Last weekend, Lifetime brought the story of one of the best female rap groups in history to the small screen. Epic hip hop artists Salt-N-Pepa —Cheryl “Salt” James, Sandra “Pepa” Denton and Deidra DJ Spinderella” Roper –executive produced their spicy three hour, biography film, which can be streamed through the cable network’s VoD platform.
The film follows the badass rappers from their modest start in Queens, New York to being mega superstars, becoming the first female rap act to go platinum, and receiving several Grammy Awards for songs like Let’s Talk About Sex, What a Man, Shoop and Push It.
At a recent press conference the hip hop act talked about what the movie is about, the origin of their name, and gave advice to young rappers who are trying to follow in their footsteps.
“I think that it’s about telling the story of women in the music industry, the ups and downs, the challenges we’ve overcome,” Salt/James noted. “And the challenges that we faced constantly as females in a male-dominated field of music. But mostly, it’s a story of success, of pushing through regardless of the circumstance and still maintaining the status of the iconic brand.”
Salt is humbled at the thought of their immense success.
“With Salt-N-Pepa, it was just destiny for us,” she acknowledged. “The way our story unfolded from the beginning until now, and to be here 36 years later, celebrated not only with the biopic but getting our star on the Walk of Fame, and the Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award, it’s the career that people dream of having from beginning to end.”
She continued: “Who would’ve thought? I always knew we were gonna make it as artists, but I never in my wildest dreams thought that at this particular time in my life I would still be doing press junkets and tours and basically crying for a break sometimes. It’s an insane blessing.”
Thrilled to See Biopic Onscreen
“For me, I mean it’s just amazing!” she exclaimed. “To have a biopic of your life story, especially for us, being in such a male-dominated field … There were so many barriers we broke down. We were trailblazers. Yes, I do toot my horn, as it was a journey with ups and downs, and to be able to talk about and celebrate it … A lot of times with biopics, unfortunately, the artist isn’t here to celebrate. I remember watching ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It,’ the Tina Turner story, and I was like, ‘Man, if I do a movie, I want it to be just like that! I’m gonna end on stage doing a show and doing my thing.’”
One fascinating point the ladies made was that if they didn’t change their legendary rap name, they might never have achieved all the fame and fortune. It was at the prodding of James’ then-boyfriend and producer Hurby “Luv Bug” Azor that they became Salt-N-Pepa.
“Our original name was Super Nature,” Denton explained. Wh”en we had our first single, The Showstopper, in the verse we go ‘we go together like salt and pepper.’ All our fans were like ‘yo, play that salt and pepper song.’ They kind of remembered that line from that song. So Hurby was like ‘you’re Salt, you’re Pepa.’ And it wouldn’t have been so big if we kept the name Super Nature, hands down. Salt-N-Pepa was the way to go.”
Added James: “I think symbolically it represents two women that are polar opposites but are best friends. There’s the salt and the pepper in every friendship, so I think the audience was able to relate to that in a very personal way. It represented us, and our personalities, in an amazing way. So, I don’t think it would have been anything near what we are if it wasn’t that name.”
When asked about advice for young performers, James stressed the importance of standing out from the crowd.
“Longevity takes commitment, it takes originality. Salt-N-Pepa brought something different to the table, we were unique and had our own sound…Don’t be a cookie cutter copy of anyone else to be original and you’ll be able to last in this business.”
Susan L. Hornik is an active contributor to Los Angeles Times, Grammy.com, Shondaland.com, InStyle, SFGate, LA Weekly, Irvine Weekly, MensHealth.com, AARP.org, Los Angeles Blade, Washington Blade, Industrym.com.com, Videoage, Alo, Discover Hollywood