Sir Mix-A-Lot :: Swass :: NastyMix/American Recordings
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Emanuel Wallace

On my desk, I have pizza coupons, nightclub flyers, a candy dish with everything except candy in it, and press releases among other things. I also have a small stack of cassette tapes. Now for the benefit of any of our younger readers who may not know what a cassette is, allow me to briefly explain. Before there were mp3's and CD's, cassettes were the dominant music format. They were more portable than vinyl records and were smaller than eight-track tapes. This gave rise to the popularity of large boomboxes and later on, Walkmans and other personal cassette players. Back then, the best way to store these cassettes was to put them in a shoebox. Nowadays, everything can be stored on a flash or external hard drive. I'm not downing that, because these advances in technology have helped to make the distribution of music rather easy and simple, some may even say TOO easy and simple. In any case, the cassettes on my desk were Ol' Dirty Bastard's "Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version", Jodeci's "Forever My Lady", a mixtape of Redman songs and the debut album from the Seattle-based rapper who would go on to become hip-hop's most revered booty-ologist, Sir Mix-A-Lot.

Before being crowned rap's quintessential ass man and labeled a one-hit wonder, the rapper, born Anthony Ray, had a handful of tunes that received their fair amount of play in the streets. Songs like "My Hooptie" and "Beepers" from the "Seminar" album come to mind. However, before that, Mix-A-Lot and his posse were "Swass" and wanted everyone to know it. When I was younger, I thought that "Swass" was an acronym for something, but as I grew older, I realized it was just another word to describe something sweet, fly, dope, and so forth.

"Swass" kicks into gear with "Buttermilk Biscuits" which actually features a high-pitched Kid Sensation rapping about the finer points of biscuits. It seems silly, but you have to realize that the Mix-A-Lot posse was never one to take themselves too seriously. Which is why they could pull off a song as frivolous as this one in the first place. Also, it doesn't hurt to have a ground-thumping song like "Posse On Broadway" coming right afterward to balance things out. The track starts out innocently enough with a minimal beat and a quick guitar riff, the bass comes in and then Mix takes the listener on a trip through the streets of Seattle, most notably... Broadway, as he raps:

"Me and Kid Sensation in that home away from home
In the Black Benz limo with the cellular phone
I'm callin' up the posse, it's time to get rippin'
The freaks a need a sunroof, to keep you suckas trippin'
Everybody's lookin if you're jealous turn around
The AMG kick keeps us closer to the ground
We're gettin' good grip from the 50 series tires
The Alpine's bumpin', but I need the volume higher
Cause the 808 kick drum makes the girlies get dumb
We're rollin' Rainier, and the jealous wanna get some
Every time we do, the sucka M.C.'s wanna battle
I'm the man they love to hate, the J.R. Ewing of Seattle
Picked up the posse on 23rd and Jackson
Headed for the strip, yes we're lookin' for some action
The limo's kinda crowded, the whole car was leanin' back
Maharaji's watchin' TV with two girlies on his lap
On Martin Luther King, the set looks kinda dead
We need a new street so posse move ahead
We all look kinda' SWASS the crew you can't forget
The Mix-a-lot posse cold rippin' up the set"

After a night of kickin' it with your posse, what else is there to do? Spend money of course, so on "Gold" Mix-A-Lot kicks a tale of how he and his crew spend "lots of dollars" on gold. It also features a scratched in sample of Ice Cube's line from NWA's "Dopeman", where he says "gold around his neck, in 14k heaven". Tori Alamaze and the Pussycat Dolls should be familiar with the title track, as they both used interpolations of the hook for their versions of "Don't Cha". On the original, Mix-A-Lot asks "Don't you wish ya boyfriend was Swass like me?". Kid Sensation shows up again on the fast-paced "Rippin'" which features bits and pieces of songs by Kraftwerk, Salt-N-Pepa, Gary Numan and a song that I learned in my fourth grade French class called "Aloutte" (which sounds like it was played on a small Casio keyboard).

The first side of the tape ends with the braggadocios "Attack On The Stars" and the "Mall Dropper" interlude. To be honest, the former sounds like it uses a beat from Sonic The Hedgehog, but I'm almost certain that his album was released before Sonic even existed. Side B of the tape opens with the aggressive "Hip Hop Soldier". Helicopters and ricocheting bullets kick the track off as Mix goes on a tirade against wanna-be's and even gives a lesson in artillery in the process, as he raps:

"Now let's get one thing straight, my weapons are great
You 22 automatic suckers are late
Got a quarter Moon clip, and a Smith and Wesson
I'm about to give you roody-poos a cold gun lesson
I'm the wizard of mayhem, master of destruction
Got a 44 mag, with the blunt instructions
Page 1 says open, page 2 says feel
Page 3 says cock, page 4 says kill
A mini 14, full combat dress
A thirty round clip, and I ain't takin' no mess
Cause I'm a rough eyegrasser, a camouflage dresser
My M16 has a flasher presser
My Sterling mark six, it's funny but it hits
It looks sideways but the sucker will kick
A pack of dangerous beretta, kinda small but its good
Some of you wannabes wish that you could"

Metal Church lends an assist on Mix-A-Lot's hip-rock take on Black Sabbath's "Iron Man". The song is decent, but it lacks the punch of previous hip-rock creations such as Run-DMC's version of "Walk This Way". Not to mention that Steven Tyler and Joe Perry made an appearance on the song, whereas Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi were not on Mix-A-Lot's. A "Bremelo" is a rather unattractive woman that Mix advises men to stay away from at all costs. Apparently, the name comes from the nearby city of Bremerton where all the women are "mud ducks" in the eyes of Sir Mix-A-Lot. Kid Sensation returns once more with "Square Dance Rap" and on MY tape things close out with "Romantic Interlude", which sounds like a combination of a World Class Wreckin' Cru jam and a very bad impression of Prince.

My tape has an imprint of NastyMix Records, rather than American Recordings. Perhaps that's why my tracklist isn't as long as some I've seen online. The rewind button on my tape deck wasn't working so I had to flip the tape over and fast forward if I wanted to rewind the other side. I never really felt the urge to rewind anything, but I could listen through with no problem. As I said earlier, many label Sir Mix-A-Lot a one-hit wonder, and while it may be true that his biggest success came from that one song, he has other achievements as well. There's the "Apache" sampling "Jump On It", the aforementioned "My Hooptie", and my personal favorite, "Put Em On The Glass". On top of that, if you're old enough to remember the "Books: Check Em Out" ad campaign, he was the one spitting the rap. So call Anthony Ray a one-hit wonder all you want, he and his posse with be laughing all the way to the bank. You know, the one on Broadway.

Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10

Originally posted: November 3, 2009