Few songs are worthy of their own documentary. But SisQó’s turn-of-the-millennium booty anthem “Thong Song” has just gotten such treatment, thanks to Vice — 21 years after its release, and exactly 20 years after it was nominated for Best R&B Male Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song, alongside the Dru Hill member’s other Grammy nominations for Best R&B Album (for his solo debut, Unleash the Dragon) and Best New Artist.
Vice’s The Story of Thong Song is a deep dive, so to speak, into the history of SisQó’s biggest hit single. We learn that the instrumental bed was inspired by a Beatles cover and originally intended for SisQó’s moonwalking idol, Michael Jackson; that MTV almost refused to play the racy music video; and that the song's lyrics were inspired by SisQó’s mind-blowing first thong sighting when he got to “second base” on a date. But there is so much more to learn, so SisQó joined us on Zoom from his memorabilia-filled lair for a thong-themed discussion… including the exciting news that he’s finally releasing own official lingerie line.
Yahoo Entertainment: So I watched your Vice documentary, The Story of Thong Song. This documentary was very educational! Like the story that you talk about when you discovered a thong — it was like the heavens parted, the gates opened. Tell me about the date that inspired the song.
SisQó: You know, the date is difficult to remember because of that moment! [laughs] … I gotta be completely honest, though: Even to this day, man, if somebody puts the work in and puts that thong on, it still has the same effect, like when you first saw it.
You're not jaded. And you've seen a lot of thongs in your day!
Oh, no, it was a lot. A lot of thongs thrown on the stage, and we used to keep them in a bag.
Do you still have any of the thongs? That belongs in like a museum, like the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Man, there might be something growing in that bag or something, I don’t know! [laughs]
So another thing I learned from watching this doc is the fact that apparently in 2000, you could not show thongs in a music video on MTV — which really surprised me, because MTV was showing plenty of risqué videos. … Even in the ‘80s, all the metal videos, like “Girls, Girls, Girls” by Motley Crüe. There were lots of bikini videos, lots of lingerie videos. Sexy videos were not anything new.
Well then, it was a Black thing! [laughs] Because now that I'm playing it back of my mind, I do remember seeing a lot of girls in that [Motley Crüe] video. But here's the question: Were they facing forward? I feel like they were mainly facing forward, or even sideways, versus full-on, you know? … They showed like the kind of sideways version, but the shot where they showed the most of them [in the “Thong Song” music video], the girls were laying like upside down. … The way [director Joseph Kahn] shot the video first, it was a lot more [booty] in the video. But then when we showed it to [MTV], they was like, “Nah, we can't show this. It's too much, too much!” So I was like, “What if we put it upside down, and then it's not really the ass in your face? You see in the thong, but it's not like the butt cheek.” 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 Drills” and there was BET After Dark. And then we did the remix [with Foxy Brown], and it was much more booty in that video.
So how many edits did you have to do, of the original video, before MTV said, “OK, this passes”?
There was a lot! I think Joseph Kahn 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 the special effects because I saw him do. He had done a couple of rock videos and I love the special effects that he did.
Wait, that wasn't CGI in your video? The walking on people’s heads and floating mid-air?
No… when I did the thing where I flipped up and all of that, that was all wire work. That was all me. Joseph made it pretty easy. The hardest thing to do was do the moonwalk on the beach.
Yeah. There's traction — there’s sand, and you actually moonwalk on sand!
It's impossible! But Kahn had some movie magic in order to make that happen. … I also met Michael [Jackson], because he actually flew me out to meet him.
When you met Michael, was it before or after the “Thong Song” video?
It was after; it was 2001. … We hung out over the weekend and man, I was like, “Dude, you’re the reason why a lot of R&B and pop male artists, we’re all doing our best. What made you want to meet me?” And he was like, “I think you're really talented and you’re going to go far in the industry.” And that's when I disappeared! That was my mic-drop moment. You recall, it was like 2001 — and then I disappeared. [Laughs]
Not the case! And the “Thong Song,” even if that'd been the only song you'd ever released, that alone, the fact that it's worthy of a documentary and that we're still talking about it 21 years later… and you even have your own doll! So, do you think thongs could make a comeback? I guess they didn't ever go away, but like back in the 2000s, people were wearing them [sticking out of their clothes] so you could see them.
Right, right. I remember Halle Berry did that on the red carpet of the MTV Movie Awards. I think I was I was hosting with Beyoncé. I was like, “Heyyyy, Halle!” She was like, “Hiiii, SisQó! I was like, “Woo!”
Wow. That's amazing. So… you know what lyrics I'm about to ask about…
Ha ha! “Dumps like a truck”?
Yeah! Obviously you did not mean it in a fecal way, but I think maybe some people did misinterpret it, especially since it's a song about, you know, ass.
It was a slang term that me and my friends used because of the whole dump-truck aspect, because when girls are twerking, if you notice every time any girl is twerking, watch them — they always look back to make sure they do it right. And it just reminded me of like, when you back it up a car, when you hear like a dump -truck specifically, or a trash truck. Early in the morning in the city, you just hear that beep, beep, beep! And then you would look and you see [the driver] looking back. So, that was kind of where the slang term came from, because every time, you see a girl backing it up.
Did you have to do any sort of damage control when people like took the dump to mean, you know, taking a dump?
No, nobody really focused on that, because everybody was really just kind of really fixated on that one piece of material. Man, my biggest mistake was when — I don't know if it was my mistake, or the label’s — I told the powers-that-be before we dropped the song to go strike a deal with Victoria’s Secret. Of course they didn't listen; 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, “Man, we love the song and we would love to do business with you, but to be honest, sales of thongs have gone up 80 percent since you've dropped that song. We can give you some free product!” We didn't get a chance to strike a deal. However, 20 years later, I've been literally constructing the perfect thong to actually sell. Because I didn't want it to look generic. It's a very sensitive product. And so this spring, we are definitely dropping the very first SisQó thong.
So, 21 years later, 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, which we're still talking about, has had so many years later?
I'm just really honored and flattered that people like the song so much. Daddy Yankee just sampled the song [on “Don Don”], and so I was able to perform on the Latin Billboard Awards for the first time. Chris Brown sampled it [on “Put in Work”]. I think a Japanese pop group just sampled it. 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, and the song will still be going and my kids can go to college. And it's all good.
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— Video produced by Jon San, edited by Luis Saenz