boots on your knuckles!” Every time I hear that I can picture Sir Mix A Lot on top of a skyscraper, wearing a raccoon hat, with that half-grimace/half-smirk face he would always make and his boots firmly placed on the desperate hand of some sucker MC trying to climb to the top…
Other Stand-Out Quotes include:
“Drop the games because they really ain’t necessary/You can be obliterated, boy you ain’t legendary”
“Memories of being broke keep me on the warpath”
“Physical rhymes all meant to intimidate/Onlookers take notes, don’t imitate!”
Taking a closer look at my selected Sir Mix A Lot quotes through out this series it makes me think that a lot of these are more suited for the types of lines I'd like to use or see used for a sample or scratch hook in a song, more than something that really blew my mind when I heard it. They are just are great descriptive quotes that knock you in the head. In any event, take the lyrical element along with the nicely done transform scratches and the aforementioned production work, “F The BS” is also a great example of Sir Mix A Lot’s diversity of an artist, as he was responsible for all three.
Both these B-side tracks had me anticipating his sophomore album, which came a year later in the form of “Seminar”. I remember lying on the floor of my first apartment, probably because I didn’t have any furniture, and listening to this album on my Walkman.
The album comes in with the title track and he flips a unconventional cadence and later suggests, “This album is a demonstration of various styles of a Hip Hop art/I got paid, but I do it cause I love it. All enemies hush, let the seminar start!”
“National Anthem” introduces an approach that he had only very briefly touched on in the past; politics, drug sales, the shooting of Huey P Newton, Oliver North weapons sales, terrorism, the Anti-American sentiments in Middle Eastern countries, and later he gets personal about his own fight with poverty.
“Beepers” and “My Hooptie” are in the vein of “My Posse On Broadway” with good storytelling, humor and more universal appeal.
He also takes two tracks to flex some verbal muscle. “I’ll Roll You Up” and “My Bad Side” are both solid tracks, but don’t quite reach the heights of “F The BS”, but are comparable to “Attack On The Stars” and “Hip Hop Soldier”. I figure by now he was really starting to figure out where his song writing strength’s were. He was probably aware that he wasn’t going to be at the top of his game trying to compete with the likes of Rakim, KRS One, Kool G Rap and the other lyrical giants of the time. Instead, he started to shift his focus to where he was getting the most attention and by the third album he had made a significant shift in his style and found his musical calling….
I didn’t extend my fan membership into his third album, which came three years later in ‘92. I brought the first single, “One Time’s Got No Case” and then I think I got wind of the next tracks thru his music videos and decided I’d sit that one out.
However, I still fondly like to return to the 80s Sir Mix A Lot recordings and enjoy the diverse selections. Although, I wasn’t a fan of his musical output in the ‘90s I still maintained respect for his contributions. He’s been on my “Most Wanted” interview list for a long time and hopefully I can make that happen soon. I remember having a child-like grin when he made the perfect cameo appearance in Jake One’s “Home” music video… #Classicness
Listen to these key songs I reference in the playlist below: "Hip Hop Soldier", "F The BS", "In My Studio", "Attack On The Stars" and a bonus joint from '87, "Electro Scratch" that's a nice Vocoder and turntable joint...