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Salt-N-Pepa

Before we get started, enjoy this video of Patrick Stewart introducing this year’s Famously Hot New Year headliner on Saturday Night Live in 1994:

Yes, Salt-N-Pepa will play as downtown revelers welcome 2020 at the City of Columbia’s beloved New Year’s Eve bash. Captain Picard is right to be excited. The New York-born rap group is an essential hip-hop institution.

Of course, there’s the obvious angle:

“By the late '80s, hip-hop was on its way to becoming a male-dominated art form, which is what made the emergence of Salt-N-Pepa so significant,” Stephen Thomas Erlewine writes in the group’s biography for the music encyclopedia AllMusic. “As the first all-female rap crew (even their DJs were women) of importance, the group broke down a number of doors for women in hip-hop.”

Grabbing Salt-N-Pepa a year after En Vogue (S-N-P’s collaborator on the hit single “Whatta Man”) and four years after a still somewhat unbelievable Columbia appearance from Lauryn Hill, Famously Hot New Year shows an admirable dedication to showcasing male and female voices that have helped shape hip-hop and R&B.

But Salt-N-Pepa is also just an incredibly fun rap duo, attacking famous singles like “Shoop” and “Push It” with infectious irreverence and underrated vocal dexterity. And while it’s true that all of the band’s studio albums came out between 1986 and 1997, it’s maintained a steady concert presence in the 2010s. Indeed, one of the only nits a person could justifiably pick with this Famously Hot booking is that Salt-N-Pepa might be too familiar to Columbia audiences, with their performances at the Colonial Life Arena in 2016 and Township Auditorium in 2011 limiting this announcement’s “You got who!?!” impact.

Regardless, this remains a solid get for the New Year’s shindig, one that reinforces its commitment to diversity, and its savvy embrace of hip-hop nostalgia.

The undercard for this year’s event features one of the state’s very best festival acts — Charleston’s High Divers, who enliven driving, Tom Petty-ish rock with ecstatic modern indie flourishes — as well as a recently established local favorite — Columbia’s Cottontown Soul Society, a party band that’s all about good times, community and the joy of a talented horn section.

The Dec. 31 event in front of the State House is free to attend. More info available at famouslyhotnewyear.com.

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