Every emcee has their musical influences, and all musicians have their favourites when it comes to artists and the music that has come before them. This is most definitely the case for Auburn rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot.
Sir Mix-a-Lot (real name Anthony Ray) is a 1980s legend who often gets overlooked in West Coast hip-hop. The Auburn emcee first arose as an electro DJ in Seattle and began rapping when he partnered up with the host of the West Coast’s first hip-hop radio show, Nasty Nes.
Known for making fun interactive hip-hop music, Ray first gained exposure with his 1986 single ‘Square Dance Rap’. Listeners hear Ray rapping a series of dance commandments in a high-pitch cartoonish voice that made it highly appealing to kids.
The party record spread like wildfire across the US and led to Sir Mix-a-Lot getting booked for shows in Florida, New York and Texas. In 2018, Ray told a Seattle music publication that he didn’t want to be a thug rapper, revealing, “I didn’t want to rap, that’s why I used that weird Smurf voice”.
However, that didn’t take away from his popularity. In the 1980s mainstream hip-hop music was mostly a product of the Northeastern Seaboard and LA so it was a shock to Ray and many record executives when his debut album, Swass, went platinum. Especially considering he was an independent rapper from the outskirts of Seattle.
Aside from Macklemore, few hip-hop artists from Seattle have achieved mainstream success. However, during the late-80s, it was a bastion of culture. In an interview, Sir-Mix-a-Lot has even admitted that while entrenched in the city’s club scene, Nirvana once opened for him.
Although N.W.A was representing the West Coast during his heyday when asked in an interview with SPIN magazine about his favourite hip-hop album of all time; Ray’s response was a tie.
Giving his opinion, the Seattle act openly stated, “In my opinion, it’s probably a tie for greatest hip-hop album of all time between Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions and N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton. These two albums contributed greatly to hip-hop’s refusal to merely deliver feel-good songs without acknowledging the issues that plagued our communities.” You can listen to the two albums below.