Seattle’s own national treasure, Sir Mix-A-Lot, (Grammy Award winner for Baby Got Back) is performing November 2nd at Neumo’s in Seattle’s nightclub district, and opening for Ayron Jones, an artist who Mix produces for.
I had the privilege of speaking with Sir Mix, or Mix, or Anthony Ray, (he was happy with anything), about what else he’s been working on. Much to my chagrin, he remained mum about but still teased that he’s working on a national ad campaign… and he’s never stopped making music.
“I’m doing something that seems to be illegal, I’m making another record. For some reason, people think that hip-hop has a date code. But, people like me, who grew up in hip-hop from its inception… It’s like telling someone who grew up on rock and roll that they can’t like it past thirty. I’ve been wanting to do a record because I just love recording, and I own my own studios so I don’t have to spend a bunch of money to record. And it’s almost like you have to file a disclaimer: This is not a ploy to make another dollar, I’m not hurting for money, I just like doing music.”
“Nobody accuses Mick Jagger of recording because he’s desperate, it’s just something they do to rap artists and it’s just ass-backwards if you ask me.”
I asked Mix about his latest appearance as a tow-truck driver in Macklemore’s video, “White Walls,” filmed in Seattle, and our conversation quickly turned to the inner workings of the record industry.
“It was a 5 day shoot, and I came in on day 4. It was a pretty complicated layout. Those guys (Macklemore and Ryan Lewis) are absolute geniuses. Whenever someone wants advice, I say, ‘Don’t follow what I did because that business model is dead.’ Those guys: that is today’s music business model. First, they have a loyal fan base that they generated organically, not from some publicist. That doesn’t fly anymore, fans can sniff through that and they fly away like they’re in a warzone. So they’ve taken that fan base and have leveraged that to get what they want out of record labels and radio stations. I thought it was beautiful and they kept it all independent. They own their own records. Think about that. Somebody that has records that huge – you hear it in all kinds of movies – and they actually own the masters. My business model: Rick Ruben has had my masters for 35 years.”
But Mix does not sound bitter. Just thoughtful. He explains more about how Macklemore worked the system:
“With that fan base as leverage, they then went to Warner Brothers and said, ‘Hey look, we need you to market our record.’ And Warner Brothers said, ‘But, we want to sign you.’ ‘Well, we don’t want to sign with you. We have a million people following us, are you in or not?’ What is Warner Brothers gonna say, no?”
Back to performing, what’s a Sir-Mix-A-Lot show like today?
“One thing I don’t do, I’m a big Prince fan, but when he tours and doesn’t play the hits… I’m a big Gary Newman fan, and when he came to town and did his 3 hits in the middle of the show and all new stuff around it, I don’t like that. It’s a slap in the face for all your long-time fans. I realize you want to get new listeners, but those fans are the reason you’re here. What you won’t get from me is test songs. Sure I’ll play a new song, but I will play every single old school track, except Square Dance Rap, because that throws my voice out!”
And then we went way back in time to filming his own “Posse On Broadway” video in Seattle in the 80’s:
“Broadway then and Broadway now are two very different things. People from every ‘hood would come down on the weekends. Arnold’s was an arcade where everyone came. Dick’s (Drive-In) became a hub. It was very 50’s–esque. I just did it (the song and video) as an ode to Sea-town and it blew up. Everybody in that video was just someone I knew. We didn’t have enough money for casting. A local legend, Chester Dorsey, let us use his Mercedes limousine and we told a bunch of lies and acted like we owned it. (laugh). I thought we were just making the video for Seattle, but the next thing I know, Fab Five Freddy (from Yo! MTV Raps) and MTV are out here talking about Posse On Broadway. Wow! Rappers still come to Broadway and ask, ‘Hey man, where can I get those Dick’s fries at?’”
Mix wrapped up our talk by saying that, without sounding cliché, he really loves Seattle, and realizes that Seattle fans have had his back for a long time, and that’s why he’s never even considered leaving good ol’ Sea-Town.
Hear the conversation: