20 Years Ago: Salt-N-Pepa Release ‘Very Necessary’
On Oct., 12, 1993, Salt-N-Pepa created the blueprint for female MCs who had a voice and weren’t afraid to show it with their fourth album, ‘Very Necessary.’ The project sold more than 5 million copies in the U.S., and 2 million internationally, becoming one of the most successful albums by a female rap group.
The trio, consisting of Cheryl “Salt” James, Sandra “Pepa” Denton and Deidra “DJ Spinderella” Roper first released ‘Shoop,’ off the album. The track had a hint of old school R&B (the song samples ’50’s group the Sweet Inspirations’ song, ‘I’m Blue,’ specifically the catchy “doo-ba-do” line), and lyrics that were modern and unapologetic. Pepa enters the song aggressively with, “Here I go / Here I go / Here I go again / Girls, what’s my weakness? Men!”
Working with their right-hand man Hurby Azor, who wrote the entire album and served as co-producer, he helped the rappers merge hip-hop with pop into their music. ‘Shoop’ had all the ingredients of a great pop track — catchy chorus, easy to dance to and fun to sing along with, but didn’t shy away from light snare drums and bass that was heavily used in the late ’80’s and early 90’s hip-hop.
Salt-N-Pepa collaborated with R&B’s funky divas En Vogue for another one of their monster hits off the LP, ‘Whatta Man,’ which peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard charts. The sultry video featuring both female acts won three MTV Video Music Awards and was named No. 23 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of the 90’s.
Like ‘Shoop’ and ‘Whatta Man,’ sex was a major theme throughout ‘Very Necessary,’ but Salt-N-Pepa gave an honest perspective on the topic. They had no restraint with their sexuality on ‘Groove Me’ and didn’t conform to double standards when it came to fulfilling sexual needs on ‘None of Your Business.’ The rap set even touched on the hard-hitting topic of AIDS with a heart-breaking PSA about a teenage couple who realized they are infected with the sexual transmitted disease, which served as the album closer.
The Queens-bred MCs always had a message and a purpose with their songs. In the ’90s, hip-hop, a genre heavily dominated by males (and continues to be), Salt-N-Pepa found a platform to not only help other female MCs embrace their sexuality, but encouraged female listeners alike to do the same. This paved the way for ’90’s ladies like Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown and Missy Elliott to later Eve, Nicki Minaj and Azealia Banks.
Tracks like ‘Big Shot’ and ‘Somebody’s Gettin’ on My Nerves’ proved these ladies were more than just females with pretty faces; they were just as aggressive as their male peers in the game and they wouldn’t allow negativity to get in their way. They wanted respect.
“In any career, a woman is going to have to push through the door to be seen or to be heard,” DJ Spinderella told MTV News. “We watched our moves and grew based on ourselves to not looking at others. We did have tension from our male counterparts but it didn’t matter, we were very open to the opportunity to blow this whole hip-hop thing up and we just went straight ahead.”
With the ascendance of gangsta rap becoming a turning point in hip-hop, where lyrics were becoming vastly more centered on violence and misogynist towards women, this didn’t hinder their spunk and sass. Instead they attacked their haters. “Jealous ass rappers broke as hell trying to play me on the mic / So test my respect / Mess around, yeah, bitch, jump up and get beat down,” they rap on ‘Somebody’s Gettin’ on My Nerves.’ These ladies were not the ones to mess with.
Cheryl, Sandra and Deidra went on to win a Grammy for Best Rap Performance in 1995, for the in-your-face single, ‘None of Your Business,’ making them the first female rap group to win the gold gramophone.
Their success didn’t quite match up to ‘Very Necessary’ with their follow-up album, ‘Brand New,’ released in 1997, but that doesn’t shy away from the fact that they served as a powerful voice for women. The messages delivered in ‘Very Necessary’ helped women build character and self-esteem and proved that they didn’t have to be afraid to put their own needs first.
Watch Salt-N-Pepa’s ‘Shoop’
Watch Salt-N-Pepa’s ‘Whatta Man’ Feat. En Vogue
Watch Salt-N-Pepa’s ‘None of Your Business’