Added this one to the collection a few months ago. Place this one after Marley Marl’s In Control Vol. 1.
When discussing Seattle hip-hop, the only name you can truly give credit to for putting the city on the map is Sir-Mix-A-Lot. Dating back to the mid-eighties, Anthony Ray was putting in work and making a name for himself on the streets of Seattle. In 1988 he would release his self-produced debut album, Swass, on his Nastymix label (it, along with Seminar, would later be re-released on Rick Rubin’s Def American imprint, after Mix-A-Lot signed and release his Mack Daddy album on the label).
According to Mix-A-Lot, Swass was just an inside joke with no real meaning, but after the album was released it became an acronym for “some wild ass silly shit”. When Mix-A-Lot talks about Swass in the liner notes, it sounds like he may have been taking jabs at LL Cool J and his BAD album (which was an acronym for “Bigger and Deffer”) as it reads “SWASS is bigger than big, badder than bad, smoother than smooth, and definitely deffer than def.” The meaning of the title may be up for debate, but there is no question that Swass was a commercial success, as it would go on to earn Sir Mix-A-Lot a platinum plaque.
This is my first time listening to Swass. Hopefully it’s more big, bad and def, than it is some wild ass silly shit.
Buttermilk Biscuits (Keep On Square Dancin’) – Swass opens with a stripped down drum beat and Sir Mix-A-Lot rapping as his chipmunk-voice-redneck alter ego, about…buttermilk biscuits? Straight corn.
Posse On Broadway – Before “Beepers”, and later his monster pop hit that will forever live on some radio station’s mid-day old school mix, “Baby Got Back”, there was “Posse On Broadway”. This is the song that introduced me to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s nasal delivery and comical storytelling. Over sparse instrumentation Mix-A-Lot shares how he and his posse roll in Seattle on any given night. Classic record, and the video for the song is even more classic.
Gold – Although I don’t think it was intentional, Mix-A-Lot makes a socially conscious statement with this song: On the first and second verses he talks about his lust for gold chains and the price he and his crew are willing to pay for the flossy ropes. Then on the final verse, he and his crew stick up another crew to quench their thirst for the precious metals. It’s a testament to how being too materialistic can drive you to do some crazy things. If Mix-A-Lot could have created a stronger instrumental to go along with his content this song could have been a lot more impactful.
Swass -The title song finds Mix-A-Lot boasting and bragging about all the things he has that make him so “swass”. Mix-A-Lot’s braggadocious rhymes lose their vigor thanks to the long pauses in between each line. Plus, the instrumental is super cheesy, rendering this song as trash. I did find it interesting that the hook from this song would later be borrowed by the Pussycat Dolls for the hook of their mega hit record “Don’t ‘Cha” (which I also recently learned was written and produced by CeeLo Green). I hope Mix-A-Lot got paid for letting them use that one.
Rippin’ – Mix-A-Lot invites his redneck alter ego and his buddy Kid Sensation (he was the one that “dropped the twenty and didn’t even miss it” on “Posse On Broadway”) to join him on this one. Our host and Kid Sensation actually sound pretty decent together. Speaking of “Rippin'”, Mix-A-Lot rips this instrumental from JJ Fads “Supersonic” and shows no shame. All in all, a decent song.
Attack On The Stars – I’m under the assumption that each of Mix-A-Lot’s verses on this song are aimed at other celebrated rappers of that era. I’m not sure which rappers he talking about, but I’m super curious as to who he’s referring to on the second verse when he says: “What about this other group, dressed like GQ? Yeah, I’m talkin’ to you, you call yourself rappers, crack another joke, you old smoker, take another tote, you bought ‘caine back in San Diego, I saw it when you put it on the table”. If you know, hit me in the comments. Overall, the song is okay and makes for decent filler material.
Mall Dropper – For this short interlude, an uncredited male voice drops a quick riddle about Mix-A-Lot droppin’ a “big hammer” on the “Northwest tip” and how he’s “reading the mail”. I got nothing out of it, but whatever.
Hip-Hop Soldier – Mix-A-Lot lays down a synth heavy backdrop with poppin’ drums and a deep bass line, and it actually sounds pretty damn good. Mix-A-Lot’s booming vocal also sounds good over the instrumental, as he delivers arguably, the strongest rhymes that I’ve ever heard him spit on record.
Iron Man – Our host puts a hip-hop twist on the classic Black Sabbath song with the same name. He invites Craig Wells from the Seattle metal band, Metal Church, to play the rough guitar riffs live on this one. I’m sure Mix-A-Lot was going for an Aerosmith/Run DMC “Walk This Way” crossover hit, but ultimately it fails.
Bremelo – Fat, ugly and dumb are the main characteristics of the type of woman Mix-A-Lot refers to as a bremelo, and he spends the length of this song dogging her out. As sensitive as America is now, there is no way on earth that a song like this would get released in this day and age. It probably shouldn’t have seen the light of day back in ’88, either. This song is garbage.
Square Dance Rap – Our host’s Redneck alter ego gets one more solo joint. This time he takes his redneckness to new heights and raps about exactly what the song title suggest. And it actually sounds worse than it reads.
Romantic Interlude – Well, I don’t know if this qualifies as an interlude, as it goes on for over four and a half minutes. I also don’t know if I’d call it romantic. More like creepy, since who ever the guy is doing the spoken word piece sounds like a stalker masturbating and talking to himself while looking at pics of the woman he’s obsessed with. Regardless, it’s a hot mess.
F The BS – Swass ends with Sir-Mix-A-Lot in battle mode as he screams on a local Seattle artist that he must have been beefin’ with at the time. Thanks to whoever pissed him off, cause it helped Mix-A-Lot create a pretty decent song to close the album.
I’ll keep this brief. Swass has a few shining moments but the bulk of it is trash. The production is too stripped down, Mix-A-Lot’s not a consistent enough emcee to entertain for an entire album and there’s too much corn and silly shit going on.