Salt-N-Pepa: Our Life in 15 Songs

The hip-hop pioneers tell the stories behind "Push It," "Shoop," Whatta Man" and more

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"Push It" (1987)

Salt: We needed a B-side, Hurby, the genius that he is, got us in the studio and we just really started kind of playing around. And Fresh Gordon, to his credit, that he's never officially gotten on the record ... started playing that famous synthesizer line. And the song really built from there. It was in Brooklyn, Fresh Gordon's vocal room was a bathroom, a little tiny bathroom with a microphone. It was very hot and sweaty in there. Pep and I were in there together, and Hurby started dictating some of the lyrics to us. It was very unusual, because when you listen to "Push It" there aren't that many lyrics. It's mostly music-driven, so it was something different than what we were familiar with. So we just went along and trusted him, as we do, but we didn't really care for it. We were like, "I don't get it." We were like, "Ew," but, you know, it's only a B-side, whatever. Me and Pep, I think we're the only two people on the planet that "Push It" is not our favorite Salt-N-Pepa song.

Pepa: There are a few who were thinking we were crossovers, sell-outs or whatever, at the time, so I kind of panicked again when "Push It" was born. … I distinctly was like, "Hurby, you gotta be kidding me about this song. This is so pop. This is crazy." And I remember Cheryl and I looking like, "Do we have to do this?" He was so adamant about it, he was like, "We're doing this song." He didn't even care. It was something in him that just knew.

Salt: It was a DJ [Cameron Paul at San Francisco's KMEL] who turned it over and started playing it. We really owe the success of that record to him. And we were on tour at the time, Hurby called us and said, "Girls, start doing 'Push It'" and we were like, "What?" When we realized "Push It" was a hit, it was because we performed it and the crowd went insane. And we were shocked. We were just busy doing what we do. I think we were on the Fresh Fest tour with the Fat Boys or something. We were so busy, we had no idea that the song had been turned over and we had a hit record. A smash hit record.

Pepa: Salt and I didn't get it at that time. And we still don't get it sometimes. We'd be like, why's this song so big? [Laughs.]

Spinderella: Two weeks into me being brought into the group, we was shootin' this video. … Now mind you I'm 16 years old, just turning 17, not even outta high school. If you ever see that video … I was up there like, "What the hell's goin' on?" [Laughs.]

I didn't have a big gig before Salt-N-Pepa. I was learning the technique. I didn't even know I was being a DJ. I was around my high school boyfriend who was doing parties and I was helping him, and then one day I was on his turntables in his room, and talking to him about somethin' that happened at school, and I'm scratchin'. And he's like, "Lemme hear that again." Then he started to show me the skills of being a DJ. It wasn't something I was trying to be, it was just something that I picked up. I did a couple school parties with my boyfriend. It wasn't like I did clubs, it wasn't like I was trying to be in a group. They found out about me and asked me to audition.

Salt: Back [in the Eighties], you had to submit to the rules of whatever state you were in as far as language during a concert. We were on stage and our tour manager was told if we sang this song, that we would be arrested. And of course, we didn't take that seriously. How are we going to do a concert without singing "Push It?" And when we got off-stage, they were there to arrest us, because they thought we were saying "pussy." [Laughs.] So we had to literally get an album and show them the words, that we were saying "push it," we were not saying the other word.

Pepa: People send me stuff all the time. "Push It" has morphed into so many things people use it for. Mothers having babies – push it! It's so crazy to me sometimes. … It started taking a life of its own. "Push It" led us. We didn't lead "Push It." … We totally lost our street credit after that. [Laughs.] We were no longer down. 

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