Salt-N-Pepa were brazen showstoppers never afraid of inviting controversy with shocking lyrics. “Whatta Man’s” buoyant display of lasciviousness is no exception. However, the raucous rager also serves as a subtle political salute to a forgotten trailblazer that was even more transgressive.
After opening for powerhouses like James Brown and Ike &Tina Turner, Linda Lyndell seemed destined to be the next big act on the soul circuit. Otis Redding, moved by her full-throated range, encouraged her to sign with Stax Records. She recorded two singles in 1968, “Bring Your Love Back to Me” and, the eventually sampled, “What a Man.”
Her promising career came crashing down after mighty, mighty bad men in the Ku Klux Klan led boycotts to stop her sales. The important thing to note was the Linda Lyndell was Caucasian. Hatemongers did not approve of her consorting with majority black audiences. Black crowds had their own reservations over a white woman co-opting black sound. Forced into retirement after her lone record pressing, Lyndell languished in obscurity for 30 years. Once Salt-N-Pepa and En Vogue revitalized her catalog, the city of Memphis invited Lyndell to give her first concert in decades.