The Baha Men Will Outlive Us All
It's easy to say that the Baha Men are back, but they never really left – by the time they won a 2000 Grammy, they'd been together for decades.
In the year 2000, a group of men from the Bahamas asked a loud and repetitive question in an incredibly catchy way. "Who Let the Dogs Out" led the Baha Men to world tours, deals with Disney and Nickelodeon, and even to be the walk-up song for pro baseball player Alex Rodriguez.
Though their inquiry into why the canines weren't indoors made the band international stars, their success didn't come out of nowhere. The group was formed in the late 70s and repeatedly changed its name and sound—they were originally called High Voltage—along the way to starring in a 90s family movie, boosting Japanese tourism rates in the Bahamas, and juggling literal lines of women all wanting to "talk."
Fifteen years after their wave crested, the band is back in the Bahama Islands, where they practice daily in anticipation for the release of Ride with Me, their 12th album. Though as entrenched as ever in what they call "Island Life," the Baha Men are grown up, and many of the members have children.
While most of the world has written off the band as one-hit wonders, the Grammy Award–winning group continues to churn out albums and tour today. They're always sure to play "Who Let the Dogs Out" on stage, although the group has to fake their way through the song's rap section because no one remembers the words.
In a fit of nostalgia after rediscovering a Now! That's What I Call Music CD in my parents' garage, I decided to track the Baha Men down and talk to them about their new album. It didn't take long before I was talking to founder Isaiah Taylor and fellow Baha Man Dyson Knight.
VICE: I think a lot of people would be surprised to know that you guys weren't always the Baha Men. Can you go into how and when you guys formed?
Isaiah Taylor: The first name of our band was High Voltage, and we were formed officially in 1977, right on the island of New Providence in the Bahamas. Our sound has changed tremendously since those days. We ended up changing our name though because of other bands from the United States and Canada.
For some reason when I researched you guys I saw sources claiming that the band was formed in England.
There was a band in England that tried to steal—or at least spin-off—the fame the band had, particularly around the time of "Who Let the Dogs Out." We're not affiliated with them in any way.
Got it. So you guys become the Baha Men and start getting some fame in the early 90s, and then you made your first official big screen debut in 1994 in a Katherine Heigl movie.
That's right, man! In My Father the Hero. The experience filming that movie was so much fun. I had never worked hours quite like it before though—we would go from six in the morning until six at night.
So I have to ask, how was "Who Let the Dogs Out" created?
Dyson Knight: It was originally sung by a Trinidadian artist whose name is Anslem Douglas. The manager of the Baha Men at that time heard a version of the song in Europe. He called Isaiah and told him it was an absolute must that Baha Men record that song, because they had the vibe to make it a huge hit. Isaiah heard the song and said there was "no way in hell we're recording that song."
So the biggest dance song of the early 2000s almost didn't happen?
Right. Management had the vision, and the Baha Men were reluctant, but the group went in and recorded it anyway. The rest is history.
And then you guys become huge international stars. Do you have any crazy tour stories from that time?
I wonder if I can tell you any of the tour stories without selling out members of the group. When the band was really, really hot and traveling from city to city, there would be a line outside one of the member's hotel rooms. He would always have a line of women waiting to speak with him.
Speak with him? That's all they wanted to do?
Just speak with him, or have a conversation. He would have one woman in his hotel room talking to him, and then two or three outside of his room just waiting to talk.
He must be a great conversationalist. I know you joined the band after Grammy night, but do you mind retelling a story from the Grammys?
Apparently the band was talking to either Jennifer Lopez or Jennifer Lopez's manager, and when the nominations were announced, Jennifer Lopez or her manager said, "The Baha Men have that in the bag." Isaiah felt so strong about winning the award that he bet all the members of the band that they were going to win. When they won the Grammy, the keyboard player actually paid him on stage. He said it was the best bet he ever lost.
A lot of members have left the band over the years. What's it like to have so many members?
Yeah, we've had a lot of people come and go. One time, when the group was heading to London or some place, [former member] Omerit Hield looked at his ticket and became hysterical. They asked him what was wrong, and he said, "This isn't a first-class ticket." He went to management and made a huge thing about it and said, "If I can't fly first class, then I'm not going." He didn't go, and that was the last time he was part of the band.
You guys have stayed busy since "Who Let the Dogs Out." In 2010, you covered a George Harrison song for MySpace. Are the Beatles big influences on you? They also had a lot of animal-related songs—"Rocky Raccoon," "Octopus's Garden," "Blackbird." I'm sure there are more.
The Baha Men have recorded a lot of songs that would fit the Beatles' sound and caliber of recording. We had a few songs that were huge in Japan, like "Beach Baby." This was even before "Who Let the Dogs Out." In fact, the songs were so large in Japan that some of the hotels in the Bahamas had to hire Japanese translators for all the guests coming to see us.
Are you sick and tired of playing "Who Let the Dogs Out?"
I'm very tired of playing that song in rehearsal. I mean, we've been playing it for almost as long as I've been alive. But on stage, it's different. The fans really give life to that song.
When you watch the crowd sing along to the song, can you see them get confused when you reach the rap section?
Leroy Butler sings the rap part in the song now, and no matter how much I hear him sing that part, I can't sing it. Marvin, the ex-member with blond hair, originally wrote the rap, so he's the only one who knows what the words are. Leroy sings what he thinks it is, but I know that what he's singing doesn't make sense.
How does your new album sound different from your old albums?
It's a lot more grown up and a lot less gimmicky. I think the vibe people get are still party vibes, especially from a song called "Carry On." It has crazy vibes, just like "Who Let the Dogs Out." It's a different song and has a different feel, but the same energy. I think it will take off and be huge. The title of the new album is Ride with Me.
Alright, it's haunted me for 14 years. Who exactly let the dogs out?
I'm not allowed to say. The feds are after us, we have to keep it quiet. It goes deep—top-secret information. If you have any clues, and you feel like you're on a lead, don't be like Dan Brown and write books about the Illuminati or anything like that.
OK, deal. So who let the dogs out?
Hey, the dogs are out. We men, who love God's greatest creation, the women, can't be blamed for coming out of the house and coming into the dog house. Be a dog. Bark!
The Baha Men's new album, Ride with Me, will be released February 9 via Sony Music.
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