You know life
Is all about expression
You only live once, and you’re not coming back
So express yourself, yeah…
Salt-N-Pepa exhibited “Girl Power” years before the Spice Girls hit the music scene. “Expression” off the Blacks’ Magic album is my favorite Salt-N-Pepa track. It was the first song Salt (Cheryl James) wrote and produced herself — and it happened to go Platinum. Not a bad debut.
Recently, the group (which also includes Sandra Denton as Pepa and DeeDee Roper as Spinderella) highlighted 15 songs from their over 3 decade long career and told Rolling Stone why they tell the tale of their career. “Expression” was one of them. Of the song, Salt said:
Personally, it was me trying to see if what I witnessed and learned was something I could actually implement. And liberation from being Hurby’s girlfriend. I wanted to start taking over the voice of Salt-N-Pepa more in the studio – more in control of what we wanted to say. And that might have been because of “Twist and Shout.” That might have been a backlash. [Laughs.] I don’t know. I just know I had it in me.
For background, “Twist and Shout” is a cover of the Beatles tune. Hurby Azor, a producer and songwriter who up until that point was very involved in the creative direction of the group, suggested the song. Salt-N-Pepa basically recorded the song under protest, feeling it wasn’t right for them. They hardly ever performed it in the U.S. because of a lackluster response. The response was a little better in Europe, but eventually they’d stop performing it all together.
A factoid about the video is Pepa was pregnant and wasn’t quite feeling her normal, expressive self on set. But what are friends for?
I remember having a hard time doing the video and I remember Salt having a little “pep” talk with me – literally – like, “Pull it together girl, you could do this.” You know, I’m feeling all big and fat and just crazy. I’m usually being sexy or something in the video, and now I know even being pregnant is sexy, but back then, I’m thinking, like, “What?” I didn’t feel it at the moment. … She had the little talk with me, and then something just came over me and I just took charge and I owned it, and I killed the video.