Ten years ago, Rolling Stone ranked "Who Let the Dogs Out?" by Baha Men the third most annoying song ever.
And as annoying as Baha Men's masterpiece may be, the song has led one man from Brooklyn to spend the last seven years researching the history behind the track.
This man is Ben Sisto, an employee at the Ace Hotel and the world's leading expert on "Who Let the Dogs Out?" In addition to this research, which he aptly titled, Who Let Who Let the Dogs Out Out, Sisto has obtained a collection of over 250 "Who Let the Dogs Out?" related items over the past few years, leading him to create the Museum of Who Let the Dogs Out.
Below is our conversation about his seven-year obsession, which, incidentally, involves the Mariners.
My first question is just, Why?
It started in 2010: I was between jobs, and I was at the New York Public Library spending a lot of time on the internet looking for jobs and other friends’ art projects to work on. You know, like, a general search, "What am I doing in New York?" kind of thing.
That year would have been the 10-year anniversary of "Who Let The Dogs Out?", and I don’t recall this specifically, but my guess is that I probably clicked some 10-year story, and then was thinking about it, so I looked up a Wikipedia entry for it. I noticed that on the Wiki was a missing citation up at the top. I’ve always been a fan of Wikipedia and free culture type stuff, so I just kind of thought, "Oh, maybe I can fix this citation.” It was really just like, this will be funny, I’ll like fix this one citation, but then [during] that process… one thing led to another.
You’re going to be on tour soon. What does your 45-minute presentation entail?
It walks backwards through time. I play the song that everybody knows, and then I explain who Anslem Douglas is, and I walk through some of the issues surrounding [the song], like the copyright stories and then I kind of start talking about the concept of “Who Let the Dogs Out?,” which is really just the hook 'cause the hook is sort of like where all the commercial potential is. So then I start walking through several other versions that kind of traces it back, all the way to the early 90s.
Almost a decade before the Baha Men got big, there were these two teenage producers from Miami, and I kind of make a case on their behalf. I stop short of making any solid conclusions, but through all of this it’s like a mix of the pros and cons of copyright law, cautionary tales of how it can protect you or not, and then there’s also a lot of asides about the characters I’ve met.
Something that I think has really kept me going on the research is everybody that I’ve talked to is just like 100 percent a personality. Like record producers, who have a million stories about these forgotten DJs who never really left Florida.
There’s just this range of people, and like everybody I talk to, despite their successes, or lack thereof, have across the board been pretty forthcoming. It's like, these are a bunch of humans and this is what they’re like, and they all had something to do with this weird-ass story.
Have you talked to the Baha Men? Do they know this exists?
Whoever manages their social media has retweeted my posts a few times so I’m officially sanctioned [laughs]. Then one day I was meeting with Steve Greenberg, their producer, and he asked me, "Have you talked to the guys yet?" and I was like "Who?" and he’s like "Baha Men!" and during that meeting he just called up Isaiah, the bassist and one of the longest running members of the band.
I had a very brief chat where Steve explained that I was the expert on this song, and Isaiah thanked me for the support and all that stuff. I’m not sure if he totally understood that I’m not like a fan per se, but everyone from their official camp has been excited, like Steve. He really likes the project and he just thinks it’s kind of wild that anybody cares.
How did you collect all of the items for the Museum of Who Let the Dogs Out?
It started with a couple of records, just because the first time or two I did the talk, I think I was also DJing or something, and I also own a bunch of records, so it was just interesting to have them. But then as the project got a bit more serious, I needed them more as primary source documents because it’s a song where, if you look up the lyrics on Apple Music, Google Play and Genius—they’re all different.
The Internet, its fidelity to truth is inconsistent. So, when I buy things it’s often to make sure that when I’m talking about them or referencing them, I can actually say, "This is the producer," like the name is on the record sleeve. There’s a whole bunch of other stuff I own which are just things I find aesthetically interesting, and it crossed the point where once I had a certain number of things, certain things that were like really, really hard to find. I just decided I had to get everything.
Now when I do searches for stuff it’s extremely rare that I find something online that I don’t already have. It’s always this constant struggle where on one hand, I’m buying “Who Let the Dogs Out?” stuff, and on the other hand I’m trying to save up for a vacation with my wife. So it’s like a seesaw [laughs].
Do you hope to have the Museum of Who Let The Dogs Out on loan one day?
Yeah, Steve Greenberg, I think he’s written the Grammy Museum on my behalf. I want to say that there’s been no reply yet, but I definitely would. When I did the installation at SPRING/BREAK Art Show this past spring, it was the first time I had seen it all on display together… and getting to see that really made it apparent that it’s an interesting, fun room to walk into. There’s many points of entry into the song, like some people were saying, "Oh, I just remember the song from stadiums,” but people of a certain age bracket would see the VHS copy of Rugrats in Paris and they would really want to talk to me about that. I think having a more official museum display at some point would give more people access to those stories and memories. If anyone in Seattle wants to fly me and 300 "Who Let the Dogs Out" related artifacts out there, I’m open to suggestions!
So, how do the Mariners tie into this story?
The long-short of it is that in June of 2000 at Safeco Field, there was this guy named Gregg Greene and he was the music supervisor. At the time it was pretty common for people to get these promo CDs, and on one of those, “Who Let the Dogs Out?” was the last track.
Gregg Greene liked it and started playing it in the stadium. That was the year that the Mariners won like 90+ games, so they were doing very well and a lot of the games were sold out, or at least had super high attendance. So the song was getting played all the time, and people in the crowd were chanting it. Which led this dude, Joe Oliver, a backup catcher at the time, [to make it] his walk up to the plate/at-bat song.
Then Alex Rodriguez, who was an emerging star, he was like, "I want that," because he thought it had this Miami vibe and he just kind of co-opted it from there. It was just this track that was very much associated with the Mariners, and Gregg Greene has a quote somewhere that he says will probably be on his gravestone, something like, “Here lies Gregg Greene. I let the dogs out.”