February 11, 2018

Salt 'N Pepa - A Salt With A Deadly Pepa (July 26, 1988)





I found today’s write-up in a long-abandoned binder that I used to keep blog ideas in. Did you know that I once wanted to devote a post to being a A&R just to invite conversation about who everyone would want to sign to their fantasy labels? Or that I had originally planned to stop doing this shit once my writer’s block had passed, and I could finally get back to my screenplays and fiction? How about that time I tried to convert the hatred I had over some unknown project (probably a Canibus album, I’m assuming) into a renewable source of energy? Anyway, all of this is to say that the content below was all written several years ago, which is not an indictment of Salt-N-Pepa nor their second album, A Salt With a Deadly Pepa: I just couldn’t find a way to fit it onto the blog before, and now I just don’t give a shit, I’ll run what I want to run. That is all.

Salt-N-Pepa’s second full-length album, A Salt With a Deadly Pepa, was released thirty (!) years ago in 1988, probably several years before a lot of you two were even born and two years after their debut, Hot, Cool & Vicious. Like that project, their follow-up was produced by Herby “Luv Bug” Azor, who also managed the group and dated Salt at the time: this was well before they accused him of keeping royalty payments the group had rightfully earned. A Salt With a Deadly Pepa is also the first album from the crew that featured Spinderella, Salt-N-Pepa’s delay-slash-rapper that took the place of their previous disc jockey after she failed to show up to multiple rehearsals.

Riding the high of their massive hit single, “Push It”, a song so huge that it still gets burn on radio airwaves today and will get asses out on the dance floor in the club guaranteed, A Salt With a Deadly Pepa was created with the unofficial goal of matching that track’s success, if not surpassing it entirely. Which is always a good reason to record music, I’ve heard. Nothing on the project reached those lofty goals, but A Salt With a Deadly Pepa managed to sell over five hundred thousand copies in the United States alone, earning the ladies a gold plaque while proving that there was plenty of room for women to play in a musical genre that has, and unfortunately continues to be, primarily a boys club.

Behold.

1. INTRO JAM
Unnecessary. Also, there is nothing “jam” about this intro.

2. A SALT WITH A DEADLY PEPA
Could have worked better as the intro, to be honest. Even though it contains two verses, though, this title track is barely a song, as its gaze is fixated on the entertaining beat and chopped-up samples. Salt and Pepa trade bars back and forth during both stanzas, sounding like more hardcore street versions of the ladies that later recorded “Whatta Man”, which, now that I think of it, makes their brief attack on rappers in the Top 40 even more silly, but the style works for them because these ladies deliver their rhymes with the right amount of confidence and swagger. It’s too bad that this is just a glorified interlude.

3. I LIKE IT LIKE THAT
As mentioned above, the runaway success of “Push It” has informed A Salt With a Deadly Pepa, as Salt, Pepa, and DJ Spinderella have been tasked with recording several knockoffs of that hit single, including “I Like It Like That”. That’s an unfortunate, but valid, comparison to make, because even though this song is actually decent (with an interesting beat to boot), there is no way it would have ever existed had it not been for “Push It”. And unless the track you’re listening to is a sequel of some sort, you shouldn’t need to have prior knowledge of a different song in order to enjoy the current one. I recommend this one, but only barely.

4. SOLO POWER (LET’S GET PAID)
Salt’s solo shot proves that she is wholly capable of carrying a track on her own, even though a good chunk of her lyrics reference Pepa’s absence. The instrumental is okay, but a bit too simple, although Salt flows over it well. The multiple mentions of Pepa leave the listener with the overall feeling that Salt may not have been entirely comfortable with the idea of performing on her own, which hurts the song as a whole, but not by a whole lot.

5. SHAKE YOUR THANG (FEAT. E.U.)
Pepa returns just in the nick of time, as Salt was a bit too close to the edge on the previous song. (Most rappers would kill for a solo showcase: perhaps Salt defines herself as a true team player.) Regardless, “Shake Your Thang” blows: its heavy reliance on an extended riff from The Islay Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing”, as performed by guest stars E.U.(a go-go band best known for the dong “Da Butt”), sabotages any momentum Salt and/or Pepa may have managed to accrue, as it’s too well-known to not distract the listener. Although it doesn’t help that the lyrics are pure filler: clearly both of our hosts weren’t inspired by the music after all. Oh well.

6. I GOTCHA
As with any medium ever, once something clicks, numerous attempts are made to replicate its blueprint in an effort to hopefully mirror its success. “I Gotcha” is a pure Beastie Boys rip-off, from the Luv Bug rock-tinged instrumental that tries to ape Rick Rubin but ends up more like, and I’m not shitting you, this is the first band that popped into my head when the beat played, Tears For Fears, and the verses from Salt-N-Pepa, which they share with frenzied shouting punctuating each other’s thoughts. There’s so little of our hosts’ DNA on this track that they end up sounding like a no-name act that would appear on one of those unsanctioned tribute albums to Salt-N-Pepa that fill Best Buy shelves. Pass.

7. LET THE RHYTHM RUN (REMIX)
This remix (to a song that first appeared on the soundtrack for Colors) fares much better than “I Gotcha”, since this actually sounds like a Salt-N-Pepa song and not some horseshit filtered through a microphone screen. Sounds incredibly dated, but their combined energy is contagious, so even though this track doesn’t really work today, there’s hardly anything objectionable about it. That leaves me with nothing more to write about it, though.

8. GET UP EVERYBODY (GET UP)
That song title is silly as fuck, isn’t it? This track is dated as well, but with their infectious energy yet again, our hosts make a valid argument for this song’s potential renaissance. Filled with the old-school nostalgia that can only be possible when a track was actually recorded during that particular era, “Get Up Everybody (Get Up)” is actually entertaining, even though the ladies still had no idea how to close out a song back in 1988, as this one just…ends.

9. SPINDERELLA’S NOT A FELLA (BUT A GIRL DJ)
Salt-N-Pepa dedicate a song to their deejay, which was the style at the time. Unlike similar tracks on the projects of their peers, though, this hardly showcases Spinderella’s skills behind the ones and twos, as this is a general run-of-the-mill rap song based around a singular theme that’s decent enough, but not great. What most intrigued me was that one of Pepa’s bars is censored, which has the adverse effect of turning what was a homophobic line, “too sexy for a dyke” (which makes no fucking sense and shouldn’t have been included in the first place, but the 1980s were another era, I suppose), into something that must be so terribly offensive that someone at the label took it upon themselves to drop the audio. “Intriguing” doesn’t equate to “interesting”, though.

10. SOLO POWER (SYNCOPATED SOUL)
Pepa’s solo effort, whose title mirrors Salt’s earlier attempt, is easily the better of the two. Not only is the instrumental much more entertaining, Pepa also doesn’t use Salt’s absence as a crutch during her verses, automatically coming across as more confident in her abilities. The interplay between our hosts is missed, as they bounce well off of one another, but even though I have zero interest in hearing either one of our hosts branching out on their own, Pepa at least holds the audience’s attention with ease.

11. TWIST AND SHOUT
Embarrassing as shit: had the ladies not banked a lifetime’s worth of goodwill for “Push It”, this would have ended their fucking careers, guaranteed. Salt-N-Pepa perform over a crappy beat inspired by the Beatles’ version of “Twist and Shout”, even going so far as to sing the hook themselves (and terribly to boot) in between verses, giving Ferris Bueller a run for his money, except this shit sucked. Fuck this song. This was awful.

12. HYPED ON THE MIC
The music is fast-paced enough to be mistaken for breathless, so that was interesting. However, regardless of how hyped Salt and Pepa sound, this didn’t do anything for me. It is what it is.

FINAL THOUGHTS: A Salt With a Deadly Pepa plays less like a follow-up to a surprise hit album and more as a direct reaction to what Luv Bug thought people responded to on Hot, Cool & Vicious. Salt, Pepa, and Spinderella all share some of the blame, as they are sticking with the rivers and lakes they’re used to instead of following their own creative whims, but when your manager also produces all of your songs, it’s fair to say that our hosts didn’t have a whole shit-ton of influence over the final product. As such, there are some fine moments on A Salt With a Deadly Pepa, but those pale in comparison to the truly terrible aspects of the project (read: “Twist and Shout”, which was inexplicably a hit overseas, shame on you all) that make Salt-N-Pepa sound like a rap act that had already peaked, as opposed to being artists in their prime. Sure, “Push It” is still their best-known song, but they didn’t know that back in 1988, and this album should have sounded that way.

BUY OR BURN? Burn this one. Salt-N-Pepa were capable of much better musical output, and have proven it time and again since the release of this project, so maybe hold off for some of those albums instead.

BEST TRACKS: “I Like It Like That”; “Get Up Everybody (Get Up)”

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
There’s more Salt-N-Pepa to be read about here.



6 comments:

  1. Max, I know this album is very dated due to the production of the album, but it still sounds better than most of the hip hop music that we hear today. You also have to remember that hip hop was still fairly new in the 1980's so the genre was still evolving at that point. As dated as this project is, I still would rather take the simplicity of Salt N Pepa's rhymes over the trap/mumble rap nonsense that we have today. Great review Max! Keep it up!

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    1. I agree with the simplicity over the mumble rap stuff argument. I just wish the samples used were better or not as prevalent.

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  2. I just hope to dearest God that the next review is Lord Finesse. He’s long overdue a return on this here site.

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  3. Lemme guess: Tribe next?

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    1. You could just wait and find out.

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    2. Waiting is overrated.

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