A college football song from the mid-1980s. A series of texts scribbled on a Little Caesars bread bag. A punk rock hairdresser named Keith. These are just a few of the seemingly random but absolutely important components of the 2000 hit “Who Let the Dogs Out” by Baha Men – a melody Rolling Stone once described as the third most troublesome song of all time (only Los Del Rio’s “Macarena” and Black Eyed Pea’s “My Humps” ranked higher).
It’s been a full 20 years since the novelty hit was originally released, and its incredibly contagious hook is undoubtedly still firmly anchored in your brain. It was practically inevitable in 2000 when it appeared on the big screen (in films as diverse as Rugrats in Paris, Rat race, and Men in Black II), at political rallies and at almost every sporting event with an uninspired PA spokesman.
Even the Grammys, the music industry̵
Although “Who Let the Dogs Out” never climbed above number 40 in America, it led the charts down under, reached number two in the UK and sold millions of copies worldwide. But as the old saying goes: “Where there is a match, there is a script.” When Baha Men asked about “Who Let the Dogs Out” at the World Series 2000, the band was involved in a much more fascinating, dog-free puzzle: Who was ultimately responsible for the song?
Who, what, where, why and when?
Baha Men, the Bahamian outfit that made “Who Let the Dogs Out” a popular question, never announced that he wrote the track. In fact, according to member Dyson Knight, it was even convincing to get the band to record it when they heard “Doggie” in 1998, the much more frenetic, soca-infused original version of the song by Trinidadian artist Anslem Douglas.
But Steve Greenberg, the manager of the Baha men, who had previously led Hanson to top positions, was firmly convinced that “Who Let the Dogs Out” would reverse the band’s fate. The group had just been released from Mercury Records after selling fewer than 800 copies of their 1998 album Doong Spank.
Greenberg had stumbled upon the track only after meeting Jonathan King, one of Britain’s more eccentric musical outsiders. King had given the carnival anthem a trashy Euro Techno makeover – complete with a shady Caribbean accent – under one of his many confusing aliases: Fat Jakk and His Pack of Pets.
Greenberg frankly told King that it was one of the worst things he had ever heard, but somehow he still recognized the potential to score.
King was not afraid to blow his own trumpet and tried to appreciate the later global dominance of the song. King’s hairdresser, however, can claim to be equally, if not more, instrumental in its success. Keith Wainwright, owner of London’s favorite salon Smile, drew King’s attention to “Who Let the Dogs Out” on one of the many mixtapes that he had put together after each trip to his beloved Trinidad and Tobago.
Anslem Douglas, the man who has since argued that the seemingly disposable little song should be considered a true feminist hymn, barked the wound on this occasion. Although there is little controversy over who wrote his verses (“Come back, grim, mashed up / get your flea-infested mongrel back”), several people have come forward to claim possession of a choir’s earwig.
Who did that? shot by doing Woof, woof, woof, woof?
For Douglas’ role in the mystery “Who Let the Dogs Out”, he admits that he originally heard the song’s famous chorus from his brother-in-law, who once worked for a Canadian radio show. “Who let the dogs out? Woof, woof, woof, woofCoincidentally, it was a jingle created by Patrick Stephenson and Leroy Williams, two producers who worked for this very channel. As a result, Douglas was forced to recognize her contribution to an out-of-court settlement.
But the year before this controversial jingle, 20 Fingers – a humorous production team famous for its top 20 hit “Short Dick Man” – released “You’re a Dog”, an anthem for handbag stores, using almost the exact same phrase .
In 1992, teens Brett Hammock and Joe Gonzalez, also known as Miami Boom Productions, wrote a similar hook on the back of a Little Caesars bread bag. Their argument of being the real originator is reinforced by the evidence of two disks filled with hate-love song records.
There is also a theory that closes the loop. The Baha Men’s cover became an MLB favorite around the turn of the century, and the Seattle Mariners and New York Mets even fought over which franchise it took over first. A video recorded at the Reagan High School in Austin suggests that call-and-response was also introduced in a much earlier sporting context: a soccer pep rally in 1986.
A dogged journey towards the truth
The slightly bizarre, if extremely fascinating narrative surrounding the song is dealt with in even greater detail in the 2019 documentary Who let the dogs out. Directed by Brent Hodge (A Brony story, I’m Chris Farley), in the extremely entertaining film, artist / curator Ben Sisto gives a talk in TED-Talk style about his eight-year journey to uncover the truth about the origins of the song, interspersed with interviews with all the key players.
So who believes that Sisto, the self-described world leader for “Who Let the Dogs Out”, is most responsible for the song’s success? “Without a doubt, it’s Steve Greenberg,” Sisto told Mental Floss. “Steve founded S-Curve Records to release the version of Baha Men. It was his marketing acumen, industry loyalty and honest commitment to the band that culminated in the explosion of the track. Steve just had it tough from every angle worked. “
Sisto has a theory as to why the single struck such a big chord with the audience. “The Baha men’s version opens a cappella. The song has a gravity that stops everything else in the room. Before he has time to think about what ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’ actually means, the listener is transferred to a world of pop, junkanoo and barking that is both catchy and annoying, moves the head and screams the soul ” , he says It also seems that people can’t decide exactly what the non-question means. What does it want from us? It’s like the Uncertainty Principle itself is a pop song. In a way, I think it’s this confusion that pulls people under its spell. It sounds like Dorito’s taste: unnatural but undeniable. “
Sisto has accepted that the origins of “Who Let the Dogs Out” could go back further than Greenberg’s interpretation of the song, but seems to have ended his search for the time being. That means we may never really know who really made it possible for these annoying dogs to escape.