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RECORD RACK

* * * * Great Balls of Fire * * * Good Vibrations * * Maybe Baby * Running on Empty : : FUNK FEMMES

September 20, 1987|CONNIE JOHNSON

* * 1/2 "MADAME X." Madame X. Atlantic. * * * "HOT, COOL & VICIOUS." Salt-N-Pepa. Next Plateau. Madame X comes across like a caricature of female sexuality. That the trio does it in such a tongue-in-chic way is the group's saving grace. The album, produced by former Klymaxx member Bernadette Cooper, opens on the quirky soundscape "Just That Kind of Girl," which rhythmically recalls George Clinton, Sly Stone and the '70s black rock chanteuse Betty Davis.

Only a bucket of cold water would cool down hyper-lewd workouts like "I Want Your Body" and "Flirt." But the funk femmes redeem themselves on a neo-classical "Cherries in the Snow" and "Marry Me (If You Really Love Me)," in which their diamond-ring blues are prompted by an Oprah Winfrey segment on live-in arrangements.

The New York-based rap trio Salt-N-Pepa is not worried about anything as conventional as matrimony. These former Sears employees are too busy making good on their threat to become the female Run-D.M.C. This eight-track collection includes the fiendishly blunt "I'll Take Your Man"--as classic a rap cut as Run-D.M.C.'s "King of Rock" in terms of sheer wit, nerve and delivery. "We're perfect from head to toe," they brag to their adversary. "It's not speculation, your man said so."

Weaving fractured bits of DeBarge's "I Like It" and Kyu Sakamoto's "Sukiyaki" into "Showstopper," the group manages to hit on a wholly original sound. From reggae-fied rap ("It's All Right") to arrogant smart-mouth rap ("I Desire," "My Mike Sounds Nice"), nothing this group does sounds toned-down. Or, as they put it on "Beauty and the Beat": "She can cut it up like a wild animal / Slice it and dice it like a cannibal."

When it comes to rap's brutal beat and message, Salt-N-Pepa is merciless.

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