Hello everybody, how's it going? I'm Chase Jarvis, welcome to another episode of Chase Jarvis Live, specifically, the 30 Days of Genius series on Creative Live. In this series I talk to the world's top creatives and entrepreneurs. I extract all kinds of brilliant information out of their big brains, unlocking all kinds of their secrets to help you live your dreams in career, hobby, and life. If you're new to this series, go to creativelive.com/30, the number three zero, days of genius. Click the blue button and then you'll get one of these amazing interviews in your inbox every day for the next 30 days, and it will be a wealth of information. My guest today, you know him, I 100% guarantee that you paraded around in your youth singing his songs, it's on the radio every single day, it's none other than Mr. Sir Mix-a-Lot. Boom, welcome to the show.
You said genius, I was about to leave, I'm like, "Shit, you got the wrong dude, bro." (laughter) (rock music) (applause)
Mix, welcome to t...
he show, man.
What's up, man, what's up?
It's been awhile, right?
I'm back. You're letting me back in here.
That's right it is almost exactly the same place were were like, three years ago.
Actually, I'm gonna go back because, I woke up one morning and my social shit was all on fire because everyone was saying, "Sir Mix called you out. Mix-a-Lot just was talking trash." Do you remember this?
You made a YouTube video, it was a gimmick, you were pushing some tech thing, you got your fingers in all kinds of stuff, you were pushing some tech company and you just straight up called me out.
Nobody fucks with Chase. (laughter)
That wasn't me, man. You got me mixed up.
That's gonna be the takeaway, the tweetable quote from this thing, is "nobody fucks with Chase." There you go.
Don't fuck with Chase.
But that was three years ago, you've been busy since then.
Yeah, man, staying busy, I'm always doing something.
That's one of the reasons I wanted you in this series is because it's not a sprint, it's a marathon. Talk to me about that.
When I got in the game, of course I was young, and it looks like those checks would just come forever. You didn't have to do anything, just put the song out and go home home and wait, and the checks came, came, came, then they slowed down, like, "Oh shit, I do have to work," right? Then figured out that I gotta figure out ways to leverage my brand and do it right.
It's easy to do it wrong, isn't it?
Oh, man, it's so easy. It's so easy to do what looks like the cool thing, the low-hanging fruit, and then you end up somewhere with your ass hanging out on TMZ.
Yeah, you do three or four low-hanging fruits and all of a sudden you're...
Exactly, exactly. Then you're everybody's punchline on Jeopardy or something. So I just said, you know what, I'm gonna try to do something, keep my stuff together, and then start doing some of the things, kind of brand expansion, use my brand to get people in, and then they get to see like, "Oh shit, this guy's really into technology." Not one of these rappers who says, "Oh yeah, I'm into tech." And what I did is it just gave somebody a half a million dollars to create some shit and putting my name on it, no. I mean, I actually build, I actually have a shop I actually have a CNC machine.
Yeah, you're like, literally soldering stuff.
I do my own soldering, I do my own building, I do my own cutting metal, laser, everything. Writing my own G-code, all that stuff.
So let's go back, that's right now, let's go back. Is that a piece of your DNA or is that something you learned? Where did making come from? I think the audience, if people are paying attention right now, they are self-identified as creative, or want to be more creative, they are builders by nature. That's most of the audience, but there's a lot of people who are watching that haven't gone from zero to one yet, they haven't said, "You know what, I wanna leave my x, y, z job," or, "I wanna actually make something of my hobby, the thing that I've been afraid to." So was A, was your DNA always your DNA, and is it the same DNA you've got today, or have you grown and changed? And what do you believe about people who don't think that they've got it, what can you tell them?
Well first and foremost, I really didn't know what that DNA was. My mom bought me, when I was 13 years old, she bought me a pair of walkie-talkies and me and my friend used the walkie-talkies-
Were the gray, with the orange buttons?
No, these were like, kind of like the little blue ones, that had the little volume knob and a squelch knob and a rubber duck antennae, little thing on the side and that was it. You had those too, huh?
I think we're dangerously close to the same age, I had those same ones.
Yes, got them at Radio Shack. For those of you that don't know, Radio Shack used to be a store. (laughter) I broke 'em cause I was trying to figure out how to make them talk further, because we kept hearing things that we had never heard before, and we went down to Radio Shack and they gave us these things called Crystals. Crystals were channels and they gave us one called the Super Bowl, which was channel six. The frequency is 27.0250 and I was just 13, 14, but we were hearing people, and they didn't sound like us. All of a sudden we hear this guy calling a guy named Magnum 44, I remember this. "Magnum 44, you got Reverend Doctor down here in the flat lands of Kansas." I'm like, the fuck is this? (laughter) And I'm like, "Hey, hey, dude in the flat lands of Kansas," I didn't know what I was saying, right? So I went back to Radio Shack, I'm like, "How come that guy that says he's in the flat lands of Kansas can't hear me but I can hear him?" I didn't understand. He said, "Well, he has power, you don't." And he shouldn't have told me that. (laughter)
There's a lot buried in that message right there.
Oh, man, I started looking for broken RF amplifiers and trying to fix 'em, and learning how to fix 'em, and I taught myself how to read schematics, I bought what's called a Amateur Radio, I forget, AR, or Amateur Radio something, but anyway, I went to the back of that and I learned what the little squiggly line meant, resistor, and the little hook with the line was the capacitor. I taught myself how to read schematics and I started building stuff, and that's what I thought I was gonna do.
Was that before music for you?
Oh, way before, I was just a kid. Baby, like 14, 15, I built my first amp at 15 years old. Didn't work that well, the leads were too long.
Look at you judging your 14 year old self. (laughter)
I should've slapped myself.
You built amps.
Yeah, man, and what happened was, obviously. that wasn't very profitable, building illegal communication amplifiers. Hundreds of pennies. So I ended up fixing some for older guys, just to see if I could do it. And then one day I'm watching MTV, when MTV first started, and I saw this group called Kraftwerk. And when I saw Kraftwerk they were playing gadgets, no drums, no guitars, it was just gadgets. This guy had a thing on his arm. (drumming noise) Just making music with stuff, and I realized that's what I wanted to do.
Totally fashion to put on.
Yeah, it was all about sensors, and they were making their own instruments. I said, "That's what I wanna do." The CB stuff already piqued my curiosity, and that just solidified what I wanted to do. Rap was new, right? So I didn't care who sang, rapped, I didn't care. I just wanted to make those noises. And I just went nuts chasin' it, chasin' it, chasin' it, never thought about monetizing it, just trying to mimic the sound initially, and once I learned how to mimic it, then I said, let me try to make my own stuff.
You're literally describing the process. You get inspired, you get energy, you lean in, you imitate, and then you start creating, and that's the path that everyone goes and I think the people that I was asking about earlier, the people who haven't started that process yet, they think they don't have it in them.
It's in you.
Is there a thing where you said, "This is not in me?" No, you just started-
Everybody has something. I always believe that everybody has a calling. You may not know what it is because you're fighting it, because you wanna fit, cookie-cutter. It says, nine-to-five is what I should be, it says. But that may not be what your calling is. While you're doing that nine-to-five, there's something, if you open your eyes, there's something. "I wanna make one of these." You have to do it, you're not gonna stop until you do it. You don't even think about profitability, you just do it, and as you get better, and better, and better, and better, and better at it, you open your eyes and you realize...
There might be a thing here.
I might be a professional. And you go forward but many people I talk to will tell you they're not good at anything, and then you'll see, because you've seen it in so many people, you'll see something they do and like, "Dude, did you just see what you just did? That has value." "What did I just do?" Has no idea.
Again, just to go back to your story, did you think for a second that if you made instruments for people that that was going to be your life?
No I didn't, I just wanted to make the sound first. I learned how to make the sounds, so I said, "I need somebody to rap, or sing, or something." I didn't care who it was. So I went and found a couple of guys that I knew around town and they started rapping over these goofy beats, and I would do these mixtapes, they weren't called mixtapes then, they were just... I'd just take a cassette and I would put your name, so Chase comes to my window when I lived in the projects, you'd give me 10 bucks, you'd come back seven days later, and you would have a 30 minute side of a tape with mixes and stuff and your name in it, and raps about you and Smurf voices and robots saying your name, whatever this stupid shit was, but people bought 'em and I was selling them at $10 a crack. Well, $10 a crack when you're living with mom, that's good money. You can get pop, all the shit you ain't supposed to eat, licorice... (laughter) That's kinda where it started.
I crush licoriche.
I know dude.
I drove from Seattle to San Diego one time, I went to school down there. I ate an entire, you know those big-ass tubs?
Oh yeah, the big round ones.
Yeah, in a single sitting.
Yeah, you just pull one at a time outta there. Those weren't made for one guy, you know that right? (laughter) Just so you know.
I did that, and here's the kicker, this is literally how I got to San Diego, a whole jug of Red Vines, and 24, count 'em, 24 grape sodas. That would kill me now.
Diabetes on feet. (laughter)
All right, but we're back to Sir Mix-a-Lot. You said in the projects. Can you give us a little background there?
I was born in in the Rainier Vista, which is gone now, but then we moved from the Rainier Vista to the Bryant Manor, the Bryant Manor apartments, is where I was pretty much raised, that's where my memorable years, put it that way, from 13 to about 19.
And for people who are just tuning in from all over the world, where is that?
Bryant Manor's up on 19th and Yesler in the hood.
That's right, it's in Seattle, we're in Seattle right now.
It's kinda weird cause I had temptation all around me, negative, literally, and I'm not exaggerating, anyone from that era and that area will tell you, from here to that table over there, I could watch pimps doing their thing, and I wanted to be a pimp at first, and then I realized I was making money fixing eight track decks in pimps' cars. Like, "Pimps ain't shit, I'm pimpin' pimps." (laughter) That was the way I looked at it, man. We moved up to the south end, out to the Lakeshore Village, and we had a first floor apartment, and I had a window, and I had a little studio at my house, I had a little keyboard, a little Casio piece of shit, and I had a little synth that a guy had threw away and I fixed it, some of his oscillators had some problems, I put new pots in it and they worked fine, new potentiometers and stuff. So I had that and a little drum machine. The first Dr. Rhythm, a little Roland called a DR-110, and I was making beats and mixing up my records and I started selling tapes out of that window.
What moniker were you, were you just Anthony Ray at that point, or did you have...
I had so many different names I called myself. 'Cause I was so busy trying to be high-tech all the time. Dumb names like "Spaceman," and "Electronic"-this, and "Electro"-this, and "Electro"-that. I didn't find a name for a long time. Then I started doing parties at the Rotary Boy's Club, on 19th and Spruce. I started DJing parties, and when I was DJing those parties, I would bring, there was a song called "Freak-A-Zoid" everybody used to dance to-
I'll be a Freak-A-Zoid.
Yeah, exactly. <v Mix] [Chase>Come on and wind me up. (beat noises)
Yeah, that song. (laughter) So I would take that song, and then I had the drum machines, I had a vocoder by that time. Every dime I made off my music, I put it right back into buying more stuff. My mom hated that, by the way.
But there's so many lessons here. Sorry, keep going, keep going.
I had the vocoder, so I could mimic that, "Z-O-I-D-S." So what would happen is, you'd be in the middle of dancing to "Freak-A-Zoid," and I would mix a live version with the separate drum machine, synth, and I'm sitting there doing this stuff with the mic, and people were dancing but they're like...
"What is happening?"
Cause keep in mind, nobody was remixing then. So they're looking around like, "What the fuck happened to the song?" They liked it, but they were like, something's weird, and I never told anybody what it was cause I was kinda shy. I wanted somebody else to do my vocals. And I got dubbed by people then "Sir Mix-a-Lot." It's like, "Dude, you'll mix anything into your tracks, you will just mix a record and turn it into your record and come back out of it." And that is what I did. That's where the title came from.
So I'm still focused on the zero to one question, because again, there's so many people who, anyone who is in the creative mindset, they can extrapolate 10 different things from what you just said, but still for the folks that are just trying to lean into this, something they're curious about, what I found really interesting about what you said right there is that I guess there's this pattern of you not even knowing... Shy, you described yourself as shy?
Yeah, never gave an oral report in high school. Never, I was terrified. I wouldn't stand up in front of the class. There is nobody on this planet that will tell you I ever gave an oral report in high school.
Yeah, couldn't do it. I was terrified.
There's a handful of new books and a lot of new research that comes out about sort of, introverts are the new extroverts basically. It used to be believed that I think you needed to be an extrovert to be on TV, to make money doing the thing you wanna... There is a huge swath of research that's just come out in the last couple years. How to do something in a world that won't stop talking, or something like that, it's a great book, I'll put it in the show notes. Do you consider yourself an introvert?
Yeah, I really do.
And introverts, remember, it's not like what do you do at parties, it's how do you recharge, how do you get energy.
I would say yes, as a matter of fact, I, like you, have a tendency to talk to successful, all successful people I know. And I'm part of a car club and it's full of successful people, Microsoft guys, and self-made guys. And every single one had that trait. They come out and do their thing, they'd go, "What are you gonna do for the rest of the day, man?" "I'm just gonna go chill, go home, do some work." Cause work is what I love, I love it. People that don't understand that always go, "You need a break!" I'm like, this is my break. Work is my break. I am an introvert, I don't go to clubs, right? So I perform, bring girls up on the stage, I do all that shit, but I don't go to clubs. I don't go out in crowds very often, which is kinda interesting. Unless it's to see somebody, like, when I went to see Bootsy Collins at BUMBERSHOOT, hey man, I gotta see Bootsy Collins, I don't care where he's playing, I gotta go. So stuff like that, but yeah, I am an introvert. But it's not to the level of some artists that I've seen, who do it, and they make it, they overdo it, they want it to look cool. No, it's just one of those things where, I'll shake your hand, I'll meet you, but when I go eat, I'm really uncomfortable when people go, "Oh my god!"
It freaks me out a little bit, but I speak to them because I've always believed in treating my fans like they're my bosses, because they are. - [Chase] They're writing the checks.
If your boss stopped and said, "Anthony, come take a picture with me," you're probably gonna do it, it's your boss, right? So that's the way I look at it.
The person, whoever's writing the check. So I think the introvert thing, again for the people who are trying to go from zero to one, you don't need to have this absolutely gigantic personality. And in truth, I feel like I'm generally extroverted, but I feel like I'm more, when it sort of became okay, and again I've spent a lot of time, personal time doing work, about like, "Is it okay to be who you are?" And I grew up as an athlete, and an athlete and an artist, like, "Oh, that kid's so creative," at my high school, that meant fucked up. That kid's weird. (laughter) I was like, "All right, great, I'm gonna be the captain of the football team then." And just basically did the thing that I was supposed to do, and it took me years and years and years to break out of that. These are teenage problems, for me. When I sort of got in touch with my authentic self that unlocked all kinds of shit. So how do you grow up in the projects and sell tapes out of your momma's window for 10 bucks, and then how does a guy get a break?
It's a saying I have, and I know I made this saying up, I always use it, "Hard work." A lot of people say, "I got here with hard work." Kind of. I believe hard work is merely preparation for a lucky day. I say that to everybody, and I swear by it, and I will say it 'til the day I check out. When I'm working on this music and I'm working on mixing, I had nothing, nothing was coming, you know, $10 for a tape, that's about the best I could do, right? I still had to work. So one day I'm at the Boy's Club doing a show, and Nes Rodriguez walks in.
Nasty Nes Rodriguez.
Nasty Nes, yeah. He was the DJ at KFOX back in the day.
1600 on the AM dial.
He walks in, now, I act like I hated Nes, because in that era you had the street DJ, you had the radio DJ. Street DJs were jealous of the radio DJs.
Cause they had jobs?
Exactly, exactly. (laughter) So I'm acting like I hated this guy, and then he walks in, I'm like, "Oh shit, Nes is here," so I was like, I'm scratching faster and doing all my shit and showing off and spinning around. (laughter) But it was really interesting and Nes invited me to, wanted me to meet a friend of his in Chinatown. I didn't want him to see what kind of car I drove, so I waited 'til he left and I got in my '69 Buick that I sing about, called "My Hoopty," that was a real car. I got in my old '69 Buick and I drove down to Chinatown and parked way away. I walked down and met Nes and I met Ed Locke and I met Greg Jones, all the people that started Nastymix Records, and that's kinda where it started.
Did he seek you, did he come into the party? Or was it random people...
Nes, I guess, had been hearing about me. He said, "Let me go check this guy out." When he walked in initially- - Who's this kid... Did you go by the moniker Sir Mix-a-Lot?
Yeah, I was Sir Mix-a-Lot then, yeah. He had heard about it and I was making songs. And the thing that Nes did which is kinda interesting, how everything kinda comes around, I didn't realize that my hard work was paying off, because when he said, "Hey man, I need you to come down to the radio station, and can you make an intro for my show?" Oh, no problem. And everybody looked around at me like, "You can do that?" Yeah, because I had been doing it so long, but I thought it was normal and I realized nobody had home studios in those days. Back when I had bought my first 4-track cassette, I didn't know anybody who had one. I think my first 4-track cassette was stolen actually. Yeah, it was. (laughter) A stolen machine, I got it for a hundred bucks. Probably a thousand dollar machine. That being said, I did go back to the store that I think he stole it from and I spent a whole lot of money. (laughter)
Just trying to clean it up. I started doing stuff with Nes, but then I started to understand how to communicate with the masses, 'cause I didn't know how to do that and that's where I shed the whole needing somebody else to do my vocals, and I became comfortable doing my vocals because I watched Nes talk to people.
This is critical. Was this an intentional shift, that you said, "Hey self, if you're gonna make a go of this, I don't see any other rappers that are coming to stand on your stage, I'm gonna have to do this myself." Or was it, wait a minute, is it not like a do-or-die, it's like no, I wanna become the guy who's standing on stage out in front.
I think it was necessity bred creativity. I needed somebody to do vocals the way I wanted them done, and I wasn't gonna find it because rappers are notoriously independent. They just, "Nope, nope, nope, I'm saying what I wanna say, dude." And I just said, "Okay, I'll do it." And I really didn't take the rap side of it serious initially. What I took serious was the production. As I got older, you listen to my last two or three albums, you can hear, whoa, he's getting more serious lyrically, but then, it was just about, put these syllables right here and I'm gonna rap the music around them. So it really was necessity, I was almost forced to do it.
Again, those folks that are going from zero to one, or even the folks, let's just go the other end of the spectrum, those of us a little later in life, later in career, later in life, I'm talking about myself like I'm...
I can relate, bro. - Walking with a cane, what's up! The necessity and constraints actually driving creativity. Resourcefulness, you didn't have any money, so you rewired found shit in order to pursue your dream.
That creates a problem later on when you have success. The worst thing that happened to me was after "Posse on Broadway" and all that stuff, I went and spent like 120 grand on my studio, and my songs started to suck. I had some many options that gone was the, "I need this sound, and I dug, and dug, and dug, and dug, and dug," and I understood every aspect of that gear trying to get that one sound. Now I had 10 different boards that would do the same thing. Oh, this one doesn't sound good, let's go to this one, and you end up...
And that paralyzes you?
Yeah, yeah, it takes you two times longer to make one sound, and it took me a long time to get out of that. That was hard, that took years, actually.
I didn't plan on this but we're going very linearly and I like this so, you're working with Nasty Nes, you make an intro for his show on KFOX Radio.
Yeah, it was like Elvis Presley, Nes Presley.
Nes Presley was his last name?
No, we just made this up. (laughter) I always used to tease him, I'd say, "Dude, you look like the Filipino Elvis." I used to always tell him that. So I did this Elvis Presley kind of intro, and where I learned a lot from Nes was that, how he could flip the switch. Because he'd be talking, he'd be real mellow, "Hey man, that really sounded good, 1250 KFOX," and I was like whoa, I need to learn how to do that. Seeing that kinda let me know you could flip a switch and not necessarily be the introvert for a few minutes. Treat it like a job, and then...
So let's go back to your necessity. You couldn't find someone to rap. Does this part of you say, "Well, all right, if I'm gonna make my music, and I need it to sound like this," when you've made enough stuff you start to actually, I think this is a huge question, how did you develop your sound? Again, for me, it's vision with pictures or directing, and I don't have a good answer other than like, you do enough shit and you start to really, you just gravitate to stuff, and there's a certain way that when something comes up you handle it. But it's really a repetition. How is it for you?
Probably a lot like you, probably a lot like you. I didn't just like one genre of music, so I would play Gary Numan in that era, Gary Numan, I'd play Devo, I'd play Parliament-Funkadelic, I'd play heavy rock, all kind of weird shit, and all of that was in me, and what happened is as I'm creating, keep in mind, rap was new, so there was no really established sound. So I just started pumping this stuff out, and some of it sucked, but slowly but surely, I started to come up with, the sound was just there. I didn't know how not to do it, right? I didn't really understand what it was.
But that's something also that's beautiful, that when you're not a part of the system or the canon, it's really the lack of rules that help you sort of decide, well, I'm just gonna pretend, right?
You're just going with it, and you think you know what you're doing but you kinda don't and the hardest part is after you have a little success is trying to go, how do I do that again? Because you don't really know, it just happened, and you think you know, but you kinda don't.
Deconstructing your song.
It was so organic. It was so organic, now I gotta be cerebral. Now I gotta go back, and like you said, deconstruct, and see where it all came from and try to do it again. That was weird.
We're gonna keep on this path, I'm loving this path. We've been friends for years and I didn't know a lot of this shit. You're finding your sound, you get out in front of people. Who's mixing that? 'Cause if you're out in front, are you doing both?
At first I was doing both. At first it was me and a couple other guys. We got the drum machines, so I would just start the drum machines and then run back and stop them, but that looked pretty silly. I saw a video of us performing, I'm like "Oh, dude." We were only making three, four hundred bucks a show, maybe five hundred bucks. My first show making $1,000, I said, "This must be how Sammy Davis did it," you know. I didn't know, I thought I was rich. $1,000 a night? Here's my dumb ass, $1,000 a night, if we do 31 shows a month, that's $31,000. I didn't know people didn't go to shows Monday through Thursday, right? (laughter)
A brother would be tired doing 31 shows a night. Yeah, you don't think about that when you're a kid. I get on stage and I'm turning on and turning off everything on my own, using fog machines and lights to try to mask the fact that I had nobody, and then we got more and more people on the stage and I got about three or four people and we got really comfortable and people took awhile to do shows. When we got on the road though, talk about an awakening. 'Cause you know, when you are kind of the guy that creates stuff, you know like you, you probably did pictures, and then you went somewhere where there were other guys who do what you do, like "Oh, shit," I gotta go back home, there motherfuckers are kicking my ass out here." That's what happened. I got on the road and we performed with more polished acts and I was like, "Oh my goodness, I gotta go home." I knew it wasn't right.
I love this narrative, this is amazing. So you walk out, you get basically slapped out in the big world, you're like, "Holy shit," and we're not talking, you probably didn't need to go all the way to New York or Chicago or LA.
You go halfway to LA, you stop in Oakland, and right about then Eazy-E is coming up.
Yeah, Eazy-E was around, yep.
He was also a guy who-
But he was in Compton.
He was a guy who, correct me if I'm wrong, my hip-hop mind is a little bit slow, but he also didn't really wanna rap.
No, he didn't, he didn't.
Actually that was also in...
It was in Straight Outta Compton, yeah. I think he really just wanted to be the guy behind the scenes and he ended up being the star. And that has a lot to do with Ice Cube, Ice Cube was the guy that kinda... - Pushed him out there.
And Dre, and all those guys. But it's funny 'cause I knew all those guys, cause I remember Dre when he was in the Wreckin' Crew, and I was doing my thing, we were all kinda coming up at the same time, but when I got to see those guys perform, "Egyptian Lover," I was like, I mean, they were so polished. I'm talking about Dre had DMX's two turntables, and I'm like "Oh, shit." And this is when I only had Square Dance Rap out, that was it, and these guys were doing stuff and they were just blowing the crowds away, and I went home and I started learning how to write songs. I said, okay, doing a song that I just like, sitting in my bedroom... 'Cause they could say things about the town in a song and drive the crowd nuts, right? I hear Dre and they're performing, we're at World on Wheels one time, and I forget who opened for them and he said something about Compton, and... (cheering) I'm like, that's interesting. So I went to Arizona and I saw, I think it was Eric B. & Rakim, I'm like okay, so I noticed that when I was in Phoenix, Arizona, I found a Dick's, Dick's Burgers.
Yeah, Dick Spady. My parents met at Dicks.
Yeah, that's awesome, man. I noticed that Dick's was on Broadway. I said, "We got a Dick's in Seattle on Broadway." Then I went to Broadway in San Francisco, and everywhere had a Broadway. So keep in mind, I'm young, I'm like, "Okay, those guys say the city, what if they said a whole bunch of 'em?" So I did "Posse on Broadway," and that was my first hit, because every fucking city has a Broadway. So everybody thought I was talking about their Broadway, so I mentioned streets that were very... You know, "Union."
Martin Luther King, you know there's one in every city. So you throw these things out and it worked, and I had my first hit but I still, then I said, "Okay, I'm on par with these guys," but little did I know, they had grown. They had...(sweeping). And so I went on tour with Public Enemy.
Public Enemy, NWA, Big Daddy Kane was on some dates, Luke Skywalker, and got humbled again.
This is the classic hero's journey, though Mix. You go home, you make some shit, you cook some shit up, and then you go out there in the world and you rock it with people who know you, and then you go out to the bigger pond, and shit, you're a small fish.
Yeah, small fish, man.
But does it ever stop? Did you ever leave the house and say, I'm here?
No, I think when you do that you're done. I just look for something else to chase. I'm not by any means saying I'm on par with Public Enemy and NWA but, I'm Mix-a-Lot now so I can do my thing. I can fill up an arena, I can fill up a club, I can get down with 'em and they get up and they know my song, but then you look at something else and you go, "But I ain't quite that." And as long as you're doing that you'll keep striving.
I think that's beautiful.
Never be satisfied.
That's a thing that I feel like when I talk to people, my friends, like yourself, that have done fucking amazing things. I really don't know anybody who's satisfied. That can be both a blessing and a curse, 'cause that lack of satisfaction can eat at you and grind away at your self-worth, but there's this happy, the people I think who manage it the best, there's this sense of calmness and happiness, but if you can look out on the horizon there are people doing cool shit or shit that you aspire to.
I think the only time it eats at you though is when you don't try. It's the journey that you really need, because once you make it, now you're looking for somewhere else, right?
As soon as you make it.
Yeah, as soon as you make it. Example, they brought out this new, and this is gonna bore the hell outta everybody, but they brought out this new transistor type called an LDMOS, it's indestructible. And everybody's been building them. I said, "Fuck, I gotta build one, I gotta build one, I gotta build one, I gotta build one." And I started buying parts, the first one, pop, blew it up. Well, it ain't so indestructible, I just blew one up, right? I learned and learned and learned, and yesterday I got it done. Guess what now, now I wanna build one with four of 'em in there.
'Cause you gotta chase something. So I think it's the journey that is actually the satisfying part of it. Achieving it feels good for a minute, and then you need another journey.
It's fascinating to me having had just a little bit of success in my career how short-lived the party is. It's so short-lived.
But people will remind you, you're the one that did that.
Fill in the blank.
And that's cool though.
Oh, for sure.
I learned something watching, I don't wanna say the artist's name, but I watched one artist in particular, who hated the fact that people knew him for one song. And he would get mad at the fans and be like, "I'm bigger than blank," whatever the song is, "I'm bigger than 'Water in a Cup,' I did better songs than that." And what happens is you almost snatch the credibility right out from under your own career. So I watched people fail doing that and I said, never gonna do that. Never gonna do snippets of "Baby Got Back," or "Posse on Broadway," or "My Hoopty," I'm gonna do the whole fucking track when I perform, and people are gonna like the shit, and I'm gonna get out in the crowd with 'em, I get right out in the crowd with 'em, because I love my fans, I really do. And some people resent their fans. I'm like, do you understand what it's like? Do you remember sitting in the bedroom when nobody gave a shit? I always remind myself of that.
There's a classic example, a guy named Stewart Butterfield, he co-founded Flickr, and I just bumped into him at a dinner, and I was asking him some questions about, he has this very, very high-performing start-up called Slack, it's basically chat for teams. They were within weeks of insolvency, and their video game wasn't working out, and they said, well, what've we got? We got this thing that we built so that our team, our engineering team can communicate. Well, let's try and make something of that. Now, multi-billion dollar company. And if you ask Stewart how he feels today relative to how he felt when he was within weeks of insolvency, the basic answer is, the same. Now it's just scared shitless of not being able to kill it when you are one of the fastest growing start-ups in the world up there with the Ubers and the Airbnbs.
And not getting too out of touch. When you succeed, I recommend this to everybody, you reach a certain point and you look down and you see the old you, get down there. Get your hands dirty, cause if your hands ain't dirty, you ain't in that grind, you ain't in the mud with everybody. Because you know, business is really simple, but some people create a problem, and then go look for a solution. That's not the way it's supposed to go. You find the problem and you create the solution. A good friend of mine named Tom Nault, what's up Tom, said this to me and I never will forget it, I hope I don't get it wrong. He said, "If you feed the masters," which is the wealthy, "if you feed the masters, you'll eat with the masses, but if you feed the masses, you eat with the masters." So in other words, you have to find a solution that fixes everybody's problem. That's business.
But that's also "My Posse's on Broadway," 'cause everybody's got a Broadway, everybody has or wants a posse. So let's go back to that song. So you released this song. Expectations? What is it?
I won't even tell you where I was, I can remember the first time I heard it, but, this isn't about me, this is about you. So 1987. First gets played on the radio here in Seattle? How did it happen?
No, it didn't actually. We released "Posse on Broadway," I had low expectations. "Square Dance Rap," I thought it was a hit. I actually sold 50,000 units, right? I sold 50,000 units, I had a really nice 10 year old Caddy, I was renting a house with a couch and a few pots and pans and that was it, I thought I was rich. Let's throw this posse out and sell another 50,000, that was my logic. 50,000, that became the goal. We put the song out, it didn't get any radio play here. And all of a sudden we get a call, I remember from MTV, they said Fab 5 Freddy's gonna come out and interview you." I'm like, "For what?" But remember, there was no internet then. There was no internet and long-distance was like, a dollar a minute, you wasn't calling motherfuckers talking about, "How's my song doing in Barbados," right? I start finding out that the song was doing well. We did a video and we didn't know the song was doing well in the Bay Area, it took off immediately. All the places that I saw with Broadways, Bay Area, it did really well in Houston, Texas, they must have a Broadway or something, Dallas jumped on it, Phoenix, all those places that I went to, San Francisco, they jumped on it first. Then the video, I never will forget it. Driving down the street somewhere and stopping by a friend of mine's house, and I remember his sister ran out. "You gotta come in the house right now." I was like, "Why? "You gotta see this, gotta see this." And I go in and "Posse on Broadway"'s on MTV. I was like, "Oh, shit." (laughter) I looked at my guy's, I'm like, still not understanding that that could mean cha-ching, cha-ching. I just thought, people are gonna like the record now. That was it, it was just really small steps.
But isn't that beautiful? Isn't there something that's beautiful and humble and simple about that?
It is, and that is something that, as you get older, you can be a little reflective and understand that that's part of the reason you kept the hunger. And as we go through this journey with you, when I get to the part about where I felt like I'd made it, that was hard, that's the hardest part.
You know what, we're gonna skip right to it now. The reason I think we're taking this journey is because you have insane insights that, that's my goal here is to unlock this stuff in you so that other people can learn from it, and they can learn from it from people who are listening who are thinking they made it on the cusp, but it's really for those of us people paying attention who they start to sniff it and you're trying to help them from ever getting to that shitty spot. We're all trying to help one another through this thing, we're all in this together, right? Let's just catapult here, you go from hearing your song on the radio for the first time, or see it on MTV. How much time between that moment and you registering in your brain that, holy shit, this is the dream.
It's kind of interesting, 'cause like I said, when "Posse on Broadway" hit, keep in mind, still no internet, it felt local, it felt like, okay, we just saw that in Seattle, but nobody else saw it, I didn't know anything about national networks, I didn't know. And then we get the call about Fab 5 Freddy coming to Seattle. I said, "MTV coming to Seattle, what the hell?" I didn't how to host a guy, we took him to Dick's to eat hamburgers.
Of course you did though, that's what you do. That was, end up being so authentic.
Yeah exactly, I knew that the whole time. (laughter)
I can afford this, it's close.
But still no money, still not a lot of money. It did really well, we started touring, made a little bit of money but still pretty modest. We did another album, "Seminar," which had "Hoopty," and "Beepers," and those did really well, that went gold, almost platinum. Then we get a call from Rick Rubin. And anybody in hip-hop knew who Rick Rubin was, they still do. I'm like, "Rick Rubin's calling me?" Keep in mind, I had never been groomed by anybody.
Yeah, you didn't have a mentor really.
Yeah, no mentors in music. I had a couple people that showed me some things, but nobody ever sat me down and said, "Let me show you how to get here."
So Rick, I ended up signing with Rick, and Rick doesn't say much. But when he talks, shut the fuck up, because he's going to give you information. And the first thing he did was ask me who I was, but he didn't mean here, he meant, what's your image, who are you? How do I know who you are? 'Cause I'm Mix-a-Lot! And he showed me pictures of Flava Flav, he showed me pictures of Run DMC, and I'm looking at these guys, I'm going, "Wow, they have something about 'em." So Rick calls me, it's funny 'cause he probably doesn't remember this shit 'cause it's so small to him, 'cause he does it all the time.
Yeah, he's doing it with every act. But I'm telling you, he's not going to forget this.
Yeah, Rick calls me on the phone while I'm working on the record. He said, "I was looking at one of your videos." I said, "Yeah?" He says, "The one called 'My Hoopty.'" I said, "Okay, what about it?" He said, "The coat, the hat." The said, "I like that." Like, dude, it was a joke. One of my buddies had, we called 'em old man hats, a derby, you know, the Mafia shit, and I said, "Dude, I'm gonna wear that in the video, give it to me." I wore it, I wore that, and I wore the coat, and Rick said, "That's it, that's you." I'm like, "Man, get the fuck outta here." And he, you know, he told me things real subtle, and you try not to hear it but, if he speaks, he's saying something. He said, "25 years from now they'll know you for that." I'm like, "Get the fuck outta here." He was right. So we start riding with Rick and we start making real money. And we went on a tour that wasn't making us any money, we were losing money like crazy. I didn't know what a promotional tour was. Dude, what's a promotional tour? You don't know what a promotional tour... I had a major label, I had a publicist, I couldn't even say publicist, I was like, "pub-li-ci-ci-st." So we're on the road and she's telling us what to do, telling us who to see. "You wanna go by and shake this guy's hand, go by this building, walk in..." I'm like, why am I shaking all these weird old fucker's hands, you know? (laughter) I didn't know. I'm vising these people and I'm shaking hands, and I'm meeting people, and I'm meeting people, and I'm meeting people, and I have this on videotape.
No, this is on, well, it's been dubbed to VHS. (laughter) It was on, one of those, not Hi8, whatever those little...
The first small... Yeah, not the mini one, but the one bigger than that. So I videoed, I'm walking into this club. Keep in mind, I'm on the road, there is no internet, I don't know what's going on, I know we're promoting the song and I ain't making no money. And we walk into this club in Texas, white sand...
The beach one?
Near Pensacola. Anyway, near Pensacola, I don't know why I'm forgetting this, I always remember this. But we walk in and the club owner is talking to me, and I'm holding a camera and the fucking club is packed. It was my first sell-out, I'm like, "God dammit." There were people on the balcony of hotels. I'm like, what's going on, who are they here to see? You hear me on the camera like, "Who are these motherfuckers here for, right?" And he said, "Ladies and gentlemen, they're here to see the man with the camera, today went number one, Sir Mix-a-Lot." And everyone's clapping and I'm like, "Get the fuck outta here." My whole group is like, "What, what are you..." 'Cause we're in this tour bus, we don't know. And the song had gone number one, we had no idea. That was the day I realized, oh shit, when I walked out on the stage it was like, you don't just hear the noise but you feel the wind, that's the first time that ever happened to me. (roaring) I'm like, "God damn." (laughter) We're all looking at each other like, "What the fuck's going on here, man?" 'Cause we were doing okay shows, but we had two weeks off and the record went number one. Knocked off like, Mariah Carey or someone. That was the peak, that was the pinnacle. All of a sudden, then I got used to it almost.
That's gotta be nuts.
I got used to the noise and the craziness, and that's when the introvert side came back. 'Cause first I was all out in the malls, trying to, "Hey girl, what's your name?" You realize you can't do that anymore.
Out in the mall, he just said get outta the malls, I love it.
That's what I was doing. I start being an introvert again, then it got even bigger. We get a call, we're going home from tour, we get a call from Heidi at at American again, she goes, "Need you to come back to LA." I'm like, "We're in Montana, almost home." "Gotta come back to LA." I'm like "Why?" "You gotta do Arsenio." I'm like, "Oh, shit." Told the bus, head to LA, right? So we go to LA and we do Aresnio, that blew us up even bigger. Keep in mind, I hadn't gotten a check yet.
You hadn't gotten a check?
'Cause the check, they're once ever six months.
So you literally haven't gotten a check.
Haven't got a big one. I had the advance but that was pretty much almost gone.
Sure, 'cause you spent that to make the record, you're in the early phase of this tour, you're using that money to travel on.
The tour bus and all that stuff.
You're taking the door from the shows?
Yeah, I'm getting a little bit of the show. I was getting paid low, Rick wanted me to get paid low, 'cause he wanted the places full. So we hit oh god, McAllen, Texas. And this is when I was like, "Holy shit." We hit McAllen, Texas and there was a helicopter, I thought somebody got shot, there was a helicopter above the venue. It's a club, and Rick always had this thing. He would rather me play a club and leave 100 people standing outside than me play a stadium with 100 people short. He just wanted that angst, that energy. It was some news helicopter and we were on the news, because there were so many people out there we had to add a second show. They were lined up and they were pissed off and they were threatening to riot. I'm like, "Whoa." And Heidi's just loving it, I'm scared. She's like, "This is what we want." And it kept going, and going, and going, and going, and going, and then I got home, and then I got the check. It kinda fucks you up because now that's the goal, I thought. I thought, I'm done, that's it, I did it. You sit there and you get bored for almost a year, because the residuals keep coming in, and you're like, ah, you sit back. You've got a studio getting dust on it now, because you think you're done. And you really do for a long time, you think it's over, and then you hear another artist go, "Mix-a-Lot, that fucking has-been, he..." Fuck that! And you get it back. You have to have something to chase. And sometimes it's your ego, which is the wrong chase to go on, and that's what happened is I was pissed, and I wanted to respond to that, and my record ended up suffering because it wasn't about my fans. I was talking shit to my critics. Oddly enough you're at your pinnacle but hit rock bottom simultaneously.
There is a lag time I think that, before the world finds out.
We were doing a show in a place called South Padre Island.
That's a big party scene in Texas. - Spring break. Couple of my guys had a bunch of people in the room getting them lit on some Seattle weed, they were all fucked up, I mean, we got a big suite with a whirlpool, all this shit. It looked like a movie. I walk in and I'm paying my guys, it's like five in the morning, the sun's coming up, I'm counting out hundreds like, "Here's yours, here's yours." This one dude was just sitting there and he was like, half out of it still smoking weed. He said, "You know what Mix? You had me dude." I said, "I had you?" He said, "You had me, man. 'Posse on Broadway,' 'Baby Got Back,' 'Swap Meet Louie,' that was shit I could relate to." I'm like, "Okay?" He said, "You got some song out now talking about a Lamborghini Diablo, what the fuck is that? I drive a hoopty like you used to drive, I was you." Wow, that hurt. 'Cause that's when I realized, "Oh fuck." You realize, I went too far, I went over there. Well all of us knew. Every artist that comes out you know this. "That first shit was his best shit," you always hear that right? "That first shit was his best shit." And my first shit was actually "Posse," but to a lot of people "Baby Got Back" was the first. That right there knocked me back. It messed me up for a long time.
That's incredible that just one, how much it took to get there, how much vision, strength, effort, just relentless stamina, and then some dude...
Gave you one comment.
And I wasn't mad, he thought I was mad, he said, "Man, don't get mad." I said, "Nah." I looked at him, and I just got quiet. I got quiet and I walked out of the room, I'm like, "Shit." You start thinking man. Then you start looking at yourself differently. I walk back in my hotel room, there's some naked chick that I had no idea what her first name was, in that era you could do that, now you end up on TMZ. You look at it like, who the fuck is this? Why am I doing this stuff? 'Cause it wasn't me, and I wanted to get back in my studio, but when I got there I had no...
There was a hole in your heart?
Yeah, nothing was coming out of me for a long time.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis both been on the show before, performed and...
I like those guys.
Just so straight-up, man. Mack had performed at a dinner party that I had with like, 20 people, and he was reading the song that became "Wings," but he called it "Air Jordan" at the time, reading it off a piece of paper. I think he was living in his parent's basement at the time, just got out of rehab, and a friend of mine, Sabzi from Blue Scholars, Sab was like, "Yeah you gotta get my friend Macklemore, it'd be awesome." They went from there, stopped by the show at some point, highest 15 acts platinum or something like that, and I just think the story of then 'til now. They literally just left on tour a few days ago. It's an incredible story that is not that dissimilar to what you talked about. You feel like, just that moment of realization.
I think the one thing that is kinda weird to say, the one advantage Mack had was the drug problem, in that he hit a real bottom. I thought I was at the bottom just 'cause I was poor, a lot of people are poor. For him to hit that and then get up. I noticed at his peak, he's far more humble that I was. It took me a minute to get humble, I had to be humbled. He was pretty humble because he appreciated the opportunity a little more than I think I did. Even though I did. It wasn't like I was running around looking at my fans, "Get the fuck away, I don't sign autographs," it wasn't that. But it was something in my music that was void after awhile. The funny stories that were actually kinda true, a little dark but still fun, they were gone. But he doesn't forget that.
Let's just talk about this generally, because I think whether you're coming up and trying to find your own sound, or whether you're having some success, again this is for entrepreneurs, for artists, how do you stay humble? How do you listen to your authentic self?
You have to start telling yourself the truth. What I mean by that is, my mom, my grandmothers had this staying, my mom adopted this saying, "Don't matter how much money you got baby, we're all buried in the same dirt." You can't take it with you. And you have to realize how lucky you are.
There's a gratitude.
I think when people start believing that they created it alone, that's dangerous. You don't do anything and sell it to the masses alone.
Or even a small group of people that maybe you're selling a thing you drew on the sidewalk, you can sell that but as soon as you get anything that can afford, make some sort of a payment on a house, or an apartment, or insurance or any of that shit.
I had a girl that I was dating, and she bought me my first drum machine. So when we broke up most people are really mad, I wasn't mad, I made sure she had, here's this, got a nice car, nice this, put your furniture, blah, blah, blah. Buying this person a drum machine doesn't give you publishing rights, but at the same time, it felt right with my soul. She could've said, "Fuck, I got him for money," even though she didn't do that. She could've but that wouldn't have made a difference to me. It felt right by me to do it. I didn't necessarily lose that, it just was no longer there. I had gotten to a point where a lot of the people were telling me whatever I wanted to hear, and those real people weren't, that's when I switched it up. Said, I gotta get back to my people.
This is such a classic hero's journey. So you're at the top, you realized how fucked up it is, and then to use your own words, you gotta get back to your people. What does that look like?
It looks like... I'll tell you, it's kinda messed up. You come home and you go to mom's house and she look a little different. That's how that's fucked up. You've been gone so long that you come home and you realize your mom's two years older, you missed two years of her life, right? That shit's hard to deal with. But she took me back in, and I remember the first thing she said. "All right honey, now enough of this star shit, take that god damn garbage out." That felt good. Its like, yeah, that's right.
That's what I need. 'Cause I got mom a nice house, and I got her a nice car, but it never went to her head. Never went to her head. I remember she let me read her journal one time, she was so nervous taking that house. "Is my boy going to be able to afford this thing?" She'd write that over and over again, "I hope I'm not making the wrong move." She did not wanna leave the projects. And that stuff kinda reminded me who I was. I said, "Okay, I need to start another journey now." And I did, but it wasn't music. Well, it is, but...
You've also been producing, so let's talk about, let's talk about interests outside of "Posse on Broadway," "Baby Got Back," the things that the world literally sings every day in every country around the world, they're singing those songs. What is Sir Mix-a-Lot, what is Anthony Ray outside of those things?
I'm all over the place now.
We're all hypens though, that's one of the things I wanna get, we all do so many things now. It's not about the gold watch in 40 years. Literally that's why Creative Live exists, is because the educational system in the world does not provide great learning for something that is gonna match how our careers are.
I gotta tell you this real quick, real quick. I have a friend of mine who is, was video-curious, right? And I did your show and he's been following you ever since. Now he's fucking got a baby company, I gotta tell you that, he's got a few cameras, he's editing, he taught himself how to, he uses, I dunno, not Final Cut, I forget what it's called.
Premiere, yeah. Uses Adobe Premiere, he's gotten really good at it, he's kinda making a couple dollars at it, he's creating something, I tell him, quit smoking weed in your content. (laughter) He's creating cool stuff and it kinda, kinda weird he's like, "Chase Jarvis, every time that guy does something I check it out." I know I digress there a little bit, but I had to tell you that.
No man, thank you.
That stuff works, so this stuff works.
Yeah, it's potent, but not only does it work, but how it works is the people are paying attention right now, they have to realize that you put your pants on the same way they do, and you have highs and lows, and that you're also, you know, I talk about us all being hyphens, we're all slash producers, slash artists, slash entrepreneurs, slash radio HAM hacker guy.
You gotta be something. You gotta want something, you gotta thirst for something. Or your soul just dies.
So what are you, outside of, beyond "Baby Got Back," and beyond Sir Mix-a-Lot, what does Anthony Ray...
I'm still a gadget freak at heart. That's what created Mix-A-Lot, was gadgets. It wasn't the other way around. So I started producing other acts, just for the fun of it, not charging money, I just wanted to have fun like, Ayron Jones and the Way, a great group around here in town, this young kid's, like the new Jimi Hendrix, that's a lot of pressure. You know, black guy, plays guitar, course you gotta say Jimi, right? But that album was challenging because he was a bit of a studio bully. And he was a kid. He's like, "No man, nah, I need the guitar to sound like this." I'm like, "Dude, that's not right." "No man, I need it to sound like this." Okay, listen to him, create his record his way. And a lot of people liked the record, and I've been producing Tamika Williams, we're doing another soul record, same thing, a challenge. It's easy for me to turn on a drum machine and do an R&B song, that's boring. You know, not that R&B is boring but that process for me, I've done it already.
You've mastered it, you're a master.
Now she wants a vintage soul record. When I say vintage, I don't mean...
Yeah, I don't mean try to sing a Otis Redding song with a drum machine on. I mean drums, horns, and she wants it to sound a little antiquated. She doesn't want it too clean, which means you're gonna play a lot of tricks with compression and EQs, and you have to roll things off where you usually wouldn't to capture, so what I ended up having to do, was take old songs, put them on a track, and look at how they were panned out, how things were done, and then more importantly, compare them with new songs and you start realizing whoa, the snare on the new songs, you hear that crispy, and the snare on the old songs... I could not believe that James Brown's snares aren't crisp. I'm so used to hearing (drum noise). And his stuff has this little, all his drums, stuff starts on the one, but in disco or hip-hop, you have the one, the five, the thirteen. So it's like...(drumming). Not James, James is...(drumming). Nothing's on, and it's kinda off, and I started studying that shit, and I said, "Tamika, we gotta do this." And then I got excited, right? I got one song done, took me three months to fucking do it, because I had to capture everything, right? And people like it, I'm a little intimidated by it, 'cause I'm thinking it's a little off. So what I do is I play it around my mom, she's 87. If she does this, I think I'm getting there. She's starting to... She says, "Oh, I kinda like this."
You just lit up right there, because you're talking about something that's hard, it's a new challenge, it's something that's different. So you're a gadget freak, you're still producing things that are outside of your comfort zone.
Way out, I got a tech company too, that's way outside of my comfort zone.
Should we talk about that?
So tell me about your tech company.
I started this company awhile back, like 2010. It's called True Human Interface. Once again, not about making money. I'm not trying to create the next light switch, right? It's already done, I'm not looking that way 'cause when you look that way you always fail. It's about human interface devices for everything we do digitally. Editing, editing music, editing videos, creating music, creating videos, editing photos, everything to make that process faster. Some people think they don't need it faster. They just take the mouse and look, and drop-down menu, drop-down menu, drop down, bring up a plug-in. That's actually slow. So I have a friend of mine in LA who was working on some music, and we were doing an ad for Butterfinger, and they wanted more reverb on the announcer's voice, and I watched him literally take his glasses, "Oh, let's see, plug-ins, effects, reverb." I'm like, "Oh my god." So I went home, took my CNC machine, and I replicated the reverb he had on the screen. I replicated it to a T. I put a VU meter in, it didn't work, but it looked good. Instead of putting potentiometers on it, or rotary encoders, I used real potentiometers, real stuff that had, if it was a rotary, I'd put that in there. So it felt real to him, he wouldn't give it back. I gave it to him in 2012, he still has it. It's all about adding tactility to everything digital, and the first product will probably be, it's for live performance and it's a thing that connects the crowd with the artist, and I don't mean virtually, I mean literally. They will literally be able to control the show and vice versa.
Whoa. So that's a thing.
Yeah, that's my new thing. I'm pretty intimidated.
It's an intimidating world, man.
Yeah, was pretty intimidated, but I understand it a lot more than I thought.
You know we can always talk about that stuff, not that I know it, but I know just enough to be dangerous.
Stuff you're doing around here, I got a bunch of video shit 'cause of you, you fucking cost me another 22 grand, man. (laughter)
Every time we get together you go out and spend money.
I buy these cameras and I bought, like I said, I told you, the Blackmagic Multidock so I can edit stuff, and I just wanna start capturing some of this stuff. I didn't realize the importance of it until I saw what you're doing and realized, this is not vanity, that's not what this is. This is actually giving back on, not just on a micro level, this is a mass level, and people care about what you say.
There's a meta aspect of creativity, what kind of stuff are you creating about the process of creating, very much.
And real creators aren't copycats, so they'll be able to look at you and look at how you do stuff and go, "What if I did this with that?"
Those are the kind of guys I like.
Sure, and those are the people that I think go on to have great careers. What is the line, "If you steal from one person you're stealing, if you steal from everybody it's research." (laughter) Yeah, you get to take a thing, like this is the thing I'm taking from Chase, this is the thing I'm taking from Mix.
Everything comes from somebody though.
And it goes back to the point you were making earlier about remixing so let's go to the opposite end of the spectrum. You have songs that have been played hundreds and hundreds of millions of times, and you were part of an era in music where the rights, or you get to keep those rights, you didn't give those rights away, the contracts were written in such a way. Sure, other people took a lot of cut, but you're getting paid everyday still. What is that like? Do you feel lucky that you had the contract that you had or do you miss the current world where artists are making money in different, a myriad of ways?
It's kinda mixed for me, 'cause one thing I'm never gonna be, I'm never gonna be the old fart. I'm never gonna be the get off my lawn guy. That's not my style. But I do have some issues with the way things are done today a little bit, because you have a generation of fans who've grown up never paying for music, and you have a generation of artists who have never been paid for their work. Everybody's been subconsciously taught, music has no value, when music is the, what is it, that's the most consumed art. I'll get in the elevator, I'm listening to music, right? It kinda bothers me a little bit in that when I see young kids who come out now, you gotta give your record away. Your record is a big advertisement now. By record, I mean the tracks. (laughter)
That was very British, "advertisement."
Yeah, advertisement, that's what it is. You're giving your records away to get heard, you get heard, then you monetize it. You go out, you do shows, you try to sell merch, you do whatever you can.
Yeah, endorsements. Just try to do anything you can. What happens if you have an artist that's, you know, that's handicapped? They can't tour. Or that's too old to go out and tour, or who has kids and can't leave. That bothers me because they've been taught not to value their art, they give it away and they struggle, and I don't know who to blame for that. But that being said, don't think I have mercy on the record industry. I was one of the people, when Napster happened, I knew the industry was over. I knew it, I knew right then. Because artists were begging labels then, could you please not sell my CD for $22? I mean, it only costs us 87 cents to make one CD, can't we sell this thing for 8 bucks, 9 bucks? Nope, they wouldn't do it, and that gave birth to Napster, and Napster gave birth to iTunes.
Basically before we started recording, we talked about Taylor Swift.
Yeah, oh man, that's the stuff I do like about today's artists, you do have all this, like Adele, Taylor Swift, who are setting a great example for young artists. Regardless of whether you like their music or not, that's irrelevant. The fact that Adele went, "I'm not gonna allow my record to be streamed for the first two months." Because, I said so, that's it. Why did she say so? Because she knew that once it started being streamed she's gonna lose a lot of money. So she said, "I'm gonna monetize it. And then everybody can have it and we can go on, and I'll go on tour." Taylor Swift did something, I think Apple was gonna do, I think two weeks of free streaming.
I think it was two months.
Yeah, something. And she wrote, talk about passive aggressive, she wrote the sweetest, the sweetest open letters, like, "You used to be the friends of the artists, we all loved you, we grew up using your products to make our music." I'm like, "Oh, kick 'em in the balls!" That Apple in 24 hours reversed what they were gonna do, that is, not only is it power, but it's wielding your power correctly.
It's beautiful, it's really an astute lens of justice.
And she said "It's not about me, I'm gonna get my money. It's not about me, it's about the next me, it's about the next generation of artists."
Who else is important to you these days? Who do you keep close to you?
Well, mom's number one, mom's number one always, always will be, man. She raised me by herself man, and taught me some very interesting things that are not popular. And I always say this to people. Capitalism seems to not be popular in the ghetto. I don't understand that because you have to live with it, right? And she would not allow that. She instilled in me early, work, reward, work, reward. She just kept pinning that in my head, so I never expect anything from anybody, I don't feel entitled to anybody else's anything. And she kinda gave me that, so I said I'm gonna take care of this woman 'til the day I leave here.
What an incredible gift too, 'cause that's what's keeping you humble.
Yeah, and number two, well not number two necessarily, but my manager. Ricardo and I met in 1990.
I met Ricardo right here in this very room.
Ricardo, man, I can honestly say, when I look back at my career, when I look back at the great deal I signed with Rick when a lot of people were getting screwed royal in that era, the fact that I kept my publishing, I owe most of all that to Ricardo. That dude is sharp as hell, and there's kinda this trust. People talk about trust but, when you trust a person, you let 'em hold your wallet. I'd let him hold my wallet. That's how much I trust Ricardo. He just sent me a text, "Hey man, we got this check. He doesn't worry about if I'm gonna pay him, just, "Oh, what time you gonna pay me?" It's just, we have that kind of relationship. That dude is, that's my dude I'm serious, 'cause without him, I'd probably be broke right now.
Any advice to folks who are sort of in this process of their career, and again, this doesn't, yeah, it applies to everyone whether you're an indie or a freelancer coming up and you're starting to get momentum, is there some sort of fear tactic or is it all, "Oh my god, enjoy it, you've earned it, you're worth it." Is there any advice you can give to some folks out there about money? You either have said it or you've suggested that you're lucky to be owning Lamborghinis and stuff, that you could've fucked that up but you didn't. So what's the takeaway from that?
It really goes back to what I said before, if you become comfortable with your own success you won't have it very long. We all get to that point that we buy that thing, not necessarily, doesn't mean a car, could be anything, but we, maybe don't buy anything, we just take the phone and scroll to the bank, "Got enough commas." And you get too comfortable, it goes away. You have to remain hungry. Unless you're a trust fund baby, gotta remain hungry. I know it sounds redundant.
No it doesn't. So money, it doesn't buy a lot of things. We've talked about in this interview, people who are wildly, freakishly successful and...
Still not happy.
And still not happy. So what's Mix-A-Lot's key to happiness? Is it pursuit, you've said the word chase.
Yeah, you gotta pursue things, but at the same time you have to do what you truly like, not what you think you're supposed to do because you've made it. People trip me out, man. Couple days ago I walk into Taco Time, and I had some overalls on, and everybody's like... This girl's looking at me and she sees my shoes, and she had this look like, "Oh my god, he's broke." You could see it in her face. But I just wanted a fucking burrito. (laughter) Just give me the soft bean burrito, I order the same thing every time I go in there, right? But you could see her, "Can I get an autograph?" But she almost, like she felt sorry for me. And I signed the autograph, and then I walk out and I get in the Benz, she's like, you could see her like... You know, like "I thought he was broke!" I guess I said that to say this, just keep it real, be who you are, don't let too much change you. Yeah, you have access to more things, but you're no better than anybody else. You're just lucky as shit. Don't get me wrong, you have to work hard to get there, but a lot of people work hard and don't get that break. But a lot of people, and I hope you guys listen to this, a lot of people get the break but they call it something else. I see that a lot. And we have this thing, me and Riq, we call sniffing a deal. Like things might come up, like we have two TV shows pitching us right now. Oprah, not Oprah literally, but her network, is coming to my house in two days. We don't know what's gonna come of that, right? Look at it this way, each one of those things could be that chance, but if you don't explore all those opportunities, you'll never know. It goes right by you. There's an old, it's a religious story, people that are religious they always say that, there was a guy stranded in the ocean, and he prayed, "God please come help me," and a tugboat came by and he said, "Hey, come on, jump on," he said, "No, God's gonna take care of it." Then a ocean liner comes by, "Come on up here," "No, God's gonna take care of it." Then he dies, he goes to heaven, he says, "Why didn't you come help me?" He said, "I send a tugboat and an ocean liner." You gotta pay attention when things come, we've become hyper-sensitive to potential deals. Even if it doesn't mean money. Example, the orchestra thing. I did this thing with the Seattle Orchestra, we did "Baby Got Back" and "Posse on Broadway" when them.
Was that fun?
That was fun, but intimidating. These musicians were not laughing when I got there.
You're like "Hey, what's up!"
I'm like what's up, they're like... And I'm like, "Oh shit." And we rehearsed once. Did the song one time, each song once, that was it. So I gotta come down the next day, and I'm like "Oh man," I was so nervous. I didn't know when I was supposed to walk out, because when they introduce you, it's not like "Mix-a-Lot!" They go, "Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah, blah-blah-blah-blah, blah-blah-blah, Sir Mix-a-Lot." And everybody's like, "Go!" I'm like, "Oh, shit," so I go out and we do this thing, in the middle of it you could see the people in the orchestra started to 'Cause I brought girls on the stage, I did the whole thing, and they were having a good time. Once again, they were real people. Long story short, we took that, there was no money in it, we didn't get paid a dime from it, but right after that all of a sudden I'm on CNN, Nikki Minaj redoes the song, all these things happened. Could it be because we did that and it was kind of an out of sight, out of mind thing? Oh shit. Or maybe it's nothing but we try to stay hyper-sensitive to opportunity because I always feel like people think they never get the opportunity because it doesn't present itself like, "Here's a check, for ten million..."
Sign here Bob.
It doesn't work that way, you might just get a phone call from Rick Rubin.
It's an invitation to hustle.
There you go. There you go. I have an opportunity, maybe. Maybe they don't say it at all.
The best opportunities in my life come that way. They don't reek of opportunities, and the ones that have a check stapled to the contract and like "Here you go sir," Cause that's a different beast.
Yeah that means you just sold your ass.
That's why I I'm not saying that everybody's had an opportunity, but I know that for a fact. And a lot of people, it depends on how you grew up. My mom was born during the great depression, to her opportunity meant somebody was trying to trick her, she was a little paranoid. For me I just, you know, I'm just gonna sniff everything. And let's face it, you probably say the same thing, nine out of 10 things that get presented to you are complete bullshit. But that one, and I love hearing stories about how guys got their first deal. Because when you hear it it's always happenstance, like I'm good friends with the guy that owns Twitch. Good buddy of mine, he did the Justin TV thing, and I rememeber when he was working his ass off, he was struggling, he was trying.
Strapped a camera to his head for six months.
Yeah, then he calls and he says, "Hey man, we're gonna go over to, go down to El Gaucho's and have a meal." He was in town, I said, "Oh okay," I'm thinking I"m paying. Then he said "Oh, no, I got it." I looked at him and he had this look almost like he was scared, I'm like, "You got a fucking deal." And he did, a big one.
Yes, Amazon came in and woo-hoo. I can't say that I know this, but I noticed he was checking his phone a lot, and he wasn't texting. I had a feeling he was still going... "Are these zeros right?" (laughter) But he's so humble, man. And you know the cool thing is there was another company that offered him more. And I don't wanna say their name, but they offered him a little more, but he took the Amazon deal 'cause he said he wanted a job. Wanted to keep working, hungry. I love it man.
Could you talk about life-long learning, how important is it for you to, to me what I'm just hearing is that you're constantly calculating as you're walking around the opportunities for creativity and making and doing?
You can do one of two things as you get older. You can get lazy and think, "I'm too old to do this shit." Or you can see people that you know who say, "I'm too old for this shit," and they just sit and watch television all day. That, I don't wanna do that. So I realize that using my brain keeps it young, keeps it aggressive. Like I said, I'm not the get off my lawn guy, I love sitting in meetings, I sit on the board of a couple of companies and I just, especially when they're all younger than me, it's like the way they think is so interesting to me, because they don't have the fear that I had because of what I saw when I was young, and then some things, they'll refer to me, because they don't have that long vision. They can see what's coming around the corner but I can see what's coming in the next state. So I sit on boards where I listen to them think and talk and reason and it's it's kinda cool, it's really cool to watch a lot of the start-ups because they have a totally different way of That good ol' boy bullshit, that, "don't bring the black guy in," they don't give a shit. Who writes the best code, they don't give a damn if it's a pink elephant, bring him in here. Put a laptop in front of him. I love it. I love it. There's one thing I don't like about some of the startups though. They celebrate funding. Somebody has to explain that to me. Now maybe it's just a different mentality, but why would you celebrate a home loan?
Mark Cuban sat in this exact chair, what, just a week ago? And said, that's celebrating your first loss, because what you did is, you didn't have a good enough business that funded itself for growth. YOu're just celebrating your first loss.
And Im obsessed with Shark Tank too by the way.
We'll get you guys together, actually I got Damon John coming on too.
Yeah, Mark Cuban, I like because what I like about Mark Cuban on that show is sometimes he's crude but he tells you what you need to know. I learn a lot from that show, a whole lot, especially about bringing things to market and getting cost down and margins, it's like
Super smart crew.
Celebrating funding. I played some parties, I was at South by Southwest last year and there was a company, they had this elevator pitch thing, I think you probably saw it, it was like..
Oh you go there and pitch...
In the elevator, then they had some girl riding in like Thor on a horse, this giant fucking
The fuck is this?
Somebody said, "Well they just got funded." I'm like well how much did this cost, like 400 grand? If I'm an investor and I walk in and you're doing a $400,000 fucking party, I'm burning the fucking place down. I'm sorry man. See I come from a place where, you get money from somebody, you might wanna give it back. And not only do they celebrate funding a little bit too much but they will seek funding when they're in the black. I don't get it. Friend of mine had 4 million bucks, liquid, and needed a million bucks to make an order and took on funding. For what? You just gave up some of your company for no reason. Do you not believe that you're gonna make the money? But I think it's a culture, I think it's a culture of people. And I am sounding like get off my lawn, but I don't mean it like that. I think there's a culture now that says squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, sell, start it again. Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, sell. And that's what it seems like it is. If you take pride in what you do that's hard to do. You can't sell all this, this is huge.
Cuban sat right here and said the same thing. You mentioned something about the black guy just now. Talk to me about race relations in America.
Yeah, don't get me started on this one.
I know, I'm just, I wanna know.
There's some things about this country, I love this country man, but there's some things that I see that are embarrassing. You don't have to agree with the black guy or a white guy but how you address them, especially if it's the President, is fucking embarrassing. It's not hurting this fella, he's fucking President. When I saw one guy, I think it was Newt Gingrich, the food stamp President, the fuck are you talking about dude? Or, soft on immigration with no fact. If we really honestly, I think, get the rudest fuckers from FactCheck.org and let them run debates. So when somebody says, "He's bad on immigration, when if I'm not mistaken, hasn't he deported more illegals than any President in history?" Which is kinda fucked up considering who he is. I think that's true, I'm not sure. But when it comes to race relations, the thing that's been bothering me lately is the alarming rate, it's something we've been knowing in the black community forever, but social media and cameras have exposed it. It's the alarming rate at which these black kids are getting shot.
The one in Chicago, people talk about Trayvon Martin, that was bad, but that one in Chicago, where the guy was just walking away, he looked like he was drunk or whatever, talking shit to the cops. Not only did the guy shoot him, he kept shooting him.
And was gonna reload. He was gonna reload and the said, "Hey man," he stopped him, and I'm like, "Okay, so why when we talk about that cop are we saying we don't like police? That doesn't add up to me. It's like one side can't criticize the other. But that being said, you take a black person, who does something fucked up and gets the shit kicked outta him and he's thrown in jail, you can't criticize a black kid either. What's happening with cops is kinda bothering me a little bit, and what bothers me even more is that people can't seem to come up with reasonable ways to have discussions about race. It's always us versus them.
I had a guy named Justin Simian here, who directed a great film called "Dear White People," and he was all about the conversation.
I'm comfortable having the conversation because I think when you have that conversation, and try to keep racists and race hustlers out of the conversation, because they need to drive the conversation to a dark place, right, because that's how they make their coin. You get two guys in here who really don't understand, I have a friend of mine in Louisiana, and he said something to me that was interesting and it was untrue but he had always been taught that it was the case. He said, "man I notice something about you. " I said, "What's that? He said, "You work for what you get." I said, "Okay,"
Yeah, exactly. And this is where I could see him turning red, right? 'Cause I knew where he was going, I just said, "Dude, I'm not gonna get mad." He said, "But it just seems like sometimes when I hear people talk..." I said, "Who's people?" And he named
A certain Reverend who's always on, Al Sharpton, I can say it. He said Al Sharpton, he said that Al Sharpton was saying, talked a lot about welfare, talked a lot about entitlements, talked a lot about poor people needing a part of the American Dream. He said, "It gives me the impression that he doesn't work." I'm like, but his name's not Anthony Ray. He lumped, he took one guy and he went, "That's all of you." Where we don't do that. And I told him, I said, "Dude, he's one guy, I can disagree with him." Now that being said, he did point out something that made me think. He said, "How come nobody black disagrees with him publicly? God damn, that's pretty good, because that's why he thinks were monolithic, right, he just believes that, "Well fuck, you're all like that because he said so." And that's what I mean, that conversation needs to be had, but people are very uncomfortable with it because But it should make you feel a little awkward because once you understand one another and understand where we come from, and the Beyonce video was another one, a lot of people thought that video was racist because she used the word negro. And this is where I think understanding culture is important. She used the word negro in describing her parents. I am 52, and my birth certificate does say negro. That's what she was saying. "Negro mated with Creole and out came me," that's what she was saying. And the kid dancing with the black hood, with the "Don't kill me," that wasn't racist, that was true, that's what's happening. So for me race is a dicey issue, I don't talk about it very often.
Yeah that's why I'm
But I'm a political geek, seriously, I am a political nut. I pay attention to politics, my mom forced me to do it, when I was in school she always said, "Honey, you're black, and I don't want you to be in an elevator full of white guys and they go, what do you think of the Vice President, and you're like, who's the Vice President?" That was her logic, right? This is when CNN was new, she made me watch the news two hours a day during the summer. Politics is very important and I think on the liberal side we're a little lazy when it comes to voting. Socially I'm definitely left-leaning, because I think, legalize marijuana. It's hypocritical to have alcohol legal and not have marijuana.
Don't get me started.
That makes no fucking sense to me at all. Make both of 'em illegal cause I've never seen a pothead driver run over 10 kids, and get out and piss. (laughter) THey're just too laid back, right? Trust me I know, I got a few of 'em around.
Well, I appreciate you going there for me a little bit. We could dedicate a whole show to that.
I just wish we'd talk more and stop hollering. The squeaky wheel gets the grease as my dad used to say. They just yell and we listen to them instead of talking to each other. You'd be surprised how much you got One friend of mine who I think is racist, and he's a white dude, and I don't think he knows it, but it's just stuck in him that he says words, and I"m like "Whoa, dude, that's not cool." But initially I thought, fuck him, but now I realize, you know what, bring him in, and as we get around each other you can see him, a new understanding, cause he gets around my group now and he's like, "Oh man, what's up, how you doing," blah, blah, blah. He starts to get it, and that's cool. That's why I stopped using the "N" word on records, I don't do it anymore. I don't tell anybody else not to. I would never do it again because I realize, how do you get mad when somebody says it if you're selling them records and making it look like it's all good? Now some rappers are the opposite. They don't mind if a white guy calls them that. I don't like it so I just stopped doing it, don't be a hypocrite.
What am I not asking that I should? This in my last question.
You're not asking me what we're gonna order when we go to the Thai food restaurant.
Let's talk about that. I wanna crush some Pad Kee Mao.
See, I can't even say that.
Pad Prik King which is the beef with the green, the green beans and the peppers.
Is it like edamame a little bit?
A little bit but they're just actual green beans, they're like green beans like my mom used to make me eat.
This guy eats healthy, man, I'm scared to say my order.
But Pad Thai, chicken Pad Thai, four star?
We can do, four star, woo. Dude you're gonna shit fire, man.
I gotta fly to New York in the morning that's probably not very good. What are you gonna order, come on.
I'm probably gonna do something simple, I'm gonna do the garlic chicken, three star.
And I always do the Thai fried rice, with prawns, but I do it with brown rice. Cause the brown rice has a different texture. And my breath's gonna be fucked up. I think I'm gonna walk into someplace real classy afterwards "Excuse me, hi. My name is Harry and I'm hunkering for a hunk of cheese." They'll just be like "Damn, Mix's breath is fucked up."
Thanks a lot.
Right on man.
Much gratitude, much respect. Let's go get some grub.
Yeah, let's do it. What time is it, I don't even have my watch on.
What time is it, it's time to go. Thanks a lot, Internet, for taking good care of, holding us in this space while we ramble, and I hope you took something away from it.
You really had Mark Cuban here?
Yeah, actually, it was in Austin with Mark, last week.
He's the man dude. Arrogant fucker but I love him.
He's pretty good at what he does. Signing off, we gotta go, we gotta get some Thai food up in here. Thanks a lot everybody, peace.