Seattle Culture

Sir Mix-a-Lot at 60: What’s Next?

Seattle artist looks for opportunities to spread his love of music

By Linda Lowry February 1, 2024

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This article originally appeared in the March/April 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

Did you celebrate Sir Mix-a-Lot Day on November 3? If not, you’re in luck – you’ve got a head start for this year. Mark your calendar and get ready to play the “Mack Daddy” album, as this year marks the third anniversary of Sir Mix-a-Lot Day.

Seattle’s iconic MoPOP recently honored the local hip-hop artist Anthony Ray, known as Sir Mix-a-Lot, with its Hometown Hero award for his efforts to sustain the music industry during the pandemic through the initiative “Keep Music Live,” a Seattle-based music education nonprofit that encourages youth and adults to learn to play an instrument.

Ray, now 60 and affectionately known among his peers as Mix, broke out with his 1992 hit song “Baby Got Back,” which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Other hits include “Buttermilk Biscuits,” “Posse’ on Broadway,” and “My Hooptie.”

Seattle magazine recently caught up with the artist, who admits that the recognition that accompanies “Mix-a-Lot Day” can be overwhelming. 

Q: Share the story behind the name Sir-Mix-a-Lot? 

A: People think it was because I was a DJ. It is really because I like to mix music. 

Q: Are there any upcoming performances scheduled, any new music you are working on? 

A: I just turned 60 and I realized I got to start thinking about some other things, like the rest of my life. I do want to do shows. It’s the grind gets redundant after a while. I do a lot of new songs. I go into the studio and mix them and then I will start another new song. It must be right. I will get a phone call from someone looking for a new song, and that is when I’ll use my new stuff. I have no illusions of grandeur. You reach a certain age in hip-hop, and you can put out the best record ever under your name, and no one will buy it. You get a kid, 25 years old, same record, everybody will buy it. If you love music, you love it. If you do it for the money, you are probably already over. It doesn’t work that way. 

Q: What do you want to do? 

A: That’s a good question, and I’m glad I can’t answer it, because if I could then that would mean I am boring as hell, and I already got it all figured out. I want to run into something. I’ll know what it is when I get there. I’m not going to stop performing, though. I produce music all the time. I don’t even have to be working with an artist. That is really what I love doing. 

Q: How did you get started in the hip-hop music scene? 

A: I started out going to the Boys & Girls Club playing basketball, and maybe go across the street and listen to the Black Panthers preach to me a little bit. There was a guy that walked in one day named Rico, who had this case with a synthesizer in it. That was the first time I ever saw a synthesizer in person. And he said to me, “Tell me something you want to hear me play.” I requested this Sonny & Cher remix song by a group called Orbit, “And the Beat Goes On.” I remember it like it was yesterday, and he played it, and taught me how to play it. I played it with two fingers, and the antennas went up, and I never stopped doing music from that day on. 

Q: How old where you? 

A: I was 15 years old, and I brought a broken synthesizer, and I was very good at electronics because I got into CB Radios early on and I got into fixing amplifiers. I got some solder and a couple of capacitors, and the AC was disconnected, and I hooked that back up and got myself a synthesizer. I started playing that same riff over and over for a month. I never thought about putting a song together because there was no way to get the drums. I then saw this band called Kraftwerk on MTV, and they had this drum machine, and (a band member) would hit this machine, and this beat comes out and I said, “I need this right there. “That’s where the hunger came from, and I started getting jobs at the arcade, anywhere I could get a job after school and work. At 19, at the arcade I used to work at, Greg Jones was the first person that funded my first project. Nasty Mix Records got started. It all started out of curiosity, one guy playing one riff, at a Girls & Boys Club, is the reason I’m doing this. 

Q: What do you think of the Northwest hip-hop scene today? 

A: The Northwest hip-hop-scene is growing. Emerald Street Boys was the first polished hip-hop group I ever heard, and Silver Chain Gang (another early and influential hip-hop group). I worked with a lot of these guys too, producing songs for them. I remember me and Kid Sensation (a rapper from Seattle) went to see Emerald Street Boys in the Central area, and I said, “We are not ready, we got to go home and start practicing.” I could not believe three guys holding microphones, (and) each one knew when the other one was coming in and no one was stepping on each other’s toes. You will notice they use similar words in various freestyles. They are practicing, but you’re not supposed to notice, and that’s professionalism to me. Emerald Street Boys was 10 times better than me. Their music sounded like a record. If they had come along a little later, you probably would have never heard of me. I came along at a time when people were looking for West Coast hip-hop. 

Q: Are there any new Seattle hip-hop artists we should be aware of? 

A: In Seatown, I haven’t heard of anything lately, because I haven’t received any demos lately. People have nowhere to record sometimes. Which is another problem, and that brings me to another thing I’m doing with Daniel Pak (a Seattle singer-songwriter and entrepreneur). This idea came from “Keep Music Live.” It’s everything an artist is going to need, from how to negotiate contracts to how to record a song. All the recording gear is at this new studio at King Street Station, and Daniel has a 60-year lease on the project. It just blew my mind.

Q: What is the best advice you can give to an upcoming artist? 

Mix: Don’t copy anybody. You must find yourself, and it takes a while to find yourself. Be unique, and unique doesn’t mean you have to shock everybody. 

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