Throughout the 80’s & 90’s, Salt n Pepa broke down barriers & opened doors for the likes of Lil’ Kim, TLC, Missy Elliott & Nicki Minaj. They were the first female rappers to go platinum, & first to win a Grammy. They were also one of the first concerts I attended as a kid (when they played the Sydney Entertainment Centre back in the early 90’s), so I jumped at the chance to check out their 2011 Australian Tour.
The crowd at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre were all grown, but giddy at the thought of being transported back to a time when SnP’s songs of safe sex were the first of their kind. Some were even dressed as the duo circa 1988 - complete with doorknocker earrings, bandanas & gold chains. There was also a noticeable gay percentage – which seemed large for a Hip Hop show. However, it’s not hard to understand the appeal of the group’s sassy image, & their songs of empowerment & self-respect.
A DJ warmed everyone up with urban hits from back in the day. Montell Jordan’s ‘This Is How We Do It’ & Boyz II Men’s ‘Motownphilly had folks on their feet. Zhane’s ‘Hey Mr. DJ’ got a huge response - perhaps I wasn’t the only one who instantly recalled Zhane were the support act on SnP’s tour back in the 90’s.
‘Australia’s Got Talent’ finalist, Timomatic was opening act this time around, but perhaps an odd choice. While he definitely has crazy dance & vocal chops, his key demographic would presumably be the crowd’s children, who were all at home with a sitter. While his MJ tribute grabbed their attention, his patter between songs was cringe-worthy. Like a bad cliché (think Chris Lilley’s S.Mouse), at times his accent was thicker than the headliner’s. Perhaps the biggest misfire was when he performed a sexy rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ because he guessed that somebody must be having a birthday up in here.
Show time arrived & the crowd went into overdrive as the ladies hit the stage. They opened with ‘Do You Want Me’, before tearing through a bunch of hits – ‘Expression’, ‘Shake Your Thang’, ‘R U Ready’, ‘Twist & Shout’… When Pepa introduced ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ the roof nearly lifted off the theatre. Likewise, with ‘Shoop’ - which saw the audience spitting back every word with all their might!
While lesser-known material was included, unfortunately some major hits were skipped over – ‘Heaven Or Hell’, ‘The Brick Track vs. Gitty Up’, ‘Ain’t Nothin’ But A She Thing’… Most notably absent was their Grammy winning smash, ‘None Of Your Business’. However, it’s understood that Salt no longer feels comfortable with some of the group’s racier lyrics due to her religious beliefs.
The duo were accompanied by two male dancers & a male DJ – no, not Spinderella who battled with the duo on their VH1 reality show a few years back, over feelings that she was being treated as a hired hand rather than a full-fledged member of the group. Spinderella’s absence was felt - especially as she had solo verses on many of the group’s biggest hits, & was referenced throughout the night. (Spinderella cut it up one time!)
A huge highlight of the show saw Salt bring her husband out on stage, as she informed the crowd that they had been together for 20 years & tonight was his birthday. (Wow, maybe Timomatic was onto something!) She dedicated ‘Whatta Man’ & danced with him throughout her verse. Pepa halted the track midway through, as she quipped, “Stop the music! That’s very nice… married for 20 years… See the problem is, I ain’t married!” She scanned the crowd looking for two “bruthas” she could bring up to cure her loneliness. Pepa invited two well-groomed men onstage, but once the DJ dropped the track back in, it became apparent that these two were better described as “sistas!” To the crowd’s delight, the fellas snapped, shimmied & dropped to their knees while the duo rapped about the virtues of a real man. Fabulous! As the boys left the stage, Pepa joked “& that’s why I’m single!”
Another surprise cameo came when the girls brought Mel B on from side stage, just as their DJ dropped Spice Girls ‘Wannabe’. Salt n Pepa were guest performers on X Factor just days earlier, & the girls’ adoration for each other was evident. Mel gave the crowd a huge “Girl Power!” as it became clear that Salt n Pepa’s influence far transcended Hip Hop.
Their message of positivity has not faded over a 25-year career. “The real you is way better than the fake somebody else,” Salt told an adoring audience. “If you don’t do anything else in this world, make sure you express yourself.” They spoke of their genuine love of Australia, having been here most recently to play last year’s Good Vibrations festival. Closing with their timeless hit ‘Push It”, the ladies left everyone on a massive high, & with the knowledge that their voices are as relevant as ever.
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Visit their official site www.saltnpepa.net