Radio Hits One: "Baby Got Back" And 20 Years Of Ass-Themed Hits
20 years ago, the Seattle-based rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot was doing pretty well as a mid-level star of the burgeoning west coast hip-hop scene, coming off of two successful albums and a series of rap radio staples like "Posse On Broadway" and "My Hoopty." In February 1992 he'd just released his third album, Mack Daddy, and its moderately popular lead single, "One Time's Got No Case," when he made a decision that would change his lifeand, dare I say, the world: He released the track "Baby Got Back" as a single, and spent most of the attendant video standing astride a gigantic prop ass. Within a few months, the song had topped the Hot 100. (No other Mix-a-Lot single before or since has reached higher than No. 70.) That put "Baby Got Back" in the anal annals of history as the most famous butt-themed hit song of all time, though it's had ample competition in the two decades since.
Of course, there were songs about the ass before "Baby Got Back," both in hip-hop and further back in the worlds of disco and especially funk; Sir Mix-a-Lot himself credits the ass-obsessed Parliament-Funkadelic as a primary influence for "Back." Even a rock band, Queen, got "Fat Bottomed Girls" into the Top 40 in 1978. Throughout the '60s and '70s, most hit songs about moving your behind would beat around the bush by merely telling you to shake your hips, your groove thing, or simply "it." The first overtly butt-themed No. 1 came in 1976, when KC & The Sunshine Band topped the charts with "(Shake Shake Shake) Shake Your Booty"; in 1988, the Washington, D.C. Go-Go band E.U. cracked the Top 40 with "Da Butt"; and a year later hip-hop enjoyed its biggest pre-Mix-a-Lot celebration of the ass with LL Cool J's "Big Ole Butt," which peaked on the Rap Singles chart at No. 13.
In the early '90s, the Hot 100 was still largely ruled by gloopy ballads. So the five weeks "Baby Got Back" spent at the top of the charts were an oasis of goofy, uptempo fun in the middle of a summer that was otherwise dominated by Boyz II Men's "End of the Road," Mariah Carey's "I'll Be There" and Madonna's "This Used To Be My Playground." But that song helped plant the seed for another future booty-shaking smash: Wreckx-N-Effect producer Teddy Riley drafted protégé Pharrell Williams to help write "Rump Shaker." And Williams would go onto great success years later as one half of the production duo The Neptunes--whose hits include "Shake Ya Ass" by Mystikal, which hit No. 13 on the Hot 100 in its clean edit form as "Shake It Fast" in 2000.