Two new acts exploded after playing the Wembley Stadium
Nelson Mandela tribute gig in 1988. One was singer/songwriter Tracy Chapman
. The other was Salt-N-Pepa. Their 'Push It
' was as refreshing as Chapman's cool 'Fast Car'. That they turned this success into a decade-plus career was a triumph for female Rap
- then otherwise characterised by one-offs like Roxanne Shante.
Though they climbed to the top of the pack, Cheryl James and Sandi Denton began as mere mouthpieces for producer Hurby 'Luv Bug' Azor. When they were Super Nature, they fronted the 'Showstoppa' (1985)- a response to Doug E. Fresh's Hip Hop classic 'The Show'- then transformed into Salt-N-Pepa. With Hurby in charge, they scored with cuts like 'Tramp' an update of Otis Redding's 1967 duelling duet with Carla Thomas. Platinum sales arrived when the remixed 'Push It'- 'Tramp''s B-side- reached the US Top 20, sending Hot, Cool And Vicious (1986) into the chart too.
When DJ Latoya Hanson was replaced by 'Dee Dee' Roper (who inherited her predecessor's pseudonym Spinderella), they scored again with the funky A Salt With A Deadly Pepa (1988) and Black's Magic (1990). Salt challenged Hurby over the band's leadership, advancing her case with 1990's platinum US hit 'Expression'. Confirmation of their maturity arrived when 1991's 'Let's Talk About Sex' replaced 'Push It' as their anthem and highest charting single (hence 1991's A Blitz Of Salt-N-Pepa Hits).
By 1993, they'd abandoned Hurby altogether. This decision was vindicated by Very Necessary- it sold millions, scooped saucy hits like 'Shoop' and 'Whatta Man' (an all-time classic with En Vogue) and gave a feminine sheen to Rap, then overrun by boys with guns. It also made Salt one of Rap's most dextrous, yet underrated, lyricists and producers. They made more oddities (Terrorvision backing a 1995 Top Of The Pops performance of the corrosive 'Ain't None Of Your Business' and their revamping of 'Gee, Officer Krupke' for a 1996 reworking of The Songs Of West Side Story) until the eclectic excellence of Brand New (1997). It included a Sheryl Crow cameo, and was belied by its empty-headed trailer 'RU Ready', but gold sales confirmed S-N-P as the spice girls with staying power.