Thursday, July 28, 2011

July 28: Salt 'N Pepa, "Push It"

Artist: Salt 'N Pepa
Song: "Push It"
Album: Hot, Cool, And Vicious
Year: 1986

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Though there is certainly a massive disparity within almost every musical genre, the dominance of men within the world of hip-hop is without question one of the most unbalanced styles one can find.  Furthermore, one can easily argue that female emcees must prove themselves to a much greater extent to receive the same credit as their male counterparts, when in many cases it is the talents of the female that are superior.  The rise of women within the world of hip-hop is very much still a work in progress, and yet when one looks to the early years of the genre, there was virtually no female representation at all.  Then, Salt 'N Pepa arrived, and on many levels, it was their efforts that kicked open the door for all female emcees that have followed.  Not only were they clearly as talented in rhyming as their male peers, but Salt 'N Pepa made a point to discuss many of the same topics, and this strong stance had a ripple effect that touched the "rules" for female performers in many other genres.  Along with their exceptional talents, Salt 'N Pepa stand as one of the first hip-hop acts to crossover into the mainstream sound, and due to a few of their early singles, hip-hop was able to gain a strong foothold in popular culture.  Quickly silencing any doubters, Salt 'N Pepa's 1986 debut album, Hot, Cool, And Vicious, stands today as one of the greatest albums in hip-hop history, and the record's best known single, "Push It" is unquestionably one of the most unforgettable and pivotal recordings of all time.

The worldwide appeal of "Push It" comes through within the opening moments of the song, as the musical backing manages to strike the perfect balance between hip-hop, dance, and pop styles.  This is due to the exceptional talents of DJ Spinderella, and her performance here was not only flawless, but it also proved that females could excel as DJ's just as well as males.  Throughout the song, she keeps the energy and an amazingly high level, adding subtle texture changes that keep the sound from becoming repetitious.  The synthesizer progression that serves as the main riff to "Push It" is without question one of the most instantly recognizable of the era, and it the way that Spinderella combines this with a deep, grooving bassline that makes the song the ideal dance song.  It is also the various percussive sounds that she mixes together which gives "Push It" so much depth, and the fact that there are multiple rhythms working simultaneously gives the song an even wider appeal.  Though the bass and drums are very forward in the mix, they are not so overpowering that they wash out the rest of the music, and this balance further separates "Push It" from other early hip-hop singles.  Even more than twenty years after the song first hit, "Push It" is still easily able to light up clubs and parties across the world, and this proves just what an amazingly unique accomplishment was achieved within the energizing musical arrangement by Spinderella.

Yet, while the music on "Push It" has truly become a part of culture, there is no getting past the powerful dual delivery from Salt and Pepa.  Unquestionably two of the most accomplished emcees in history, the way that they are able to play off of and balance one anothers' sound and energy helps "Push It" to retain its impact over the years.  While their voices do manage to blend perfectly, it is easy to distinguish one from the other, and yet they both prove to be able to deliver with similar energy and power, whether they are speaking slow, or spinning words one on top of another.  Their vocal dexterity can easily be argued as far beyond almost any of their peers, and it is due to this, as well as the catchy sound and content, that made "Push It" a massive hit on both sides of the Atlantic.  Furthermore, when one delves deep into the way in which the lyrics match up with the music, it becomes impossible to deny the link between "Push It" and The Kinks' classic, "You Really Got Me."  Though aside from the lyrics there may not seem but of a connection, the attitude of both songs match up with one another, as well as sharing the same youthful spirit and almost risqué tone.  If there was any question as to the aspirations of Salt 'N Pepa, they were quickly answered with the lines, "...c'mon girls, let's go show the guys that we know, how to become number one in a hot party show..."

The other link of note within "Push It" is the songs' opening vocal, as the "only the sexy people" bit was lifted almost verbatim from The Time's song, "The Bird."  Not only does this happen to fit perfectly with the overall vibe of "Push It," but it is also a bit of a nod to the funkier, dance-based sounds that turned hip-hop into a worldwide success.  The fact that there is so much going on both musically and lyrically throughout "Push It" is perhaps one of the most overlooked realities in history, as most tend to write the song off as "nothing more" than an early hip-hop classic.  Yet it is because all of these different elements are at play within "Push It" that it remains one of the few songs from the so-called "golden age" of hip-hop that is still relevant within modern music.  In many ways, "Push It" has never really faded from the forefront of culture, as it is one of the most consistently sampled and referenced songs, as well as making countless appearances in movies and television shows.  However, it may be due to the massive presence that the song still retains that makes people forget just what a huge moment the success of "Push It" was for female performers, as on many levels, it completely leveled the playing field both in terms of talent, content, and possible success.  Whether it is due to this pioneering effort, or the fact that the song is just as enjoyable and powerful today as it was upon first release, there is simply no other song in history that can compare to Salt 'N Pepa's legendary 1986 single, "Push It."

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