From Mia X to City Girls: The Impact of "I'll Take Your Man"
By Stereo Williams
In 1986, Salt-N-Pepa recorded a single that would become one of their most indelible tracks.
Sure, "Push It" would become the chart-smashing hit, but it was another early S-N-P classic that epitomized their brash brand of woman-centered Hip-Hop. And it became the ultimate shit-talking anthem for around-the-way-girls everywhere.
"I'll Take Your Man" was Salt-N-Pepa's first official single after their underground hit "The Show Stoppa (Is Stupid Fresh)" and it was a great showcase for Cheryl "Salt" James" and Sandy "Pepa" Denton. The song was penned by their producer/manager, Hurby "Luv Bug" Azor, who was Salt's boyfriend at the time. He'd wanted to established Salt-N-Pepa was a take-no-shit voice a la Roxanne Shante., and after they "answered" Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick's hit "The Show" with their own "Show Stoppa," the follow-up was even more brazen for two relatively unknown girls from Queens.
"That was Hurby, definitely," Pepa told Rolling Stone in 2017.
"He was a great writer. He wrote well for girls [laughs]. I do like performing “I’ll Take Your Man,” because that was a hard song. And that was [a] very bold, in-your-face song. And, you know, I was in the streets. I wasn’t from the streets, but I was in the streets. I had a good family, nice home, you know, I can’t say I grew up with nothing … but I chose to hang in the streets. So for me, that was like, street credibility."
The song may have been penned by Azor, but Salt feels "I'll Take Your Man" Is when Salt-N-Pepa found their voice as a group.
"It was actually more my speed, to tell you the truth," she explained in 2017. "Because, you know [laughs], I was pretty ghetto back then. My kids say I still am, but I think I’m very refined, myself. … By the time it was time to record “I’ll Take Your Man,” I had found my voice, we had found our voice, and was way more confident."
When Mia X got around to "I'll Take Your Man" in 1997, her label No Limit was the hottest thing in southern rap. Mia had been rhyming sense her youh and was greatly inspired by MC Lyte and Salt-N-Pepa.
She wanted to pay homage to the women who'd gotten her into Hip-Hop. On 1997s Mama Drama, she covered "I'll Take Your Man" as tribute to Salt-N-Pepa and re-interpolated MC Lyte's "Paper Thin" for the sisterhood anthem "Mama's Tribute."
"The first time I did “Mama’s Tribute,' I redid 'I’ll Take Your Man,'" Mia recalled in 2018, explaining that she wanted to do songs that are "really all about me showing love to some of my favorite emcees."
Mia was the breakout female star of No Limit and one of the first major-selling women artists in southern Hip-Hop.
She felt like she always had to rep for women in the culture. "Women are everything, we gangstas. Usually, you learn how to defend yourself and be strong because nine times out of ten, it’s your mama telling you that you gotta go outside and hit them back. Don’t take no mess from nobody. You learn how to put your sentences together from your mama."
Mia laid the foundation for so many southern artists who came after her. And a generation after Momma Mia's run, a pair of southern divas once again revisited "I'll Take Your Man."
In 2018, City Girls (JT and Yung Miami) put their own stamp on the classic.
“People like to maintain classiness and carry themselves in a way, so I feel like we’re an alter ego for girls,” Miami said of the duo's image/sound. They hopped on S-N-P's track with their own unapologetic middle-finger raised. Miami would admit that she wasn't crazy about covering the song initially.
"I don't like old school music," she told Genius. "I like hood music. I like trap music." But when she heard JT writing her verse, it inspired her to embrace the song with gusto. "JT was listening to the Salt-N-Pepa version, writing her verse and I was just over there like, 'I'm finna address all the shit they be saying about me. On this muthafuckin' verse. Because I'm tired of these bitches.'"
"Take Yo' Man" would be the featured track from City Girl's debut mixtape Period and helped set the pair on the road to trap game infamy. JT and Miami would become notorious for give-no-fucks raps and controversy, from a prison stint to several social media "cancellations." None of it has stopped or slowed their flow.
It's been 35 years since Salt-N-Pepa made it clear that they'd snatch your boo if you stepped to them wrong, but the song's become a consistent presence in Hip-Hop because it's always a fun "fuck you" for anybody who needs to check their haters.