1000 Albums Project

ALBUM 21

Very Necessary, by Salt N Pepa
Suggested by Alex Hamilton

I was today years old when I found out that both Salt and Pepa are still alive.

I don’t know why I thought otherwise, but I was convinced that either S or P, or maybe even both, had died in a plan or boat accident. No idea why. I do remember the news being rather sombre at the time, even if it was only in my head.

In my defence, it’s been a long while since I’ve thought of these particular rapping condiments. The undisputed First Ladies of Rap, their fresh style and take-no-prisoner lyrics worked wonders in energising what some might say was a fading genre. For the time, they were raw and near the knuckle, and certainly empowering. Without Salt n Pepa blazing a trail, there’d be no Missy Elliott or Lauren Hill, no Nicki Minaj or Cardi B or WAP or Megan Thee Stallion.

They were pioneers. For the time.

Very Necessary, their fourth studio album and one of the best-selling rap albums by a female artist of all time, suffers a fair deal from the “for the time” curse. While it’s not exactly tired, the beats sometimes feel flat, and the rhythms sometimes feel dated. Their lyrical mastery, once so edgy, seems rather tame when judged against the more ladyballs-deep verses from their contemporary counterparts. What was once shocking now feels more cheeky than visceral.

Of the non-obvious songs, there are a couple of honourable mentions. Somebody’s Gettin’ on my Nerves feels like a classic track that never quite made it to classic status, and None Of Your Business is a no-nonsense slap to the chops. The standout tracks, naturally, are the two that had sharp chart success: Whatta Man (with En Vogue) and Shoop.

I was today years old when I found out that Whatta Man was by Salt N Pepa featuring En Vogue, and not by En Vogue featuring Salt n Pepa. As for Shoop, it’s my standout track, but the ladies have Deadpool to thank for that.

For the time, I’d rate Very Necessary as a 7/10… For the time. Today, I’d be inclined to go as high as 6/10, but I really must drop to 5/10 for the addition of the final track, the worthy and peculiar I’ve Got AIDS (PSA). I can respect that Salt N Pepa wanted to highlight this pernicious issue back in the early Nineties, and they are courageous and compassionate to hand over a slot on their album for a spoken duologue by a youth theatre group. It still comes over as the worse sort of teenage educational theatre, like Zammo and Roland singing “Just Say NO!” without the musical overlay.

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