As Sir Mix-a-Lot might say (well, sort of): "I ain't frontin,' so stop dissin' me and start dapping me on my new crib, 'cause I'm sprung on it. It's in a fly 'hood, we're talking dope - no gats pointed at me, and not a hooptie in sight."
Hardcore rap fans already had their suspicions about Sir Mix-a-Lot, the local rapper whose new release "Mack Daddy" is climbing the charts. They wondered about the round guy in the funny fur hat whose idea of a good rap was to mix a lot of jokes with boasts about Seattle. When he bought a huge house in a suburban paradise in Auburn two years ago, they had to know what would come next: raps about backyard barbecues and block-watch meetings, maybe a hit called "Posse on the cul de sac."
If he wasn't already more homebody than homeboy, he would be soon.
It's not like that, though, says Mix-a-Lot, 28. He says he's still pretty much the same rough-on-the-edges, hard-nosed kid who grew up poor in the Central District at 19th Avenue and Yesler Way before moving to the South End, then to Kent, and finally to Auburn. Besides, he still gets into the city most every day, and his guys are over all the time.
"I keep telling everyone, `Find me 15 acres and a huge house in the CD and I'll buy it," he says. "I make too much noise to live in the 'hood."
He insists he has never run from who he is.
Mix-a-Lot has claimed rap's middle ground as his turf, using a sharp streetwise humor to drop subtle messages. He's always left the hardcore stuff to the gangster rappers, as they call themselves - guys like Ice-T (who lives in the star-studded Hollywood Hills). You couldn't even accuse Mix-a-Lot of "frontin' " when he spun records at parties in the early 1980s and later when his recording career erupted in 1987-'88 with his first hits, "Squaredance Rap" and "Posse on Broadway."
"He never hid where he was from," says Nes Rodriguez, the first Seattle DJ to play Mix-a-Lot's music. "That's the thing I always respected him for the most. A lot of guys would pretend they were from New York or L.A. - not Mix."
A RAPPERS' ROOTS
Mix-a-Lot introduces himself as Anthony - his real name is Anthony Ray - with a firm, level handshake and offers a seat at the dining table. He looks shorter than he does in his videos - and in blue work pants, a maroon sweatshirt and Washington State cap, not dangerous as he sometimes appears onscreen, where he usually snarls, struts, wears dark glasses and sometimes wields weapons.
He says he's happy in the Auburn hills. His 4,500-square-foot house has a 24-track digital recording studio, a couple of workout rooms and plenty of space to unwind. It's on a secluded 13.5-acre private wooded parcel, which has two huge garages to store his fleet of exotic cars, a full basketball court and a pond stocked with bass, catfish and bluegill.
In the dining room, on a mantel, is a huge color family photo: brother, sister, nieces, nephews, mother, and Mix-a-Lot in the middle. He says he often consults Mom and Sis on questions of taste, which is why he's never referred to women with the infamous B-word so popular among many rappers.
"They help keep me in line," he says.
Mix-a-Lot's father, who lives in Tukwila, and mother, who lives in Kent in a house Mix-a-Lot bought for her a few years ago, were divorced when he was 7. He describes his father as an outspoken, hardworking sheet-metal worker; his mother as conservative and quiet.
Mix-a-Lot might have been more like his mother when he was at Roosevelt High School, where he managed to avoid giving a single oral report because he was "so scared." Dad's influence came out later, as Mix-a-Lot learned to meet the skeptics head-on, developing his strong, opinionated, decisive style.
"You straddle the fence and all you do is hurt your midsection," he says. "I've learned if this is what I believe in - boom! - I go with it. And I got a million followers out there who like what I'm saying."
A BLUE-COLLAR RAPPER
A TV crew calls and wants to know what Mix-a-Lot thinks of the "erotic lyric" law Gov. Booth Gardner signed that morning. Come on over, says Mix-a-Lot. He seems comfortable in the role of spokesman and appears to enjoy it.
"It'll probably just help sales of certain albums," Mix-a-Lot tells them. "The way the ban on 2 Live Crew helped them . . . Pretty soon, we'll probably have adults buying stuff for kids while they wait outside, like what happens now with beer . . . stupid."
Mix-a-Lot plays the video that goes with one of the top singles from his new "Mack Daddy" album. It's called "Baby Got Back," and begins with Mix-a-Lot blurting out, "I like big butts!," and goes on to poke fun at traditional ideas about beauty, while being a lusty affirmation of ample rear ends. Many ample - but not fat - rear ends wiggle and shake.
"Let Booth ban this one," he says.
"Mack Daddy," which exploded onto the Billboard album chart at No. 38 on March 13 and is on track to be Mix-a-Lot's biggest seller, shows off sharpened edges and a refined ability to walk the line between outrageous and offensive while making a point. The album also contains "One Time's Got No Case," a sarcastic tale of a young black man being hassled by King County police for no reason other than driving an expensive car, and other songs that take listeners cruising through the Central District, South End, Tacoma's Hilltop, West Seattle's High Point and other local spots.
The album is expected to solidify the middle-of-the-rap-road niche Mix-a-Lot began carving for himself with 1987's "SWASS," which featured "Posse on Broadway." It put Seattle on the rap map by selling more than a million copies, and his followup, "Seminar," sold more than 750,000.
"A lot of people think if you rap you can't smile, you gotta frown, you have to put your hand between your legs, and pull your gun out all the time - that's corny," he says. "Rap can also entertain."
"Mack Daddy" is expected to get a boost this month as Mix-a-Lot heads out on tour, working his way through the West, sticking mostly to smaller towns because those are where his most appreciative - and thus favorite - fans are.
"I call my kind of rap blue-collar rap because it's right down the middle of the road," he says. "It's what most kids really are. Most kids are not gangsters and most kids are not Vanilla Ice."
A RAPPER'S DELIGHTS
Mix-a-Lot has a treadmill set up next to a wall-mounted TV - he says he only watches the news, David Letterman and ESPN - in his bedroom. He has a weight machine downstairs in another room and more weight equipment upstairs in a room he plans to expand by knocking out a wall.
"To work this off," he says, patting his abdomen.
When it's nice outside, though, he says you'll find him enjoying his cars. Mix-a-Lot needs two huge garages to house his fleet of nine, which includes a jet-black, 12-cylinder $260,000 Lamborghini Diablo, a Porsche 930 slope nose, a Bentley Turbo R, a Mercedes 500 SEC convertible, a BMW 850i sedan and a custom-made, steel Porsche Gambala.
"This is my favorite room," he says, opening the six-car garage he had built. "My favorite hobby. Some people like drugs; I like cars."
When a photographer suggests that Mix-a-Lot's Mercedes Benz 500 SL Coupe might be nice for a photo, he insists on washing it, and launches into the task with a yeomanly effort. He says he does all his own washing and waxing and has been through 30 types of wax to find the right one for each car.
"I don't believe in the so-called rich thing of having people to do all your work."
HE'S GOT GATS
One of Mix-a-Lot's other hobbies is guns. His favorite guns are an HK-93 semi-automatic German assault rifle and a chrome-plated .44 Magnum Desert Eagle handgun. But animal-rights activists need not worry, the deer that hang out in his yard are safe. So are the fish in his pond, though he does admit to accidentally shooting one recently.
"I don't believe in shooting animals," he says. "I buy my weapons for man, because he's probably my biggest enemy."
Mix-a-Lot says his family's houses were robbed several times while he was growing up. He says his sister was robbed once and he's had guns pointed at him a few times, including a few years ago on Broadway when gang members hassled him and some friends.
"If we didn't have a gun, we might not be here," he says. "In my opinion, guns save my life every day."
Someone recently called Mix-a-Lot "the world's first right-leftwinger." It's a term he likes because he thinks it fits his sometimes divergent views, such as those on guns. He says he's against gun control, but for laws that would require anyone who wants to own a gun to go through training and safety instruction.
"The problem, especially the one people with color are starting to have, is that the only two people left with guns are cops and criminals," he says, "and it's quite obvious when you look at the Rodney King situation that you can't trust either one."
Mix-a-Lot says it's not uncommon for him to get hassled when he makes one of his frequent visits to the Central District or other areas where gang members sometimes hang out. That's why he says he has a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
"I'm recognized just about every part of town I go into; however, when I go into the CD or South End, I'm recognized but not respected by all the people I came up with, who are either banging or doing dope . . . they call that being down. I call that being stupid."
He doesn't mind such reactions, though, perhaps because they put him in his accustomed role of outsider, or because they serve as a slap in the face, a wakeup call reminding him of his origins.
"I expected it," he says. "Besides, if they all kinda kissed up to me, it might hurt my music."