“Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa

“Push It” is one of the most-recognizable songs in the history of rap music and perhaps the best-known, even some 30 years after its initial release, by female artists. And everybody knows what this song is about, right? It’s a song about intimacy, indeed one of the first mainstream tracks to overtly espouse bedroom fun via the relatively-puritan days of the 1980’s, with this popular interpretation of its content undoubtedly contributing to its mass appeal. However, that is not the way Salt-N-Pepa perceive the song. They see it as a dance track. Or as Sandra Denton (Pepa) put it, “it’s about pushing it on the dance floor.” And the lyrics of the song, especially in the first verse, support this idea, as well as the fact that a good portion of the track is instrumental. 

However, the wording in other, latter parts of the songs is seemingly left intentionally ambiguous. So it can be seen as the rappers still keeping on the topic of getting busy on the dance floor. Or, considering the manner in which the word “push it” is repeated throughout the song in addition to some of its other lyrics, the track can be seen as a piece promoting intimacy between couples, as in encouraging an intimate partner to really go hard. And if Salt-N-Pepa’s goal was to have this track perceived in a non-sensual context, the music video – which again was quite-risqué, especially for the 1980s – really didn’t help much.

So overall, we can conclude that “Push It” is a dance song with sensual innuendos, with the latter context dominating the former. And Salt-N-Pepa went with the flow of this understanding since it propelled them to mega-success!

Push It lyrics

A song with a variety of uses

Concerning the dance vs. sex song debate, it should be noted that some fans use it for neither. For instance, even Cheryl James (Salt) acknowledged that “Push It” is “a very popular song in maternity wards”, with a video of a family (and nursing staff) displaying such going viral in 2019.

Group’s Signature Song

Interestingly enough, Salt-N-Pepa had somewhat of a proud, feminist persona and were not overly-pleased with “Push It”. And why? Simply because of its sensual interpretation and lyrical simplicity. However, it has easily become their signature song and one of the most-revered tracks in the history of hip-hop. For instance, it made Rolling Stone’s 2011 list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” (coming in at number 446) as well as “VH1’s 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs” (where it was placed at number 9).

Release Date of “Push It”

“Push It” was originally released by Next Plateau Records and London Records as the B-side to another (semi-)classic Salt-N-Pepa jam, “Tramp”, on 8 March 1987. A DJ named Cameron Paul remixed the track, cutting its length, so that it could be featured on the 7-inch edition of “Tramp” (the prior was 12 inches). It is this particular version which was played on the radio and eventually went on to become even a bigger hit than its A-side, resulting in “Push It” being released as a single itself the following year.

“Push It” was featured on Salt-N-Pepa’s 1986 album Hot, Cool & Vicious. It was not added to its playlist until 1987. It ended up transforming the project into the first platinum-selling album by female rappers in history. “Push It” itself also went Platinum as a single.

In addition to Hot, Cool & Vicious, “Push It” has been featured on a number of compilation albums as well as the soundtrack of the 2010 comedy film Hot Tub Time Machine.           

“Push It’ on the Global Charts

“Push It” peaked at number 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 2 on the UK Singles Chart. It also broke the top 10 in these countries:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Canada
  • Germany
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

Furthermore, it topped the charts in Belgium as well as in the Netherlands.

Most famous line from the lyrics

The line “ah, push it” is the most famous line from this song’s lyrics. This line, which occurs throughout the song (and is chanted by Herbie Luv Bug in the music video), is actually sampled from a 1977 track named “Keep Pushin” by Coal Kitchen.

Did “Push It” win a Grammy?

The first ever Grammy for Best Rap Performance was issued in 1989, and “Push It” was one of the nominees for that award. At the end of the day, that award went to DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s “Parents Just Don’t Understand”.

It should be noted that Salt-N-Pepa (along with LL Cool J and the eventual winners, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince) actually boycotted the Grammys that year. Their reason for doing so was because the presentation for this particular award was strangely not televised.

Who wrote “Push It”?

This classic hit was produced by classic hip hop producer Herby Luv Bug. He also co-wrote it in conjunction with renowned English singer and songwriter Ray Davies. Salt-N-Pepa receives no writing credits on this classic. This is because none of them contributed to its writing.

Iggy Azalea interpolates this classic

Australian rapper Iggy Azalea interpolates “Push It” in her 2019 song titled “Just Wanna“.

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