Review: “Very Necessary” by Salt ‘n’ Pepa (CD, 1993)

Today’s POP RESCUE is the 1993 fourth studio album Very Necessary by rap trio Salt ‘n’ Pepa, but was it an essential, or more necessary evil for your ears? Read on…

Salt 'n' Pepa - Very Necessary (1993) album

This 15 track album opens with Groove Me, its hard bass beats are off-set by Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s vocal harmonies in the chorus. Their softer tone at this point is complimented by Styowlz, who gives the track a more raw male rap vocal. The song itself is pretty simple and feels almost as if it’s a bit before its time.

This is followed by No One Does It Better which is completely different – with some nice warm synthscapes set alongside a nice strong beat. The song is softer than the previous track and also sees some great singing as well as rapping.

Somebody’s Gettin’ On My Nerves opens with some fantastic beats and bassline that feel like they’ve been borrowed from a soul classic (but I don’t think they have), alongside a chorus chant of ‘hey yo! show ’em what you got‘. This is a pretty funky track, and the vocals sit perfectly on top of this sluggish vintage-sounding beat.  ‘Get off my bra strap boy, stop sweating me‘ comes a threat. Somebody really is getting on their nerves! At times it reminds me a little bit of this song, but it actually fits in here.

Next up is their big hit, and second single, Whatta Man. Long before McBusted, and even Girls Aloud and Sugababes collaborations, we had this fantastic collaboration with En Vogue. Sadly, we only got one single out of it, but this is a masterpiece. Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s rapping sits perfectly alongside the rich vocal harmonies of En Vogue. A funky guitar riff leads us through this song that is simply just perfect. This album version even comes with a false ending. The single reached #7 in the UK chart.

None Of Your Business follows, and this track has a great hard beat and some tough rapping – earning its ‘Parental Advisory’ sticker with flying colours. This was the third single, reaching #19 in the UK.

This is followed by Step, which is oozing with what sounds like a continuously playing wonderful beat sample from another vintage track (but if it is, it’s uncredited). The beat, the bassline and the melody in the chorus is very catchy, and the quick-cut ‘step! step!‘ vocal really fits this chilled out song well. I could listen to this on loop forever.

Lead single and hit single Shoop is up next, and whilst it gave them a #29 hit in 1993, it took them to #13 7 months later. Again, we’ve got a wonderful beat vs rap relationship going on here. The song heavily uses sample of, and borrows from, The Ikettes song I’m Blue (The Gong-Gong Song) penned by Ike Turner. This album version features a rap from Big Twan, but it’s the vintage sampled sound that really holds this song together.

Heaven Or Hell opens with some rich vocals that give away to rapping, and just for a moment I thought we were going to get an oddly-placed ballad. Styowlz returns and we’re joined by a great bassline and vinyl scratches. This great sound is thanks to the heavy samples of Think About It by Odell Brown and The Organisers. At times it reminds me a little of some Morcheeba tracks. The track didn’t chart in the UK, instead it narrowly missed the top 20 in Australia and New Zealand.

This is followed by Big Shot, which is a-wash of beats and simple keyboard riffs. The chorus section is by far the best part of this song, with the verses sounding a bit empty. After a while, that riff got on my nerves and the rapping seems to fall apart into a general bit of a bitch-off in the studio.

Sexy Noises Turn Me On is next, and this is a slinky bass-led track. There’s a wonderful heavy, thick bass here, and that fits perfectly alongside the sex theme of the song. It even ends with the spoken-word line in response to a groaning man, ‘you know you gotta wear a condom, right?‘.

Some brass stabs open Somma Time Man, which musically reminds me in a few places of Boom! Shake The Room by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince. The lyrics seemingly flow with great ease here, although there’s a bit of a clunky key change at about 1m 45s, before coming back just after 2mins.

I’m reminded of Jump by Kris Kross from the previous year in the next track Break Of Dawn. This is a great track – the beat and pace is really quite catchy and the rapping is slick. The chorus is really catchy too, leaving me wondering why this track didn’t get a single release.

PSA We Talk is a track given aside to deliver a message about AIDS and safe sex. It’s a powerful piece – not a song, but essentially it’s a relationship break-up as a woman tries to tell her boyfriend that she has HIV and he denies it.

Penultimate track is Shoop (Danny D’s Radio Mix), which is a shorter, sharper edit of the album track version. Otherwise it doesn’t vary a great deal, although the male rap reminds me of William Hague here.

The album closes with Start Me Up, which feels a bit odd being here at the end here when it actually sounds better than the lead track of the album. The rap is light and bright here, pitched against a softer bouncy beat, pianos and some gentle vocal harmonies. Of all the tracks here, this probably sounds the least like Salt ‘n’ Pepa.

Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s lead single ‘Shoop’


Over all, there’s some great tracks here – particularly the singles, and some others like Step and Break Of Dawn. The tracks that really shine tend to showcase samples and a mixture of rap and singing, with the more pure rap songs sounding a bit basic and dated.

Despite the UK success of the singles here, the album stalled at #36. However, the album fared much better in their native US, where it reached #4 and was certified 5x platinum.

Salt ‘n’ Pepa were clearly playing a role in sex education with this album, helping to reach a black American audience with a message of prevention. Even if this is musically not your thing, you’ve got to give them credit for achieving that.

Rated 3 stars! It's a nice album.

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