Who let the dogs out? Who, who, who, who?
Ben Sisto spent an hour pondering that very question at Ace Hotel New York on Sunday night. Backed up by a detailed powerpoint and some items from his vast “Who Let the Dogs Out” collection, Sisto told a tale that stretches around the globe and is currently sending him on a small US tour.
Sisto, a marketer and cultural programmer at the Ace, came to appreciate “Who Let The Dogs Out” during the chart topper’s 10 year anniversary in 2010. At the time, its Wikipedia page gave a simple, uncited explanation that the original song was recorded off a parade float by a hairdresser. Fixing that citation proved far more complicated than Sisto anticipated; he has only recently gotten the final pieces of the story together.
The Baha Men‘s version of the song, credited to Trindad’s Anslem Douglas, was actually the third to emerge from the Caribbean music scene. After the track became a hit, Toronto DJs Patrick Stephenson and Leroy Williams came forward to say they had originally paired the phrase “who let the dogs out” with barking dogs for a radio promo on WBLK in Buffalo, NY. Stephenson and Williams reached a settlement that got them a songwriting credit.
As Sisto’s research continued, he saw an online post from 2002 from someone claiming that they had written the song years earlier in a unlikely place. In 1992, Joe Gonzalez and Brett “B Naste” Hammock of the club duo Miami Boom Productions were driving around trying to figure out the lyrics to Hassan’s “Pump Up The Party.” One of them suddenly said, “Who let the dogs out,” and the hook was born. Gonzalez and Hammock had plenty of evidence to back up their claim and Sisto enlisted the help of Brooklyn DJ Michna to play back the floppy disk masters on his vintage E-mu Emulator synthesizer. Further investigation led Sisto to the former engineers of E-mu Systems, who told him how their bark sample was recorded.
So who first let the dogs out, in Sisto’s expert opinion? To find out, you’ll have to catch him on his cross-country tour; local stops include New Haven, CT on 11/13 and Stonybrook, NY on 11/14. He’ll be showing some of his 300-plus items of Baha Men ephemera, which includes t-shirts, a frisbee and even talking stuffed animals.
On Sunday, I asked Sisto if he’d met any other enthusiasts of the song. He told me, “I haven’t met any enthusiasts per say, but I’ve met a wide range of people who have different points of entry to, or memories of the song. Some knew a prior version by Anslem Douglas, others grew up with the film Rugrats in Paris, which features Baha Men’s version on the soundtrack. Some remember HitClips, a media toy from the early 2000s and others chanted it at stadiums. I’ve had people from ages 8 to 80 bark along to some of the dancing stuffed animal toys —the hook’s reach knows no bounds.”