As the world entered the new millennium, the advance of science and society led to new questions. However, none of the mysteries discovered in the early 2000s managed to be as ubiquitous as the question posed by the Baha Men: “Who Let The Dogs Out?”
After 15 years, the world still has no answer for this trivial enigma, and while most people have moved on, content with the unknown, the Baha Men are still out there, still asking that famous question.
High Voltage and the Early 90s
Before changing their name to the Baha Men, the group was known as High Voltage. Coming together toward the end 1970s, the band formed on New Providence, in the Bahamas. Their sound back then was derived from the sounds of a traditional Bahamian masquerade and street festival known as junkanoo.
The membership of the Baha Men, then High Voltage, hasn’t been static throughout their career, though almost all members have had roots in the Bahamian junkanoo and pop industries. The four founding members were drummer Mo Grant, bassist Isaiah Taylor, guitarist Hershel Small, and keyboardist Jeffrey Chea. After performing as a backing band for Bahamian legend Eddie Minus for several years, the band recorded their first hit, “Back To The Island.” Securing a US distribution deal with Big Beat Records in 1991, High Voltage changed their name to the Baha Men to highlight the connection between their music and their heritage.
“Back To The Island,” still used for Bahamian tourism videos, was the opening track on the the Baha Men’s first album, Junkanoo. Unfortunately, the album did not see much recognition outside of the island of Nassau. However, for their second album, Kalik, The Baha Men were able to work with Lenny Kravitz, who wrote and produced their single “(Just) A Sunny Day.” The album, featuring a larger band than their debut, went platinum in Japan, like the Baha Men’s next six albums would.
In 1994, the band performed as themselves in the Touchstone film, My Father the Hero. Then, when their representative, Steve Greenberg at Big Beat Records, transferred to Mercury Records, the Baha Men went with him. Releasing two more albums, the band finally came into its full form in 1999 with the addition of three singers, bringing the total band to nine members.
“Who Let The Dogs Out?”
Steve Greenberg later heard “Who Let The Dogs Out?,” an original song by another Caribbean act, and suggested it to band’s leader, Isaiah Taylor. Initially, the band were hesitant to record it, but Greenberg was so certain of the song’s viability that despite his recent transfer to Mercury, created an independent label just to release the song. Since moving to Mercury Records, Greenberg had produced the song “MMMBop” for proto-boy band Hanson, so his reputation for spotting hits was well-established.
“Who Let The Dogs Out?” released as a single on July 26th, 2000. The song was featured in the soundtrack for Rugrats in Paris, and was from there was used extensively in television, advertisements, and at sporting events. The song was even re-recorded to have the chorus say, “Who Let The Mets Out?” for the New York baseball team.
It might be in the field of sports where the song will have the most lasting impact. Greenberg specifically sought out relationships with the entertainment managers at various stadiums, the same way was common with radio programmers. By the 2000 baseball post-season, five of the eight participating teams were using the track as their rally song. When the Mets went against the Yankees (who had ceded use of the song to their rivals) at that year’s World Series, the Baha Men performed.
Herschel Small, founding member of the band, says that part of why the song was so popular is that it was very similar to the viral Internet memes which would come into awareness several years later: “dogs and sports and kids.”
“Who Let The Dogs Out?” might, in this way, be a proto-meme: it saw instant popular use, was changed to reflect the specialized interests of those who shared it, and was said to be awful as soon as our collective taste had moved past it.
As to answering the question “Who Let The Dogs Out?,” we have to look to the original, “Doggie,” by Trinidadian singer Anslem Douglas. In an interview with Rock Cellar Magazine, Anslem said the lyrics are critical of men who ruin a good time with masculine party, but also conceded that no one cares, “[t]hey just want to get to the point where they can bark.”
The song was the fourth best-selling single in the UK that year, and won a Grammy in 2001 for Best Dance Recording. Eventually, “Who Let The Dogs Out?” would go on to reach Platinum in the UK. This success enabled the Baha Men to tour extensively, which they took full advantage of, enabling them to continue to produce high-quality albums after the hype for their hit faded.
Which it inevitably did. The song was everywhere; the saturation so complete, that almost no one remembers it fondly. In 2007, Rolling Stone ranked it as the 3rd Most Annoying Song. According to Spinner, it is the Worst Song Ever. However, the aftertaste left by their hit hasn’t stopped the Baha Men from continuing to tour and release new albums.
Baha Men Now in 2018
The Baha Men most recent album, Ride With Me, was released on October 9th, 2015. Their twelfth studio album, Ride With Me continues the trend of previous albums, combining their traditional junkanoo sound with emerging trends in American hip-hop. They also continue to tour internationally, and even make occasional TV appearances, most recently on The Today Show, as part of their Throwback Thursday summer concert series.
Yes, the Baha Men are still playing “Who Let The Dogs Out.” However, fans might be disappointed to know that the rap verses are no longer rapped by blond-haired Marvin Prosper. Leroy Butler, who now does the rap section, “sings what he thinks it is,” bandleader Isaiah told VICE in an interview earlier in 2015. It seems like the rap verse, as well as the answer to who actually let the dogs out, might stay lost in the over-saturated haze of late-90s banality.
The Baha Men have rumored of a US tour in 2016, though as of December 2015, no dates have been released.