With Cats taking a battering at the box office, 909originals revisits the adventures of another titular tabby who sought to reach for the stars.
While Paula Abdul’s Opposites Attract is a surefire 80s pop gem, decision to partner the Straight Up songstress with a cartoon feline, MC Skat Kat, in the accompanying video sent the 1989 release into the stratosphere.
Designed by animators Michael Patterson (who also created A-Ha’s Take On Me) and Candace Reckinger, MC Skat Kat, voiced by Derrick Stevens, was styled as a streetwise kitty with lyrical prowess and a Travis Bickle-style haircut.
He also boasted some serious moves, which were performed by the legendary Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers (of Breakin’ and Electric Boogaloo fame) using green screen technology.
MC Skat Kat captured the imagination of the public, and some two months on from its release, Opposites Attract hit number one in the US early February 1990. It also won the Best Short Form Music Video award at the 1991 Grammys.
But what then? Was MC Skat Kat doomed to fade into obscurity, like fellow late 80s heroes Yahoo Serious or Roger Rabbit?
This is one pussy that would not go gently into that good night.
Bolstered by the success of Opposites Attract, an animated ‘group’ (a precursor to Gorillaz?) was hastily assembled, MC Skat Kat and the Stray Mob, which saw Skat team up with characters Fatz, Taboo, Micetro, Leo, Katleen, and Silk, several of which had similarly appeared in Abdul’s video.
1991 saw the release of an album, The Adventures of MC Skat Kat and the Stray Mob, which featured a number of feline-inspired cuts – I Ain’t No Kitty, No Dogs Allowed, On The Prowl and New Kat Swing.
Skat Strut, which borrowed heavily from Earth, Wind & Fire’s Let’s Groove, was only single to be released, with Abdul emerging from an inkwell (and why not!) in the accompanying video.
In case people didn’t get the reference, at one point MC Skat Kat raps:
“For those who don’t know me
My name is Skat
I’m the kat who did the rap in “Opposites Attract”
Me and Paula did a duo and then I went solo
To grab the microphone and make the ladies go”
The video’s popularity did little to lift the performance of the single, however, which hit a high of #96 on the Billboard Hot 100.
A second video was produced, for the track Big Time (check it out here), but following a disappointing showing, things were not looking good for the Stray Mob.
As one review of The Adventures Of… (albeit a few years after its release) put it, the album was a “product of clueless committee thinking and Milli Vanilli-style studio hackwork at its most cynical”.
Unfair, perhaps, but the album’s chart performance failed to argue otherwise.
Rumours of an animated feature never materialised, and obscurity loomed, despite a late push from Abdul, who brought a somewhat terrifying live action MC Skat Kat on her Under My Spell tour, which ran until August 1992.
Following an appearance in a public service music video to promote recycling, Yakety Yak, Take it Back (which also featured artists as diverse as Ozzy Osbourne and Bette Middler), and sporadic appearances on television, MC Skat Kat’s star sadly faded.
But all cats have nine lives, as the old saying goes, and there’s something about this moggy that refuses to die, with MC Skat Kat making a recent appearance on American Dad – in which he busts a move before inquiring about a long-awaited janitorial job.
Derrick Stevens, Skat’s original voice actor, even reprised his role for the short skit.
“It didn’t make me rich, but how many people can actually say they’ve been on a number one record?,” Stevens recently told Minneapolis rapper Ace-B Mr. Hitchcock. “I can say that, I’ve participated in a number one R&B record.”
Three decades on from his first appearance, isn’t it time we heard more from MC Skat Kat?