Backstory: The Literary Genesis of Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back"
by Rusty W. Spell

Almost everyone is aware of the rap classic "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-a-Lot.  It has been called mere novelty, it has been called vulgar and offensive, and it has even been called a feminist anthem.  What most don't know, however, is that the song "Baby Got Back" is a modern translation of a much older piece of prose poetry, most of which is still lost, but some of which was discovered by literary scholars in the mid-1980s, only a few years before rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot (previously author of more underground songs such as "Buttermilk Biscuits" and "Square Dance Rap") took it upon himself to rework the poem into a radio hit.

When the original piece of literature was discovered, it of course was pored over by certain scholars, but the general public didn't think much of it (those few who saw it), and so -- like so many literary texts -- this one remains more or less known by only those few who study it.  Anthony Ray (Sir Mix-a-Lot's actual name), for those who don't know, is somewhat of a literary buff himself and heard through a professor friend of an old piece of writing with this perfect-for-him subject matter: a meditation on the preference toward large female behinds.

The author of the original work remains unknown, and most (including myself) agree that it was probably the work of multiple authors, most likely written over the course of the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries.  There is also evidence to suggest that the work was much longer, that the three parts here is only a small portion of a large number of variations on this simple (and repetitive) theme.

The full existing text is presented on the left in black, with the Sir Mix-a-Lot version in an aligning position on the right in red.  I have provided notes where I feel necessary, under the lyrics in small black italics, though most of the work speaks for itself.  You'll note, I'm sure, that Anthony Ray quite literally translated the sentiments expressed below with very little modification of meaning.


Being the First Part
 

 
If one were to express one's feelings about the quality, shape, and – to be blunt – size of the area of anatomy belonging to those of the fairer sex, an area that I will forthwith call to question, and if that aforementioned "one" were indeed myself, then I would have to hastily bring it to any curious party's attention that this desired area of discussion, the hindquarters to speak it quickly, could – and yes should – be likened closer to a giraffe than a lap dog, closer to a behemoth than a deer tick. On this matter, no utterance of falsehood shall ever pass my lips.
 
I like big butts and I cannot lie.

The division headings were added at a much later date by unknown persons collecting the disparate texts into one.  Most likely, this wasn't the first one of its kind written.  We keep the headers here for separation of sections and unity of the pieces together.

If you call yourself my brethren, then, my kin, you as well as I realize that it your duty as honest gentlemen to come forth and pledge your oath on this wise; furthermore, recognizing that should a kind woman bearing this excess of flesh traverse your threshold (all the more so if the waistline is so tiny as to be out of proportion to the subject matter of this parley), and if it should by chance happen that your eyes, nose, mouth, cheeks – indeed, any speck that may lie between pate and neck – should come near the circular orb, then, my mother's sons, you recognize that the blood in your veins would course in such a way as to allow for the procreative acts to be carried out in any right time as you see fit, for your manhood would be as a farmer's crop rising to meet the brightness and roundness of the orange sun.
 
You other brothers can't deny.
And when a girl walks in with an itty-bitty waist
And a round thing in your face you get sprung.
One might peradventure you would be like to "pull up tough," as the moderns speak it, when it does not escape your notice that even the undergarments of this maiden are made of durable materials that nevertheless heave and burst with the power of the stuff within. I, myself, feel compelled ever more toward this entity; my eyes cannot turn away.
 
Wanna pull up tough,
Cause you noticed that butt was stuffed
Deep in the "G" she's wearing.
I'm hooked and I can't stop staring.

Scholars are unclear on the meaning of the phrase "pull up tough," as was Mix-a-Lot who simply used it here without explaining it.  No doubt it was a passing fad phrase of the day.

So I turn from my brothers and toward you yourself, my petal, when I prattle upon your ears and allow my wishes to be known unto you: namely, that I would adore the sweet opportunity to be by your side, and – furthermore – to produce some work of art, some image or likeness, that might remind me of you when you are far from my loving sight.
 
Oh, baby, I wanna get with ya,
And take your picture.
What ho, my brothers! Do you warn me against my true love? Hear how they tell me not to dive further into your waters, though they must realize the vanity of their pleading; for it is truth as divine as from the gods that your extremities pitches me into a fit of fleshly desires.
 
My homeboys tried to warn me,
But that butt you got makes me so horny.
I advance, and lo I touch her very skin, so utterly soft beneath my course fingertips. Can this be? Do you now wish to accompany me in my carriage, with me as driver and you as the angel by my side? Do this, and more! Use me for whatever purposes your heart would have me! I am but a mere servant, and you are the master for as long as the world does turn! And this I do, that I throw myself upon the mercy of your whim, for I have recognized that you are uncommon among women and that you have no equal upon this earth.
 
Oooh, rub her smooth skin.
You say you wanna get in my Benz?
Well, use me, use me,
Cause you ain't that average groupie.
To those who hear me, I will tell you now that I saw my love once while practicing in the art of dance; I knew in that moment that I would have no time for the longwinded courtship that other women would have me commit, but that her celestial yet bestial body – so tender and ripe with the drenching of her perspiration, with the wetness of her readiness to come unto me – was as powerful to me as any man-made engine your best scientists could produce with the unleashed greatness of their skills.
 
I seen her dancing.
To hell with romancing.
She sweat, wet, got it going like a Turbo Vette.
I have read upon the pages written by learned men and ladies of regard that in order to be esteemed highly, concerning our subject, that one must maintain a flatness of presentation. Of these accusations, I am most weary. Were any of these ministers to preach such a doctrine to those brethren congregated here today, they would be cast out as blasphemers and false prophets, and a cry would go up all the louder proclaiming in a mighty voice the magnitude of girth we do so long for.
 
I'm tired of magazines
Saying flat butts are the thing.
Take the average black man and ask him that.
She gotta pack much back.
Therefore, men among me, answer this question I present before you: concerning your wives, your lovers, your mistresses, any of the fairest who might lie beside you at night: does she possess these qualities of which I speak? I can hear that you answer me positively. And since this is your answer, I would advise all within the sound of my voice to request unto your damsels to make their behind parts like unto a quiver, that you may witness the bounty that is yours to behold and to adore. For what bounty does my love possess!
 
So, fellas, fellas,
Does your girlfriend got the butt?
Tell her to shake it, shake it,
Shake that healthy butt.
Baby got back

Being the Second Part
 

 
I would now remind you of what I have told you: the roundness of them, the largess of them, that these things please me, so much so that when I find myself called upon to sing, that a nature comes upon me like unto an animal and I cannot control those base impulses within my being. Know this, and know, dearest, that I consider it scandalous, a blemish upon me, that I wish to do what I will now tell you I wish to do. But to do it, I do verily wish.
 
I like 'em round, and big,
And when I'm throwing a gig,
I just can't help myself.
I'm acting like an animal.
Now here's my scandal.

The second part may or may not be by the same author.  He maintains a similar voice, but there are subtle changes in tone and additions in the variation, such as giving the writer the profession of a singer, a fact that he assumes the reader will take for granted, suggesting earlier text between this and the previous.

It would please me for you to join me at my residence, for there in the warmth of my chambers I could place you downward upon my bed, your face turned away from me so that I may behold the glory that does emanate when you are in such a position. When these things have come to pass, I would do no less than place the fullness of myself in a place of which I dare not speak, and – having done so – thrust myself mightily: once! and immediately twice in succession!
 
I wanna get you home,
And uh! double up, uh! uh!
But haste, let us turn quickly not to what I desire, but what I do not. Have you seen such women as those who favor artificiality over true beauty? These vixens do offend not only my eyes but nature itself, forcing such stuff into their holy vessels as would only be fit for a small child's doll. And it is as dolls that they themselves become. As for myself, I do not want the thinness of a doll, but the thickness and juiciness of a ripe plum ready to be picked: and you may see how these two things do differ in every way. So let us then find this thing! I am troubled, and a man in trouble, and a man who goes down to his very knees to beg but for merely a piece of that bubbly fruit.
 
I ain't talking about Playboy,
Cause silicone parts are made for toys.
I want 'em real thick and juicy,
So find that juicy double.
Mix-a-Lot's in trouble,
Begging for a piece of that bubble.
But haste again, I turn to those who would sell their songs though the means of poor women who would be knocked upon by their men, who strut about as if selling their bodies like common whores. Such a woman is not for me, but only those who could bring themselves to be my equal, even in physicality.
 
So, I'm looking at rock videos,
Knocking these bimbos, walking like hos.
You can have them bimbos.
I'll keep my women like Flo-Jo.
So to you, my sisters who find yourself belonging to such a race that I could truly call my kin and also who holds the high standard of which I have been speaking: to you I say sweetly: I would count it among my highest honors to pass hours with you. I would neither speak ill to you nor bring the back of my hand upon your cheek. However, it would be remiss of me if I did not prepare you for what love making adventure I would have you take with me. For if you have loved before, have you loved for an hour? Have you loved for two? I would begin my love with you at eventide, and this selfsame love would continue long until the chirping birds upon the branches do wake us in the morning, when we may then go out into the world and behold the new sun.
 
A word to the thick soul sisters.
I wanna get with ya.
I won't cuss or hit ya.
But I gotta be straight when I say I wanna
Oooh! till the break of dawn.
Indeed, my lover's favors are many. It causes me to think of savage idiots who do not value love. No, they will not appreciate the words I have written today. I know this is true when I say that those simpletons will take the lady when the time is favorable for him and him alone, and upon taking her will do nothing to please her, yet only satisfy his own lustful needs, thereupon casting the vessel aside, in favor of what frivolous pursuit he may then have, whether it is making sport with the other townsmen or simply finding himself solitary and lost in drink.
 
Baby got it going on.
A lot of simps won't like this song,
Cause them punks like to hit it and quit it,
Such a man is not me. I only begin what I can properly finish, and – though I have admitted to you my weaknesses – know now that those weaknesses to not cause me to dismiss the needs of my lover. Indeed, my weakness becomes my very strength! You will find me at such weak moments becoming the strongest and most powerful of men, great of potency, quick of moment, with plentiful means by which to extend that portion of yourself such as might be filled in a time that this seeming paradox of weak and might bring about.
 
And I'd rather stay and play,
Cause I'm long, and I'm strong,
And I'm down to get the friction on.
Therefore, any person within womankind who would be pleased to be ride with me atop my gallant steed, I beseech you now to do as I say. Turn your face from me, if only for a moment, so that you may present to me those assets which I might (if you are among the fortunate) find blessed or (for I am a fair man) adequate. For if I do find it so, I dare say that even those males who are not among my kin would feel the call to exalt their voices upon high so that these beauties might hear them and be recognized. For, as it has been written, your bounty is great!
 
So ladies, ladies,
Do you wanna roll in my Mercedes?
Then turn around, stick it out.
Even white boys got to shout.
Baby got back.

Being the Third Part
 

 
I have spoken of those men folk not of my kin who discover themselves aligned with me concerning our intercourse. But what of their women? These men have counterparts who carry themselves in carriages we of my ilk would not deem suitable: and, touching this, I am playing at words, for not only are the wheels and steel upon which they drive out of fashion with my company, but also are the bodies within the carriages; for though they might carry motors in their "hoods" (if you are following my punning), whether placed their by the gods or by the men of medicine, they do not of a certainty hold any motors, nay any means of mobilization, within their "trunks," having spent their days jumping up and down in the silly exercises found to their peers to be cosmopolitan, perhaps championed by a spokeswoman who, to our ears, speaks an evil language.
 
So your girlfriend rolls a Honda,
Playing workout tapes by Fonda.
But Fonda ain't got a motor
In the back of her Honda.

It is almost unanimously agreed that the third part is written by a different, much more modern author.  The presentation is not as "wordy," and is instead more playful and less romantic, speaking to a multitude of women rather than one lover.

To these women I would speak clearly so that they understand my meaning, though I might be inclined to use somewhat of a poet's speech for various parts of my phraseology in order to disguise the uncouth words that I would be forced to use in uttering such conciseness. Therefore, my mighty manhood might be likened to a snake, a large snake, though not a poisonous snake, for that would speak ill of the snake itself; rather, the snake would be so grand in size and prowess that it would be able to kill any easily who would threaten his territory, and the killing would be carried out by strangulation and suffocation within its coils. And this snake would, I would tell the woman, have no desire in her whatsoever: unless she possesses that of which I have been speaking for so long now.
 
My anaconda don't want none
Unless you got buns, hon.
To my own stripe of woman, I would tell her that if she wishes to be as the foolish women and perform actions on their bodies that might cause them to lose some of its mass, then she may do so on the condition that their extremities be left intact.
 
You can do side bends or sit-ups,
But please don't lose that butt.
I have spoken in length of the men who would despise the blessing which the gods have blessed you with, more precious than the finest metals, and it would not bring wonder to me if I should learn of how one of these same men might dispose of you in an unseemly fashion, as unwanted garbage thrown onto the side of the road. I would say to you then that it is a blessing for you that he has done so, though you would not recognize it at the time, for during your time of discard, I would seize the opportunity to claim what he has given up in foolishness.
 
Some brothers wanna play that hard roll
And tell you that the butt ain't gold.
So, they toss it and leave it,
And I pull up quick to retrieve it.
Do the masses claim that you are unseemly? Do these qualities of which I speak displease the world? Ignore these claims, for these claims are not mine. Your frame is delicate where it needs be delicate, and your frame is plentiful where it needs be plentiful, and the unity of the two opposites do create upon you the desirable curves of rolling hills, and when I lay my eyes upon you, my mind drifts where it may and inevitably falls upon what I may do to you and this curving pasture of good green land, and I long to hide myself within you.
 
So Cosmo says you're fat.
Well, I ain't down with that,
Cause your waist is small
And your curves are kicking,
And I'm thinking about sticking.
To those women whose silhouettes might fool me into thinking you are nothing but a post upon which a farmer's beans might curl, you are not in such a high favor as you esteem yourself to be. Present me instead with one of my own, for then I cannot fail but to offer her my full attentions. She has eaten the ambrosia which sustains her and provides her with the perfect curving shell.
 
To the beanpole dames in the magazines,
You ain't it, Miss Thang.
Give me a sister, can't resist her.
Red beans and rice didn't miss her.
There was once a certain imbecile who saw a particular woman in my company and was sore against me, for she was once in his company. But I knew of his folly, how he had won her favor and become over zealous with power, choosing to beat his lover with mighty beatings. It was for this very reason that I usurped the man's authority and took the woman to be my own, for which she showed me much appreciation.
 
Some knucklehead tried to dis,
Cause his girls were on my list.
He had game, but he chose to hit em,
And I pull up quick to get with 'em.
In closing, my dearest ladies, if you fit the criteria of which I have spoken and you wish to join me in these various modes of lovemaking, providing me with your own thoughts upon these matters, you only but need to call for me and I will be there. For I know that of which it has been written: baby got back! So, ladies, if the butt is round,
And you wanna Triple X throwdown,
Dial 1-900-MIX-A-LOT,
And kick them nasty thoughts.
Baby got back.

The last two stanzas seem to be written by yet another author, and perhaps two different authors altogether.  The last line of each section ends with the same refrain, the first two using the word "bounty."  This section, notably, used the expression "baby got back," which Sir Mix-a-Lot lifted directly for his song.

Dr. Rusty W. Spell

Copyright 11 Sep 2005 We Like Media.
You may email Rusty W. Spell.