Reviewed on this page:
Hot, Cool & Vicious - A Salt
With A Deadly Pepa - Blacks' Magic - Very Necessary - Brand New
Salt-N-Pepa are another Queens hip-hop group formed in the mid-80s, the first successful female rappers with their own
personalities (there had been a few hits by "Roxannes," all in
response to UTFO's record "Roxanne, Roxanne"). From the start they
had pro-woman lyrics that deal realistically with men's
weaknesses, even though much of their material was written by male
producer Hurby "Luv Bug" Azor (later the rappers took a more active role in writing and production). And from their
first gold single "Push It" they made some of the most
danceable music of the 80s and early 90s. After their multi-platinum Very Necessary the group cut ties with Azor, sued their label, and went through a dry spell - during which they contributed
the excellent title track to the charity album Ain't Nuthin' But
A She Thing and cut every other female rapper on the planet in
a brief guest shot on the Panther soundtrack - before fading away at the end of the decade. Salt and Pepa reunited (occasionally with DJ Spinderella, though more often she's working on the radio) in 2007, participated in a reality show, and finally in 2010 put out a couple of new tunes.
I caught the 2011 Legends of Hip Hop Tour they headlined, and reviewed it.
Salt (Cheryl James), vocals; Pepa (Sandy Denton),
vocals; Spinderella (De De Roper), DJ, vocals
Hot, Cool & Vicious (1987)
The smash single "Push It," besides being one of the first hip-hop
hits to top the dance charts, was one of the first million-selling
singles in recent history from an independent label, helping to
break the 70s/80s major label stranglehold on popular music. It's
also a great example of the band's claiming their sexuality without
turning into male-fantasy cartoons; for a SNAG like me, that's
extremely refreshing and enjoyable. The single
"Tramp" (sampling Otis Redding & Carla
Thomas's hit) deftly cuts sexist men down to size. The rest of
the album isn't quite up to the same standard, but it's fun; the
energy and enthusiasm (of artists and producer) is contagious ("My Mic Sounds Nice").
A Salt With A Deadly Pepa (1988)
The title is the cleverest thing about this follow-up, rushed out
to capitalize on the success of "Push It." "Shake Your Thang"
(featuring E.U.) pursues Hurby "Luv Bug" Azor's fascination with go-go,
but doesn't measure up to the real thing. There's also their ill-considered cover of "Twist And Shout."
Otherwise, they mostly tread water; there's nothing here that ranks among their best work.
(Attention Prince fans: the album begins
with an amusing parody of the opening of "Computer Blue.") (DBW)
Blacks' Magic (1990)
Salt takes a more active role, writing and producing many of the
best tracks, several which combine sung vocals, live instruments
and samples ("Independent"; "Expression"). The Azor
productions (mostly credited to Fingerprints) are also stunning and consistently tuneful - one
highlight is a duet between Salt and Kid
from Kid-N-Play about love done wrong ("I Don't Know"). They move effortlessly from
mellow half-sung songs ("You Showed Me," the title track) to
straight-ahead dance tracks ("Start The Party"), and not one of them's a throwaway; the lyrics are
better than ever - "Independent" overflows with double and triple
rhymes - and it all adds up to a serious, clever feminist statement.
Very Necessary (1993)
This album made them multi-platinum megastars, with the hits
"Shoop," "Whatta Man" and "None Of Your Business." I think their
increased success was due largely to the album's sexy videos: the
music's not really better than the previous album, and the quality is
not anywhere near as consistent. But the En Vogue-backed "Whatta Man" - based on a minor hit by Stax singer Linda Lyndell - is an undeniable classic. (The
album version of "None Of Your Business" is fun, but I like the remixes on the maxi-single even more.) (DBW)
Brand New (1997)
Pleasant but slight. The opening track, "RU Ready," has a familiar-sounding bass lick that repeats for the whole song, while Salt and Pep rap about how cool they are, which sets the tone for the rest of the album. More raps about sex and men
("Do Me Right," "Say Ooh"), but without the fire of earlier similar efforts. Azor had gotten the heave-ho, so his pet styles go-go and reggae are missing, and nothing takes up the slack. Salt (who produced most of the tracks) also wins a Puffy No-Originality award for ripping off Rick James' "Give It To Me Baby," which she calls "Gitty Up." Despite all that, there are some really good grooves here, including "Imagine," with an insidious wah-wah guitar line and backing vocals from the overexposed Sheryl Crow, and the hard-rocking "The Clock Is Tickin'" with backing by Modern Yesterday, a band signed to S-n-P's
Jireh Records - fellow Jireh artists Day Ta Day (a Boys II Men clone) and K.E.I. also appear on the album. Plus, Queen Latifah guests on "Friends," but it's Mad Lion who steals the show with some of the best rhymes on the disc. You won't hurl this against the wall, but after four years off you'd think they could've come up with a more substantive, consistent effort. (DBW)
In 2010, Salt-N-Pepa released two downloadable tracks, "Big Girls" and "She's Killin' Me."
Start the party.