In 1985 Salt N Pepa, under the tutelage of producer Hurby Luvbug, made a name for themselves off the Get Fresh Crew dis record “Showstopper” (which is pretty weak: props to Dougie and Slick Rick for not responding to that mess). The song created a buzz on the east coast and received some radio play as well, and was actually released as a single on a small independent label.
Based on the success of “Showstopper”, Salt N Pepa changed their name (they used to go by Super Nature), and their deejay (read the review on Hot, Cool & Vicious-I wonder how salty the original Spinderella is about losing that gig), and signed to then fledgling label Next Plateau. In 1986 they released their debut album Hot, Cool & Vicious which contained the mega hit that would thrust them into the mainstream, “Push It”, which helped “push it” to platinum status.
Riding high off the commercial success of their debut album the ladies came back in 88′ with their sophomore effort A Salt With A Deadly Pepa (yes, I know that’s a corny title, but it is what it is). Produced entirely by Hurby LuvBug (and The Untouchables: must have been Hurb’s unemployed cousins or something, I’m still not sure what they actually contributed to the album), the ladies looked to build on the same formula as their debut.
Since I didn’t care much for the debut album things couldn’t get much worse the second time around, or could they? Let’s give her a listen.
Intro Jam – The ladies start the show off with a brief mic check…keep your mind out the gutter!
A Salt With A Deadly Pepa – Over a pretty solid instrumental (that uses the same horn sample from PE’s “Night Of The Living Basshead”) that plays so long before the first verse it fools you in to believing that’s all it will be. Salt and Pepa join the preceding late and share the mic over two solid verses. The ladies sound aggressive on the mic and actually turn in serviceable lines (which I’m sure we can credit Hurby Luv Bug for writing). Decent start to the show.
I Like It Like That – The ladies make an obvious attempt to recapture the success of their massive pop hit “Push It”, which fails miserably (although this song actually has structured verses as opposed to repetitive chants of it’s predecessor). This was messy from the jump, no need to listen to this again. By the way Salt, you don’t “drink” caviar.
Solo Power (Let’s Get Paid) – Since Pep had to step, Salt get’s a solo joint (hence the title of the song), which ironically she spends the majority of her rhymes talking about Pepa. The beat sounds sloppy at times (especially during the breakdowns) but Salt (whom I’ve always had a not so secret crush on, (especially during her Black Magic” days)), who isn’t quite ready for battle, sounds decent on the mic.
Shake Your Thang – E.U. joins the party on this collaboration that samples the Isley Brother’s classic “It’s Your Thing”. Instead of instructing the listen to push it, the ladies now invite you to shake your thang: this sounds very similar to EU’s “Doing Da Butt”, which pretty much had the same theme. Salt manages to maintain her flirtatious and sexy delivery, but not appealing enough to save this from being nothing more than pop fluff. Yuck.
I Gotcha – Hurby (and the Untouchables) uses guitar licks over a drum track as the backdrop for Cheryl and Sandy’s version of a hip-rock song (I’m sure Run-DMC’s success influenced the ladies to try this one). The guitar sample succeeds in giving the song an edgy feel but sounds super sloppy at times. Salt and Pepa sound like they’re battling the track as they shout verses about a man who left his old chick to get with them, and…I’m not really sure what the rest of the storyline is on this one and don’t care enough to go back and dissect it. Thanks to a semi interesting track, this song is barely bearable. I guess it’s safe to say the track won the battle.
Let The Rhythm Run (Remix) – Apparently this was originally in the movie “Colors” (according to the liner notes), which I don’t recall, although, its been years since I’ve actually watched the movie. The ladies sound decent as they tag team the mic over a pretty solid Hurby Luv Bug production.
Get Up Everybody (Get Up) – I’ve always loved the piano sample sprinkled throughout this song (fellow female emcee Boss (remember her?) would use the same sample years later on her song “Born Gangsta”). By late eighties standards the production sounds pretty polished. Sandy and Cheryl sound fresh and rejuvenated as well (though they’re still not ready to battle or anything), easily making this the strongest song on A Salt With A Deadly Pepa up to this point.
Spinderella’s Not A Fella (But A Girl D.J.) – Sandy and Cheryl dedicate this one to their deejay Spinderella, version 2.0. While it’s a very kind gesture, I’ve never been a huge fan of an emcee ode to their deejay, and this is no exception. While it’s not terrible it’s far from spectacular.
Solo Power (Syncopated Soul) – Since Cheryl got her’s, its only right that Sandy gets a shot at her own solo joint. I’ve always thought Salt was the stronger rapper of the two, but that theory’s out the window as Pepa’s lyrics are much stronger then those of her partner in crime on her solo effort. When you factor in the hot drum rolls and jazzy horn samples, this is the second strongest song on A Salt With A Deadly Pepa. Nice job, Sandy.
Twist And Shout – Yes, this is a remake of the Beatles classic of the same song title (unfortunately). This is more of the same pop piffle that would define the ladies career and help them sell a zillion albums. But don’t get it twisted, this is still terrible.
Hyped On The Mic – The ladies sound decent over this solid Hurby Luv Bug beat. Salt’s (or was it Pepa, it’s hard to tell whose saying what since they switch microphone duties every other line) threat to pull out her uzi, was pretty laughable. All in all, this was a decent ending to a very uneven evening.
In my opinion, Hurby Luvbug is a marketing genius: he snatched up 2 attractive ladies (well at least one, sorry Pep) with solid rap voices, fed them lines to recite over hip-pop (yes, I meant pop) beats with gimmicky subject manner, and occasionally had them flaunt their sex appeal to ensure the movement of units. The results: 2 gold and 3 platinum plaques (the 4th album Very Necessary has sold over 5 mill to date – but I’ll cover that at a later date). But unfortunately marketing genius doesn’t always add up to quality music. A Salt With A Deadly Pepa does have a few gems (largely due to pretty solid production work from Hurby) but the majority falls flat do to average rhyme skills and formulated (and sometimes corny) subject matter. Stay tuned, we’ll see how Sandy, Cheryl, and Dee Dee’s junior effort Black Magic holds up.