Spike Lee commissioned this song for his 1988 movie School Daze, which was his first major picture. He needed a song for a scene where the kids would be doing a new dance called "Da Butt," so he called his friend Marcus Miller and asked him to write one. Miller is best known for his work with Luther Vandross, but he has done production work and played bass on hundreds of tracks for artists including Herbie Hancock, Natalie Cole and George Benson. He used to play in a group called Jamaica Boys with Chaka Khan's brother Mark Stevens, so he called Stevens and they wrote this song. After Spike Lee approved the demo, Miller asked the 9-piece Washington, DC band E.U. to record it. Spike brought some of the actors from the film to the studio, and they recorded it with a lot of improvisation and a party vibe - all the shouting and laughing is genuine. It was Stevens who came up with the "get your backfield in motion" line - a great use of football terminology to describe booty shaking.
E.U. stands for "Experience Unlimited." The group had a hit in the DC area with a 1980 song called (ironically enough) "Rock Yer Butt." "Da Butt" became their best-known song, and a highlight of their stage shows. The song didn't get a lot of radio play, but was a #1 R&B hit.
This was one of the first "Butt" songs. Songs like "Rump Shaker" and "Baby Got Back
" would become popular a few years later as women with big booty gained acceptance.
The song has it's own dance, but it's not very coordinated. Really, it's just shaking your butt however you feel like it. Many people learned "Da Butt" from the music video, which Spike Lee also directed and appeared in, shaking his butt at one point.
There is a bit of audience participation in this song, which helped make it a dance club favorite. Toward the end, the lyrics are, "(insert name here) got a big old butt." According to Miller, the group's lead singer, known as Sugar Bear, came up with that in the studio.
This is one of the biggest hits with the "go-go" sound. A fun mixture of dance, rap and funk, go-go was popular in the late '80s/early '90s and popularized by Kid 'n Play and their Houseparty movies.
E.U. contributed the song "Party Hearty" to the next Spike Lee Movie, Do The Right Thing.