re-examining songs from my youth, part two: funky cold medina


(Read Part 1: The Unforgiven)

Tone Loc's "Funky Cold Medina" came out in 1989, on the Loc-ed After Dark album. It was co-written by Marvin "Young MC" Young, which I didn’t know until my always-intensive musical research. The song was also produced by the Dust Brothers, at the very beginning of their career, even before Paul's Boutique. As famous and acclaimed as Paul's Boutique is, Loc had by far the bigger hit with his album.

The song is backed by a reworked sample of the guitar riff from Foreigner's "Hot Blooded", famous for its role in the karaoke episode of "Beauty and the Geek" (thanks Christine!). Some might argue that the marriage of hot-blooded upstate New York hard rock and laid-back California rap music is the key feature of the song. However, though one could certainly contrast Lou Gramm's claims of having "a fever of one hundred and three" with Loc's repeated stressing of the funky medina's coldness, I am more intrigued with what the song says about the medina and sexual anxiety. Despite all the hype about funky cold medina-as-love-potion, how effective is it, really?

Loc is first introduced to the medina via an enthusiastic sales pitch from a brother in a club. The fly brother claims the medina is "better than any alcohol/ Or aphrodisiac" in terms of attracting chicks. Loc seems enthused, but careful listeners will note the song’s early allusion to Mick Jagger and "Satisfaction", a song that deals with the deceptive nature of advertising, particularly as it relates to sex. Indeed, a little medina in your glass will induce sexual desire, but with a twist. It's like wishing on a dead monkey's paw, with less horrific consequences.

First, Loc uses the medina on his pet dog, and unsurprisingly, the dog is overcome with desire and humps...Loc's leg. One might cite this as proof of the medina's powers, though one might also ask why Loc fed the dog precious medina in the first place. Perhaps Loc was testing the safety of the medina, like a medieval king feeding a sample of his dinner to a servant to check for poison. Maybe Loc doesn't care about his pet; if chocolate is toxic for dogs, you never know what funky cold medina might do. It's not clear why medina is necessary to make this dog hump someone's leg, or why leg-humping is a desirable result in the first place.

The dog references leave the song a bit dated, as Loc claims the funky cold medina has attracted all the dogs in the neighborhood, including beer spokesman Spuds Mackenzie and "Alex from Stroh's". Until I read these lyrics, I had forgotten the ad campaign with Alex, the dog that could retrieve and open beers. I'd also forgotten that Stroh's beer ever existed (the brand was purchased by Pabst ten years ago). Incidentally, since Alex, Spuds, and Loc's dog are all male, one must conclude that funky cold medina makes dogs gay as well as horny.

Speaking of medina-related gay sex, Tone Loc's second experiment comes at a bar with a woman named Sheena. Loc adds medina to Sheena's drink, which seems distressingly similar to using roofies. The night is headed toward stupefied romance when Loc discovers that Sheena is actually a transvestite. As Loc is quick to point out, and vehemently, he does not "fool around with no Oscar Meyer wiener". It's the Eighties, and he's down with the ladies.

To be completely fair to Sheena, I should note that Tone Loc was the one that drugged her, not vice versa. Subconsciously, maybe he was secretly craving the Oscar Meyer wiener. I wonder if inadvertantly picking up transvestites is actually a common mistake for musicians, and only Tone Loc and Ray Davies are brave enough to admit it.

In the final verse, Loc presents the scariest funky cold medina scenario of all. After appearing on Love Connection, Loc slips medina to a woman for the first time. Her reaction is different, as she begins discussing wedding plans, which to Loc is more horrifying than going all the way with Sheena. If one considers the song to be an ascending progression of sexual anxieties, it is clear that Loc's fear of getting engaged trumps his concerns about both bestiality and his own hidden homoerotic inclinations.

Ultimately, one can read "Funky Cold Medina" as a metaphor for fame. Chart-topping rap success will give the same false, intoxicating power as the magic potion that is medina. There is a dark flip side to it, and the results are not always what you anticipate. Even with ample funky cold medina in your pocket, or Loc-ed After Dark #1 on the Billboard charts, you're never far away from an ill-advised romp with a transvestite, or a role as a rapping monitor lizard in FernGully: The Last Rain Forest.

You know what I'm saying? That medina's a monster y'all

Click here and here for a video of Sean and Christine's karaoke performance of "Funky Cold Medina", from Halloween 2005. Sean is dressed up as the Mayor of New Orleans, while Christine is dressed up in a really hot outfit.


I was in Nomad Cafe in Berkeley once when Funky Cold Medina came on the cafe stereo. One of the baristas behind the counter started doing a booty-shaking dance while continuing to methodically make a customer's sandwich. For a while there was nothing but the matter-of-fact booty dance and the matter-of-fact panini-assembly, and then she started saying, "Uh oh... oh, it's this song. You know, I hear this song and my butt just starts moving. I don't even know what to do about it."

Sean, did your research reveal anything about medina's effects as an auditory booty-shaking stimulant?

Wow, I've never actually listened to the lyrics before. I didn't even know the song was about a potion--I thought Funky Cold Medina was a not-nice girl he was dating.

I wonder if he was influenced by that old song "Love Potion no. 9." The potion is drunk by a cow, after all.

Spuds was played by a female, further confusing an already confused issue.

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This page contains a single entry by Sean Keane published on February 13, 2006 9:38 PM.

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