Music

What Went Right With… Snagglepuss And Snagga Puss?

An image of Snagglepuss with a graffiti logo behind him illustrating his influence on Hip-Hop and Reggae music

You can never predict what a piece of art will influence, in fact many times something from one genre will unexpectedly impact another. For example, remember a Hanna-Barbera cartoon character named Snagglepuss? He was a pink mountain lion who wore nothing but a collar, a tie, and a pair of cuffs and he sounded like a camp version of the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard Of Oz. Snagglepuss appeared in The Yogi Bear Show during the 60’s and 70’s and in my opinion, he was a caricature of a gay actor or a comment on pompous stage school wannabes, but either way his unique, elongated voice was catchy, memorable, and hilarious to listen to. Snagglepuss would routinely utter his catchphrases including “Heavens to Murgatroyd!”, “Heavens To Betsy!”, “Exit stage right (or left)” in addition to adding “even” to the end of his sentences. If you don’t remember the character and his voice, here’s a quick clip…

I can say with some certainty that when creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera (and voice actor Daws Butler) devised and developed the character of Snagglepuss, they never predicted that their creation would go on to influence not one but two musicians in the decades to come.

The first performer to be inspired by Snagglepus was a Reggae Dancehall artist from Jamaica named Snagga Puss who released a few albums during the early ’90’s. Snagga Puss’ gimmick was to imitate Snagglepuss’ voice (and occasionally other cartoon characters such as Popeye and Woody Woodpecker). Here is his song “Tatie” and straight away you can hear his mimicry of the Hanna-Barbera toon…

Snagga Puss’ song “Sound Boy Burial” also contains his impression of the pink lion and this track title incidentally, would go on to influence rap duo Smif-N-Wessun

Here, Snagga Puss is imitating a Walter Lantz’ cartoon, blending his usual Snagglepuss vocal with Woody Woodpecker’s characteristic laugh making for a very unique Reggae song…

A few years later, in the underground scene during the height of the golden era of Hip-Hop, an American rapper from the Bronx also imitated Snagglepuss’ voice and because he was rapping, the end result sounded like a mixture of Slick Rick and the pink Hanna-Barbera character.

Snagglepuss the rapper (sometimes spelled Snaggle Puss) appeared on a number of mixtapes in the mid-90’s and like his Reggae counterpart Snagga Puss, he too used the anthropomorphic lion as his inspiration. Here’s Snagglepuss’ freestyle from Sam The Sleezbag mixtape. This track showcases Snagglepuss’ humourous style, for example there’s his line “My game is ridiculous; similar to KFC, I make a chicken strip”)….

And here’s some more freestyles from Snagglepuss. These various verses for me, demonstrate his potential as a popular rapper. Had he been given a chance, Snagglepuss was a very individual MC who could have easily made it to the mainstream in the 1990’s…

Confusingly, this Bounce Squad MC sometimes went by the name of “Snaggapuss” (which makes it confusing if you’re looking for the rap artist rather than the reggae artist) and later, Snagglepuss became known as Snagg Da Don or Snaggadon. Here’s a more recent track titled “The Mudfoot” (named after a character from the Fat Albert cartoon). This track proves that Snagg still has “it”, just listen to all these back-to-back similes and punchlines…

It’s unfortunate that artists don’t employ credible gimmicks in order to stand out from the crowd these days, especially in Hip-Hop music. From DMX’s dog bark to Snagglepuss’s cartoon impression, it seems to me that having a trademark shtick was a uniquely 80’s and 90’s trait, and strangely it made both Reggae Dancehall and Hip-Hop music feel accessible and distinctive rather than contrived.

Back to the topic of inspiration, similar to the Wu-Tang Clan’s Kung-Fu-movie-inspired music or Camp Lo’s emulation of the 1970’s, Snagga Puss and Snaggle Puss also borrowed an element from another genre and successfully combined it with urban music to create something very unexpected. Snagga Puss and Snagglepuss were two very underrated musicians and despite being directly influenced by a piece of art, they made some uncommon and unique art of their own.

Cartoons, Reggae, And Rap, Even.

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