“Baby Got Back” was inspired by Anthony “Sir Mix-A-Lot” Ray’s frustration with seeing feminine beauty in America portrayed as a valley-girl “popsicle stick” figure in ads like the Spuds MacKenzie Budweiser series. He was also frustrated watching his full-figured girlfriend at the time Amylia Dorsey struggle to get work as an actress and model.
Mix-A-Lot wrote “Baby Got Back” to share how black men (and white men too) find women attractive who have “curves — and I’m not talking about women who are shaped like me, with a gut, but women who ran five miles a day, with a washboard, six-pack stomach and a nice round, beautiful, supple ass.”
Mix-A-Lot also wanted to call attention how females felt they had to “damn near kill themselves to try to look like these beanpole models that you see in Vogue magazine.” Also, he wanted to speak out against Hollywood’s general portrayal of African-American females mainly as “maids, servants and prostitutes”. His intention was to share these views in a “tongue-in-cheek” and “funny way”.
Despite record label owner Rick Rubin feeling “Baby Got Back” would be a better first single, Mix-A-Lot insisted on releasing “One Time’s Got No Case” instead. When that song did ‘next to nothing’ on the charts, “Baby Got Back” became the album’s next single.
Its controversial music video featured buttocks-shaped props and a heavy focus on the backsides of several full-figured dancers, leading MTV to briefly ban it due to “a recently instituted rule against showing female body parts with no reference to a face.” Eventually the video was re-edited and then re-added into rotation – but only after 9pm.
Initially most radio stations balked at airing the song, but later got on board after MTV and Video Jukebox began airing its video regularly.
“Baby Got Back” finally entered the Hot 100 at #86 and then spent twelve weeks working its way up, eventually reaching the top spot. It is Mix-A-Lot’s only song to reach higher than #70. It was ranked the second biggest song of 1992 in the US behind Boyz II Men’s “End Of The Road” and won a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance. The song also found varied levels of chart success in seven other countries around the world.
In 2008, VH1 ranked it the #17 greatest song of hip hop.
The track is built on a sample from “Technicolor” by Channel One.
The then-VP of A&R at the record label later summed up the song’s legacy:
“Baby [Got Back]” will forever be a great combination of a silly pop song with an earnest resolve to change the perception of body image in America.