Sisqó reveals inspiration behind "Thong Song" and how MTV reined in his risqué music video

Sisqó's smash hit "Thong Song" is ingrained in the pop culture of the early 2000s. And a new VICE documentary explores the song's unique origins and how it became a phenomenon.

The singer/rapper/dancer recently spoke with Yahoo Entertainment about how he came up with the catchy hook and how he had to fight with MTV over his risqué music video. In fact, he suggested a creative workaround to show off skin and skirt the censors.

"I was like, what if we put [the thong] upside-down? Then it's not really the ass in your face," Sisqó recalled, explaining the filming technique, "then you're seeing the thong but it's not not like the [whole] butt cheek."

Watch more from Sisqó in the video interview above.

Video Transcript


- So I watched your Vice documentary, The Story of the Thong Song. This documentary was very educational. The story that you talk about where you discovered a song, it was like a hallelujah moment, like the heavens parted, gates open. Tell me about the date that inspired this song.

Sisqo: The date is difficult to remember because of that moment. I got to be completely honest, though. Even to this day, if somebody puts the work in and puts that-- to put that thong on, it still has the same effect like you first saw it.

- You're not jaded, you've seen a lot of thongs in your day.

Sisqo: It was a lot. It was a lot of thongs thrown on the stage, and we used to keep them in a bag.

- Do you have any of the thongs? Like, that belongs in a museum, like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Like, this is the thong.

Sisqo: Man, there might be something growing in that bag or something, I don't know.

- So, one thing that-- another thing I learned from watching this is the fact that apparently you could not show, in 2000, you could not show songs in a music video on MTV. Which kind of really surprised me, because MTV was showing plenty of risque videos.

Sisqo: Yea, like Justify My Love. Remember that, from Madonna?

- Or like even in the 80s, like all the metal videos like Girls, Girls, Girls by Motley Crue. There were lots of bikini videos, lots of lingerie videos. Like, sexy videos were not anything new.

Sisqo: Oh, ok. Well, then it was a black thing. Now that I'm playing it back in my mind I do remember seeing a lot of girls in that video. But here's the question were they facing forward? Or even sideways, versus full on, you know? They didn't show that but they showed the kind of sideways version. But the shot where they showed that most of them, the girls were laying upside down. The way he shot the video, first, it was a lot more ass in the video. When we showed it to them, they was like, nah, we can't show this. It was like, it's too much. Too much butt. I was like, what if we put it upside down? Then, you know, it's not really the ass in your face. You're seeing the thong, but it's not the butt cheeks. So it was one of those kind of rules, where it was like, you can show it this way but you can't show it that way. So we flipped it upside down, and showed it from the side. And then, literally after that video, it was like the floodgates were kicked open, and Nelly came out with Tip [? trails, ?] and BET After Dark.

- So how many edits did you have to do-- of the original video-- how many edits did you have to do before MTV said, OK, this passes.

Sisqo: It was a lot. I think Joseph Carr did a great job. It really kicked his career off, because he was able to do movies after that. When we were looking for which directors to use, I liked his special effects. Because I saw him do-- he had done a couple of rock videos and I loved the special effects that he did.

- That wasn't CGI?

Sisqo: No, that was wire work. When I did the thing where I flipped up, all of that, that was all wire work. That was all me.

- Was that hard to do?

Sisqo: You know what, Joseph made it pretty easy. The hardest thing to do was do the moonwalk on the beach.

- Yeah, there's traction there, there's sand. Did you actually moonwalk on sand?

Sisqo: He had some movie magic in order to make that happen. I also met Michael, because he actually flew me out to meet him.

- When you met Michael, was it before or after thong song?

Sisqo: It was after, it was 2001. We hung out over the weekend. I was like, dude, you the reason why a lot of R&B and pop male artists, we all doing our best you impression. I wonder what made you want to meet me? And he was like, I think you're really talented, you gonna go far in the industry. And that's when I disappeared, that was my mic drop moment. It was in 2001, if you recall. Like 2001, then I disappeared.

- Not necessarily. And the Thong Song, even if that was the only song you ever released, the fact that it's worthy of a documentary, that we're talking about it 21 years later. I mean, you have a doll. You your own doll. You have more than one doll. Are those on eBay? I kind of want one.

Sisqo: I think you can get this one. This is the one when I had cornrows. There's another one with the silver hair, and another one with the blonde hair.

- I kind of want the silver hair one.

Sisqo: I'm going to have to order me one. A friend of mine has that one.

- That's amazing. Do you think thongs could make-- I guess they didn't ever go away, but like back in the 2000s people were wearing them like so you could see them.

Sisqo: Right, right. I remember Halle Berry did that on the red carpet of the MTV Movie Awards. I was hosting with Beyonce and I was like, hey Halle. She was like, hi Sisqo. I was like, wow.

- Wow, that's amazing. You know where I'm asking about this I mentioned--

Sisqo: Dumps Like a Truck? [MUSIC PLAYING]

- Obviously you did not mean it in a fecal way.

Sisqo: Not at all.

- Tell me about-- because I think maybe some people did misinterpret, especially since it's a song about ass.

Sisqo: It was a slang term that me and my friends used because of the whole dumptruck aspect. Because that's, you know, when girl's are twerking that's the way they always look back to make sure they're doing it right. And it just reminded me of like when you're backing up a car. And so, when you hear like a dump truck, you just hear that beep, beep, beep. And then you would look, you see them looking back.

- Did you have to do any sort of damage control when people took the dump to mean, you know, taking a dump, and sort of be like, oh no, no, no, that's not what this is about.

Sisqo: Nobody focused on, nobody really focused on that because everybody was really just kind of fixated on that one piece of material. My biggest mistake was-- I don't know if it was my mistake or the label. Because I told the powers that be before we drop the song to go strike a deal with Victoria's Secret. Of course, they didn't listen. Because I don't think they thought it was going to be as big as it was. When we finally went to go talk to Victoria's Secret they was like, you know, we love the song, and we would love to do business with you, but to be honest, sales of thongs have gone up 80% since you dropped that song. We can give you some free product, it was like one of those. But we didn't get a chance to strike a deal. However, 20 years later, man, I've finally-- I've been literally constructing the perfect thong to actually sell, because I didn't want it to look generic. And so this spring we are definitely dropping the very first Sisqo thong.

- 21 years later, where there's the thong coming out, your own line of thongs, there's the Vice documentary. What would you say is like the biggest cultural impact that this song, that we're still talking about so many years later?

Sisqo: I'm just really honored and flattered that people like the song so much. Daddy Yankee just sampled the song. And so I was able to perform on the Latin Billboard Awards for the first time. Chris Brown sampled. I mean, dude. I think a Japanese pop group just sampled it. Like every year I get several requests because I was fortunate enough to own the masters. So, you know, the thong never dies. I'll be dead, the song will still be going, and my kids can go to college, and it's all good.

- There you go.