Song 281: Salt-n-Pepa, “Shoop” (1993)

Salt N Pepa - Very Necessary - Front

Here I go, here I go, here I go again, girls, what’s my weakness?

I think every one of us knows the answer to that question.

Is this the most charming song of the ’90s? It’s quite possible. It’s also, like Missy Elliott’s “Work It,” important because of its gender role reversal. The song straight-up objectifies men, and the video doubles down on that objectification, from the attractive dudes playing frisbee on the beach to the ones hanging out on the corner. This song is about men, plain and simple.

It’s also about how much Salt-n-Pepa like having sex with hot guys. As far as I can tell, this was pretty much uncharted musical territory in 1993, especially for women in hip-hop (which itself was, of course, a rarity). Sure, Madonna was all about sex, but for someone so controversial, she wasn’t very explicit. She didn’t, for example, sing lines like “You’re a shotgun – bang! What’s up with that thang? I wanna know, how does it hang?” Or how about “Brother, wanna thank your mother for a butt like that.” No subtlety here.

Nor does there need to be. I love the directness of this song, and I love the way it (and its video) turns the tables without proclaiming that it’s doing so. Like “Work It,” “Shoop” is what it is, doing its thing as if there’s nothing unnatural about it. And now that I think about it, this wasn’t entirely uncharted territory; Salt-N-Pepa themselves been here before—there was “Push It,” of course, and “Let’s Talk About Sex.” But the former was all innuendo, and the latter had a safe- and consensual-sex angle; “Shoop” was, and still is, in an entirely different league.

Of course, it’s possible that Salt-n-Pepa weren’t rapping about sex at all: the ever-reliable Urban Dictionary notes that “shoop” has a variety of meanings. (Definition 5 is my favorite.)

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