A surprising source of inspiration for an iconic ’90s song.
Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-a-Lot was a massive hit in the early ’90s that has remained preternaturally popular in the 25 years that have followed. Sure, it’s catchy, the lyrics are easy for people of all rhythmic abilities to rap along to, and it was a celebration of dat ass before dat ass was celebrated. Still… surprisingly on its third decade of relevance .
Due largely to its endurance, Sir Mix-a-Lot still fields questions about it in (most likely all of his) modern interviews. And he made a comment in one that just caught my attention.
Sir Mix-a-Lot noted that the catalyst for creating the song was Bud Light’s late ’80s mascot, party dog Spuds MacKenzie.
For those unfamiliar (and I was even a bit young to really experience the full force of Spuds MacKenzie), Bud Light introduced a party dog named Spuds MacKenzie in their 1987 Super Bowl ad. He was their new mascot, a Bull Terrier who was the coolest guy at the party.
And Spuds was always surrounded by sexy ladies. (That was essentially a legal requirement of beer commercials up until like three years ago, when they all switched their strategy to trying to make you cry about horses and such.)
The “sexy ladies” in question here, however, primarily had one thing in common: They were skinny.
In January of 1987, a 23-year-old Sir Mix-a-Lot was living in Seattle, Washington. He was working on his debut album, which would come out the next year… and he witnessed the Spuds Mackenzie phenomenon.
The preponderance of un-curvaceous models inspired him to write a song about the women he was attracted to: Women with much curvier bodies. Ones with juicy doubles, if you will. He suspected he wasn’t alone.
Here’s what he said in an interview with the A.V. Club in 2003:
You had these Spuds MacKenzie girls, little skinny chicks looking like stop signs, with big hair and skinny bodies. I did it as a knee-jerk response to that kind of stuff. I didn’t think it would ever be popular, but there were a lot of chicks out there with the J. Lo body, and they wore sweaters around their waists because they were told that they had fat asses — in a negative way, not in a good way. There were more of those girls than there were little waif heroin-looking chicks.
And he clearly tapped into something. Even though some knuckleheads tried to dis the song, not only was Baby Got Back a number one hit, but, in its own odd, objectifying way, it was part of the glacial but tangible shift in modern beauty standards.
Apparently, we can thank Spuds MacKenzie for doing his part to kick that ball down the road.
By “his,” by the way, I mean “her”… because it turned out the dog that was cast as Spuds was actually female. She died in May of 1993, almost exactly one year after Baby Got Back came out, with no idea of the cultural phenomenon she’d helped to create.