They were the first all-female rap crew, emerging in the late 1980s with "Show Stopper," an answer to Dougie Fresh's smash hit, "The Show." They weren't just the first, Salt-N-Pepa were pioneers who showed the industry that women were more than just window dressing or a gimmick. Cheryl James (Salt) and Sandy Denton (Pepa), established a standard with their string of hits, including "Push It," "Shake Your Thang," "Shoop," and "Whatta Man," and a social responsibility that paved the way for the likes of TLC, En Vogue, and others.
The duo met while at Queensborough College. Cheryl helped Sandy get a job at Sears & Roebucks in Queens, where they hooked up with Cheryl's boyfriend, Hurby "Luvbug" Azor, who was a budding rap producer. He invited Sandy to join a group he formed with Cheryl and they recorded "Show Stopper." It became an underground hit that led to a recording contract for the newly formed group, Salt-N-Pepa.
Their first album, "Hot, Cool & Vicious," had three hits, including "Push It," which sold more than a million copies and became the first rap song to be nominated for a Grammy.
They added a new deejay, Spinderella (Deidre "Dee Dee" Roper) to the group before recording their second album, "A Salt with a Deadly Pepa." This album featured "Shake Your Thang," with go-go band EU. "Blacks' Magic" was next, featuring "Expression," which was the first single ever produced by Cheryl. It spent eight weeks at the top of the rap charts and went gold. But "Let's Talk About Sex," became their biggest hit and it catapulted them to the forefront of the national discussion about safe sex and AIDS.
News anchor Peter Jennings requested that Salt-N-Pepa rewrite the song to focus on the epidemic and "Let's Talk About Aids," was born. This rewritten version, released in 1992, premiered on the ABC television special in a new light and the "Let's Talk About Aids" video became a PSA distributed by the New York State Department of Health. All the proceeds from both benefited the TJ Martell Foundation for AIDS Research and The National Minority AIDS Council, of which Patti Labelle is the honorary chairperson.
Salt-N-Pepa's fourth album, "Very Necessary," was released in 1993. It was the first under their new deal with London/Polygram. And it was their first release since breaking ties with Hurby Azor. On this album, Salt-N-Pepa flexed their independence and it showed in such memorable hits as "Shoop," and "Whatta Man," in which they teamed with the ladies from En Vogue. But it was "None of Your Business," which captured the 1995 Grammy for Best Rap Performance.
In the midst of their musical success the ladies from Salt-N-Pepa were keeping busy in other arenas, as well. Cheryl and Sandy both appeared in the 1993 movie "Who's The Man." In 1995, Salt-N-Pepa lent their vocal talents to a number of projects—including the song "Freedom," off the "Panther" soundtrack. They also teamed up with Patra, Queen Latifah and TLC on various songs and they did "Ain't Nuthin' But a She Thing," benefit album that included Vanessa Williams, Annie Lennox and Meshell Ndegeocello.
In addition to the music and film projects, Sandy opened a clothing store in Atlanta called "Hollyhood" while Dee Dee realized her dream of opening a salon with her day-spa, "She Thing," in Queens.
Riding high with all of their successes and at the height of their career, it came to an abrupt end when Cheryl called it quits following the release of their last studio album, "Brand New," in 1997. After much soul searching, Cheryl's newfound devotion to her faith in Christ led her away from Salt and away from the secular sounds of Salt-N-Pepa.
It's been ten years and through much angst, heartache, soul-searching, resentment, anger and pain, Salt-N-Pepa have reemerged, capturing some of their old magic in the hit reality show, "The Salt-N-Pepa Show" on VH-1. These ladies have already stolen the hearts and minds of their old fans and are making new fans with their "Laverne & Shirley"-esq show.
Will there be a comeback album to follow? Stay tuned!
Ricky M. L. Walters, known as Slick Rick, was born in London,
England to Jamaican parents and moved with his family to the
Bronx in 1975, where he started winning nearly every MC battle
contest he entered. He and Doug E. Fresh released the single
"The Show and La Di Da Di" in 1985.
In 1988, Slick Rick's debut solo album The
Great Adventures of Slick Rick hit number one on the Billboard R&B/hip-hop charts and
was one of the first hip hop records to go platinum, as did his most recent album, 1999's
The Art of Storytelling.