For those of you following (chronologically) at home, insert this one after Ice-T’s The Iceberg/Freedom Of Speech album.
Seminar is the second and only album from Seattle bred rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot that I own. I’ve never heard this album in its entirety, but I do remember a few of the songs from this album. So, when I recently ran across this at the local used book store for a buck, I figured I’d splurge a little.
Sir Mix-A-Lot will forever be known as the rapper that created “Baby Got Back”, a rap song so popular even catholics monks are familiar with it and nuns worldwide can recite the lyrics verbatim at karaoke. Most of the world doesn’t know (or doesn’t remember) the man had two albums before Mack Daddy, that were both pretty successful in their own right. His debut album Swass (which is an acronym for “Some Wild Ass Silly Shit”) was released in 1989 on Rick Rubin’s Def American Recordings label (that he formed after leaving the Def Jam empire he help build) and went on to earn himself a platinum plaque, largely do to the hit single “My Posse On Broadway”. Like “Baby Got Back”, “My Posse” was also a catchy, playful, unthreatening rap song that maintained it’s street cred, though it never hit as big as the former. Mix-A-Lot returned in 1989 and release Seminar, which went on to earn a gold plaque to sit next to his platinum. Like Swass, the success of Seminar was largely based on a few songs in the same vein as “BGB”, that will get to a little later.
Props to Mix-A-lot for writing, producing, and programming the entire album. Maybe I should listen to the album before I hand out props.
Seminar – Mix-A-Lot waste no time getting the title song out of the way. Over a simple but effective uptempo instrumental, he’s out to prove that Seattle can hold it down on the mic, and for the most part he succeeds. More importantly though, I discovered where one of the vocal samples from his biggest hit (“Baby Got Back”) came from (“little in the middle but she got much back”). Decent start to the evening’s proceedings.
Beepers – This is an ode to the now obsolete art of using skypagers (aka beepers) to mack on the opposite sex. Long before everyone the age of twelve and older owned a cellphone, there was a time when pagers were the trendy way of communicating. Looking back, the whole concept of some one beeping your pager with their phone number to call them back, seems kind of ridiculous, especially when you’re talking about 15 and 16 years old kids using them and not doctors or lawyers. Thank you cellphone for killing off “those big old 6″ garage door openers”.
National Anthem – Mix-A-Lot was never known as a conscious rapper, but he does an effective job expressing his issues with the government and other societal injustices. Too bad his instrumental sucked.
My Hooptie – To break up the tension created by the previous song, Sir Lot provides us with a little comic relief in the form of this ode to crappy cars. I haven’t heard this one in years and it still makes me chuckle listening to Mix A Lot do an awesome job painting a visual of the vehicle that everyone has seen, rode shotgun in, or even worst, owned. It’s still funny to hear him describe a chick with junk in the trunk as having “immense posterior”. This song sounds like something Will Smith would have done back when he was still referred to as Fresh Prince. Very clever concept and well executed, Sir Lot.
Gortex – For those who don’t know, Gor-Tex is waterproof fabric used to waterproof outdoor clothing and boots. I’ve always been a fan of Timberland boots and remember falling in love with some of the Gor-Tex insulated timbos back in the day. There is no question that Timberland was the boot of choice for hip-hop heads back in the early to mid-ninties. Oh, the song? It sucked much.
The (Peek -A-Boo) Game – Things are progressively getting worse.
I Got Game – What would a hip-hop album be without flossing and boasting? That’s exactly what Mix A Lot does on this one. Mix A Lot provides a decent funk instrumental to spit his F&B rhymes over and does a serviceable job on the microphone. We also discover the source of another vocal sample from “Baby Got Back” (“L.A. face with an Oakland booty”) on this track. Hey, that rhymed. I’m a poet and didn’t even know it. Well actually I did, but…
I’ll Roll You Up – This is Mix-A-Lot’s version of a battle rap. Sir Lot proves he can deliver clever punch lines (the reference to the old video game Pong was slightly amusing), even if his flow sounds a bit sloppy at times. I’d be willing to overlook the sloppy deliver if his instrumental for this one wasn’t trash.
Something About My Benzo – He showed love to his hooptie earlier, so now that his Benz its out the shop, it’s only right that it gets love as well. Mix-A-Lot invites a few uncredited guests into the studio to brag about their Benz as well. Not great or terrible, but it falls somewhere in the middle of the two.
My Bad Side – Through the course of Seminar we’ve seen a glimpse of Mix-A-Lot the comedian, the conscious rapper, the activist, the player, and now…the gangsta rapper? I know right? You can stop laughing now. The visual image of Mix A Lot’s line about dropping an opponent with a round house kick is hi-larious, though. And with that, this one’s a wrap.
After listening to Seminar in its entirety for the first time, I can’t say that it was life changing, nor can I say that I enjoyed it for that matter. It was cool to reminisce over “Beepers” and “My Hooptie”, back to a time before innocence was lost (both mine and hip-hop’s…well, at least hip-hop’s. Mine was probably gone way before then). There are a few other songs that were decent finds (but not jewels), and being a trivia buff it was nice to discover vocal samples that were used on one of the most popular rap songs ever. But when only half of your album is worth listening to the results can’t be good, which is the fate that Seminar ultimately meets. Maybe Mix A Lot could get a few more dollars out of his fans by releasing a greatest hits album. Better make that an EP.
Cool review of the album, BUT……. National Anthem and Gortex beats suck? No way – two of the toughest 808 electro funk beats I’ve ever heard. Kraftwerk samples and those funky Egyptian Lover style 808 clicks and all. Underrated lyricist too.