Salt 'N Pepa Biography

Salt (Cheryl James, 8 March 1964, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA) and Pepa (b. Sandra Denton, 9 November 1969, Kingston, Jamaica, West Indies) grew up in the Queens district of New York City. They became telephone sales girls and envisioned a career in nursing until fellow colleague and part-time producer Hurby ‘Luv Bug’ Azor stepped in. He asked them to rap for his group the Super Lovers (credited on record as Supernature) on the answer record to Doug E. Fresh’s ‘The Show’. They started recording as Salt ‘N’ Pepa (correctly printed as Salt-N-Pepa) which was adapted from the Super Nature recording ‘Showstopper’. At that time they were under Azor’s guidance, and released singles such as ‘I’ll Take Your Man’, ‘It’s My Beat’ and ‘Tramp’, the latter a clever revision of the old Otis Redding / Carla Thomas duet. They also used the female DJ Spinderella aka Dee Dee Roper (b. Deidre Roper, 3 August 1971, New York, USA), backing singers and male erotic dancers to complete their act. Their big break came in 1988 when a reissue of ‘Push It’ reached the UK number 2 spot and was also a US Top 20 hit. Later that year a remake of the Isley Brothers’ ‘Twist And Shout’ also went into the UK Top 5. Between those two they released ‘Shake Your Thang’ (once again, a take on an Isley Brothers track, ‘It’s Your Thing’), which featured the instrumental group EU.

Nominated for the first ever Rap Grammy in 1989, they refused to attend the ceremony when it was discovered that the presentation of that particular bauble would not be televised - withdrawing to show solidarity with hip-hop’s growing status. Their most confrontational release was the 1991 ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ manifesto (UK number 2/US number 13), something of a change of approach after the overtly erotic ‘Push It’. ‘Do You Want Me’ was similarly successful, encouraging the record company to put out A Blitz Of Salt ‘N’ Pepa Hits, a collection of remixes, in their absence. Both Salt and Pepa were otherwise engaged having babies (Pepa in 1990, Salt in 1991; DJ Spinderella would make it a hat trick of single mothers in the group a short time later). In the interim they could content themselves with not only being the first female rap troupe to go gold, but also the most commercially successful of all-time. They subsequently enjoyed an invitation to appear at President Clinton’s inauguration party. In 1994, they returned to the charts with the US Top 5 hit ‘Shoop’ and the highly successful collaboration with En Vogue, ‘Whatta Man’. It was a return to their ‘naughty but nice’ personas, typically suggestive and salacious. After a lengthy absence, during which they contributed tracks to several soundtracks, they returned with Brand New, which saw the trio struggling to assert themselves against the brasher style of the new rap queens Foxy Brown and Lil’ Kim.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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