August 29, 2008

My Gut Reaction: Salt 'N Pepa - Hot, Cool, & Vicious (1986)

Cheryl James and Sandra Denton, better known as the female rap duo Salt 'N Pepa, have won multiple Grammy awards, sold millions of records, and have created a song or two that are still played the fuck out on radio to this day. Not bad for two rappers from Queens.

Probably because I've heard "Push It" on a steady subliminal loop for the past twenty-odd years, I suppose I never felt the need to pick up the duo's debut, Hot, Cool, & Vicious, which featured wall-to-wall production by Hurby Azor and deejay work by Latoya Hanson, who performed under the name "Spinderella" and appears on the far right of the album cover, even though she never appeared in any of the duo's videos and soon left the crew, only to be replaced with the current Spinderella, Deidra Roper.

Salt and Pepa earned a record deal with Next Plateau Records off of the strength of their first single, "The Showstopper", which was allegedly created by Hurby Azor as a school project. Their debut album was quickly recorded, garnering some radio airplay throughout the country, but the duo didn't really take off until their biggest hit to date, "Push It", was released, which started riots in seventeen counties, sold billions of 12-inch singles, and elbowed its place into the musical selections of advertising firms the world over.

Here, for your reading pleasure, is Hot, Cool, & Vicious.

1. PUSH IT (REMIX)
You already know this song: no point in pretending otherwise. (I never knew the version that I'm most familiar with was a remix, though: I guess I've never actually heard the original 12-inch track.) I noticed after hearing the entire disc that this track doesn't fit on Hot, Cool, & Vicious, but for good reason: it wasn't included on original pressings of the album, but was added once the "Push It (Remix)" because a dance floor staple. It's not that hard to recall this track in its proper context (it was played on the radio all the fucking time in the late 1980s), but it's since become seeped into the public subconscious, so it isn't even a "rap" song anymore: it's simply a song, one that will still get your girl to dance, almost as if on command.

2. BEAUTY AND THE BEAT

This song was boring as shit.

3. TRAMP
This is probably what "Beauty and the Beat" was striving for, except this song actually works. The beat is simple (and I mean simple), but it's effective, and the rhymes will remind you of Salt 'N Pepa's later lyrical work.

4. I'LL TAKE YOUR MAN
These rhymes are both hilarious and dope as shit: "I'll Take Your Man" proves that female emcees can brag just as effectively as their male counterparts.

5. IT'S ALRIGHT
Have you ever wanted to hear Salt and Pepa rhyme in a reggae fashion? You haven't? Neither have I, but I still made it past the first thirty seconds of this song, which is essentially two emcees straight spittin'. Not great, but also not bad.

6. CHICK ON THE SIDE (REMIX)
This isn't bad either, but the whole point of the song is rendered moot when you realize that the women are chastising their men for having another woman on the side, while participating in similar behavior themselves. Sorry, but the "well, I figured he was going to cheat anyway..." excuse doesn't quite work. Aaah, double standards!

7. I DESIRE
Pretty fucking awesome. Hurby Azor does some beautiful things with the beat, slowing down the drum break from the Winstons's "Amen Brother" with fantastic results, and both Salt and Pepa don't waste the opportunity.

8. THE SHOWSTOPPER
This is the answer record for the question that Doug E. Fresh's "The Show" failed to ask. Salt 'N Pepa released this first single under a different name, Supernature, although they refer to themselves as Salt and Pepa within the song itself. It's alright, but it's simply a gimmicky record and shouldn't be seen as anything other than the emcees fucking around. The use of the word "uncouth" is pretty funny, though.

9. MY MIC SOUNDS NICE
Not impressed at all.

THE LAST WORD: Hot, Cool, & Vicious is a Polaroid snapshot of a time in hip hop when lyrics were important, but not a prerequisite: all that mattered was that the music made you feel good, and this disc attempts to accomplish that with varying results. Sure, the disc sounds dated as hell, but some of the songs flat-out rock, including "Push It (Remix)", a track that I'm sure everybody is really sick of. However, some of the other songs fail to garner much of an impression. Hurby Azor does some good work behind the boards, for the most part, but Hot, Cool, & Vicious is truly for completists only.

-Max

5 comments:

  1. Try the Soulwax remix of Push It with The Stooges for a raw rock experience. Yummm! :-)

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  2. Greatest album cover of all-time ?

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  3. LOL @ greatest album!

    But man, My Mic sounds nice is a great MC song.. just two mc's going off, nothing new, but nothing bad!

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  4. Are you kidding me?? "My mic sounds nice" was pretty much the only thing worth listening to on the album!!! Push it sucked back then and it sucks nowadays. It was a filler track that ended up being dumbed down further as a remix just so the album would sell. It's still utter trash. And judging "Chick on the side" by it's double standard is downright stupid. Either the song is dope as a whole package or not. Stop nitpicking over stupid shit. The worst song on the album besides "Push it" was "its alright"...and by the simple fact that you praised this more than "My mic sounds nice" and "Beauty & the Beat" just shows that you're an 'outsider' fan of the music who don't know anything anyway. Stick to rock acts bud.

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  5. That was the best album compared to music these days. Today you buy an album with only two tracks that are worth listening to and the rest is trash.

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