After two gold selling albums, 1990’s Black’s Magic earned Salt ‘N’ Pepa their first platinum plaque, thanks to some pretty solid singles (and Herby Luv Bug aka Geppetto). After working Blacks’ Magic for nearly three years the ladies would return in late ’93 with their fourth release Very Necessary.
Other than Spinderella being more involved on the mic, Very Necessary would use basically the same formula as their previous albums: Herby Luv Bug. It would become a huge commercial win for Salt ‘N’ Pepa, as it produced some pretty big pop hits and would go on to sell over 5 million units in the U.S. alone.
Now, if you read TimeIsIlmatic with any regularity, you already know that commercial success means nothing here. Let’s revisit Very Necessary and see if it lives up to its title.
Groove Me – Very Necessary opens with a generic reggae instrumental, produced by Geppetto himself. Salt, Pepa and Spinderella (who strangely, channels Onyx on her verse and sounds ridiculous in the process) invite the listener to groove with them, while someone going by Futuristic Prophet (new nominee for worst moniker of the year) drops by to add some chanting to the song. This was pretty weak.
No One Does It Better – Pardon me, I had some bad rap and r&b. The only thing I enjoyed about this song was Salt’s convincing verse where she plays a certified side chick, very well. Other than that this was trash.
Somebody’s Gettin’ On My Nerves – More trash.
Whatta Man – This was the second single released from the album and would eventually become the biggest commercial hit in Salt N Pepa’s catalog. SNP remake Linda Lyndell’s sixties hit with the same name (well, almost same name (“What A Man”)) and invite En Vogue (remember them?) to sing the hook. I wouldn’t call it a classic hip-hop record, but it was a huge pop hit that I happen to find slightly enjoyable.
None Of Your Business – I believe this was the third single from Very Necessary. Salt, Pep and Spinderella use this one to tell the world it’s none of their business what they do with their vaginas (even if they want to be a “freak and sell it on the weekend”). Years later, Salt would denounce their content and message on this song, but whatever. I don’t know if this is a song I’d want my daughter to look to for inspiration, but it did earn the trio their only Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group in 1995. I never was a fan of it, though.
Step – This is easily my favorite song on Very Necessary. Spinderella and DJ Grand take a funky piano loop and turn it into a wonderfully bouncy instrumental (that vaguely reminds me of some of the music from the old Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids cartoon). Salt, Pep and Spinderella each spit a verse telling their no good man to hit the road. And even though the liner notes don’t credit him, I’d be willing to bet that Dres (from Black Sheep) penned the verses. Listen to the song again and tell me it doesn’t sound like Dres’ bars and flow (ecspecially Pepa’s verse).
Shoop – This was the lead single from the album. This may not have been as big a hit as “Whatta Man”, but it was still a pretty big hit for the ladies. Mark Sparks and Salt (with a co-production credit going to Pep) sample an old Ikettes’ record and turn it into a horny girl anthem (“shoop” is slang for having sex). I’ve never cared much for this one and time hasn’t changed my sentiment.
Heaven Or Hell – This was the fourth single released from Very Necessary. Salt, Pepa and Spin all get a little socially conscious on this one and actually spit some solid rhymes that will leave you with something to chew on. But Steve Azor’s (must be Herby’s brother, cousin or somethin’) instrumental is the true star of this song. This was dope.
Big Shot – Herby’s instrumental was decent, but this is still a throw away track.
Sexy Noises Turn Me On – Corn.
Somma Time Man – More corn.
Break Of Dawn – Salt and Pep take turns spitting random rhymes over a solid melodic Mark Sparks’ backdrop. Pretty enjoyable.
I’ve Got AIDS (PSA) – Very Necessary closes with a short skit by a group of kids know as WEATOC Inc. that has a girl confronting her boyfriend after finding out she’s contracted HIV by having unprotected sex with him. Pretty deep (and dark) way to end the album, but hopefully it helped save someone’s life.
Very Necessary may have been a huge commercial success for the lady trio, but as a hip-hop album, not so much. There are only about four songs that really work and the rest of the album is smothered in mediocre production, corny r&b-hip-hop blends, and below average rhyming. That doesn’t sound very necessary to me.