Salt-N-Pepa were the leading female emcees of their time and have significantly impacted hip-hop culture since their emergence in the 1980s. Comprised of Cheryl ‘Salt’ James and Sandra ‘Pepa’ Denton, the duo first gained recognition for their 1984 R’n’B track ‘The Showstopper.’ Since then, the pair have ascended to legendary status. However, before forming their formidable musical alliance, James and Denton were just close friends from College.
Both born and raised in Queens, neither female was interested in making music, but Hurby ‘Luv Bug’ Azor (James’ then-boyfriend) urged them to record a cover of ‘The Show’ by Doug E Fresh. Begrudgingly obliging, the pair did so. Following its creation, Azor passed the recording on to Marly Marl, who (impressed by the cover) began playing it on his mainstream radio show.
With Marly Marl of the legendary Juice Crew keeping their track in rotation, ‘The Showstopper’ created minor ripples but nonetheless saw the duo reach number 46 on the US Billboard R’n’B chart. Catching a glimpse of potential success within music, Azor, James, and Denton began formulating a possible album. As radio listeners continued to request ‘The Showstopper’ in 1985, Next Plateau Records approached the duo with an album deal.
Taking a year to write and record a studio album in 1986, the group released their debut project Hot, Cool & Vicious, which, to this day, signifies the first rap body of work by a female collective to be certified platinum by the RIAA. From here, the group accelerated at lightning speed to the top of the charts, where they stayed with hits such as ‘Push It’ and ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ ramping up their iconic status. Following Hot, Cool & Vicious, the ensemble released A Salt with a Deadly Pepa in 1988, Blacks’ Magic in 1990 and Very Necessary in 1993. However, the latter contained one of their biggest hits, the classic ‘Shoop’.
‘Shoop’ is a highly sexual track and was one of the first sexually evocative songs released by a female hip-hop act. With lyrics such as “Lick him like a lollipop should be licked” and “I wanna know how does it hang?” it would appear that James and Denton wrote the lines. However, strangely Ike Turner has a writing credit on the song. This isn’t because Turner wrote the racy rhymes but because the instrumental samples The Ikettes hit ‘I’m Blue (The Gong Gong Song)’, which Turner wrote. The group also shot a music video for the single shot at Coney Island, depicting a flirtatious day at the beach. In a 1994 interview with New York magazine, Denton revealed that at first, Azor disliked the track, disclosing, “We [had to] put our foot down a lot more with Hurby. He was shooting ‘Shoop’ down! He said it wasn’t going to go gold. I wrote it! I wrote it! He kind of fought us because it wasn’t one of his songs, I guess.”
Luckily for the collective, it debuted at number four on the Billboard 100 and did get certified gold by the RIAA in 1994. You can hear ‘Shoop’ as well as The Ikettes hit ‘I’m Blue (The Gong Gong Song)’ in the videos below.