Whatta Man original
The Whatta Man original, paving the way for female empowerment
In the 1960s American R&B musician, songwriter, radio personality and Atlantic Records producer Dave Crawford wrote a song in celebration of good men. Twenty-five years later, hip-hop trio Salt-N-Pepa and En Vogue brought out a version of “Whatta Man” that reached the top ten in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the US. The accompanying video clip, which won three MTV music video awards, featured cameos by Tupac Shakur and Treach from Naughty by Nature. It’s ironic that a song representing such a strong female point of view was written by a man. It’s also interesting that the singer of the 1968 “Whatta Man” original, Linda Lyndell, was white.
Linda Lyndell (born Linda Rowland in 1946) is a soul singer from Gainesville, Florida. As a child, she sung in both black and white gospel churches before joining R&B groups as a teenager. Lyndell supported musicians like James Brown and Ike and Tina Turner. Otis Redding recommended her to Stax Records, who signed her.
Stax Records’ imprint Volt recorded the “Whatta Man” original (“What a Man”) in Memphis, Tennessee. The song was essentially improvised by Lyndell, writer and producer Dave Crawford, and the Stax studio musicians.
The “Whatta Man” original came out as a single in 1968, with “I Don’t Know” on the B-side. The song reached number 50 on the Billboard R&B chart that same year.
Racism in the 60s
Lyndell’s recording came to the attention of racist organisation the Ku Klux Klan. They threatened the singer for associating with black musicians and consequently she pretty much withdrew from the music industry for 25 years. That is such a pity. The world lost many years with a great performer who helped break race barriers.
Opening the Stax Museum with the Whatta Man original
Following the success of Salt-N-Pepa’s “Whatta Man” in 1993, Lyndell resumed performing. In 2003, at the opening of the Stax Museum, she performed “What a Man” live for the first time ever.
The “Whatta Man” original is a fantastic soul tune and Lyndell has a wonderful, powerful voice.
Salt-N-Pepa recording with En Vogue
In 1993, Salt-N-Pepa and En Vogue sampled and reinterpreted “Whatta Man” as a hip-hop song. Producer Hurby “Luv Bug” Azor wrote the rap lyrics. Since Salt-N-Pepa rapped rather than sang, so En Vogue were brought in to sing the refrain, “Whatta man, whatta man, whatta mighty good man.”
Salt-N-Pepa recorded “Whatta Man” for En Vogue’s EP Runaway Love, with En Vogue credited as the featured group. “Whatta Man” also appeared on Salt-n-Pepa’s fourth album, 1993’s Very Necessary.
Music video with glimpses of Tupac
To promote the “Whatta Man” single, a music video, directed by Matthew Rolston, came out in January 1994. Salt-N-Pepa got to select their fantasy men to appear with them in the video. Pepa chose her boyfriend at the time, Treach (Anthony Criss) from Naughty by Nature. Salt chose Tupac Shakur. He nearly missed the shoot because he shot two off-duty cops the previous day (charges against him were later dropped). Shakur’s face isn’t shown in full view, although you can catch glimpses of his thug life tattoo.
The “Whatta Man” music video won three 1994 MTV Video Music Awards for Best Dance Video, Best R&B Video and Best Choreography.
Setting Salt-N-Pepa up for success
“Whatta Man” came out as the second single from Very Necessary. A major international hit in 1994, the song established Salt-N-Pepa as one of the biggest acts of the 90s. In the US, “Whatta Man” peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and went platinum. It got nominated for a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group and the American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Single.
Fierce, ruling rap divas dip into their fine Very Necessary album and pull out this wickedly funky hip-hop jam. Loose and oh-so-appealing harmonies by En Vogue provide a kickin’ framework for clever, lip-lickin’ rhymes that melt into the track’s butt-shaggin’ beats. Destined to be an out-of-the-box smasheroo, single further benefits from Danny D’s well-conceived remixes.”Larry Flick, Billboard
“Whatta Man” ranked number 23 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of the 1990s. Off the back of this success, in 1995 Salt-N-Pepa became the first female hip-hop artists to win a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for their hit “None of Your Business”.
Salt-N-Pepa’s “Whatta Man” uses the same chord progressions and chorus as Lyndell’s “Whatta Man” original. Their song is a brilliant combination of 60s soul and 90s rap.
Read about more 90s hits and their unknown originals here.