Long before there was rap vixen Nicki Minaj, and almost a decade prior to Lil Kim and Foxy Brown introducing the world to their sexed-up shopping spree lyrics, two female rappers from the heart of Queens named Salt-N-Pepa helped craft the idea of sassy female rap. And while the word has since been lazily affixed to pretty much any female MC who even tangentially refers to sex in their rhymes, Cheryl James and Sandy Denton's rap vault brims with bold and confident anthemic songs, which you can hear live tomorrow night at the L.A. County Fair.
So while Salt may have found Christianity and sober living these days, and the duo's recording career seems stuck on a permanent hiatus, these are the five unabashedly sassy songs that established the duo's place on the rap map. (Note: Most of these songs hail from before that time they met Sheryl Crow.)
Not quite an ode to those unfortunate sods who are forced to etch out an existence by begging, Salt and Pepa's "Tramp" refers to "stupid and rude" dudes who incessantly hit on girls at each and any opportunity. The finale reads like a scene that might have later been lifted for an episode of Sex And The City: "On the first date he thought I was a dummy/ He had the nerve to tell me he loved me/ But of course I knew it was a lie, y'all/ He undressed me with his eyeballs." Alas, the copyright czars up at YouTube seem to have barred sharing the song's official video, which is a shame as it contains the most accurate portrayal of an '80s night club that also sort of looks like The Max in Saved By The Bell ever.
Sassy songs don't always have to dog on men! Here the duo simply asserts that they're bold enough to know when they want a certain man and are confident enough to go out and get him. Unfortunately, while "Shoop" wins on the sexually assertive tip and is packed with suitably salacious lyrics, it also features an early indication that Pepa's judgement of the opposite sex is on the bat shit crazy tip, as she seems concerned only that her man is "bow-legged." After an unsuccessful marriage to Naughty by Nature front man Treach, and a series of calamitous dates as showcased on the reality TV vehicle The Salt-N-Pepa-Show, she might want to start getting a little more specific on her OK Cupid profile.
3. "The Show Stoppa (Is Stupid Fresh)" (as Super Nature)
Throwing shots towards an established rapper is a common promotional tactic these days, but Salt-N-Pepa's early response to Doug E Fresh & Slick Rick's "The Show" was a ballsy move, not least with the duo disparagingly re-casting the now legendary duo as "Douglas and Richard." Nattily, the song interjects into the lyrics of "The Show," with Salt and Pepa coming across Rick while on the subway and flipping the ending to their own advantage. Salt also claims that Sally From The Valley, as referenced in "La Di Da Di," is actually her biological sister, and that Rick disses her mother. If you follow this lineage through to its logical conclusion, the rap family tree starts to get disturbingly messy.
2. "Push It"
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As anyone who's been misguided enough to attempt this at a hip-hop karaoke night knows, "Push It" features all of only about three actual lines of rapping. But it's still a watermark of economical sassiness, and after Salt-N-Pepa producer Hurby Luv Bug commands that the song is strictly to be enjoyed by only "the sexy people," they eventually get to drop the immortal command, "Yo, yo, yo, yo baby, pop/ Yeah, you, come and give me a kiss/ Better make it fast or else I'm gonna get pissed." It soon became a school disco classic.
1. "I'll Take Your Man"
Forget the honorable ideal of rapping for sport, here Salt and Pepa spend five gloriously bitchy minutes informing the standard imaginary rap foe that, if she crosses them, they'll simply snatch up her beau. And that's even if her man "can't afford to buy a Fila suit." Pepa's high-point is barbing that her back-stabbing frenemy is "searching for love in a pit of Bacardi," while Salt promises, "From me to you, your sex life's through/ If you get another lover I'll take him too." Brilliantly, the song also includes the phrase "knob-slobbing."