Artist Profile: Salt-N-Pepa


This iconic hip-hop girl group was formed in 1985 and it consists of Salt or Cheryl James, DJ Spinderella or Deidra Roper, and Pepa or Sandra Denton. Salt-N-Pepa was the girl group who was responsible for the hit album “Hot, Cool & Vicious” which made them the first female all-girl rap group to reach a gold and platinum album status. During their career, Salt-N-Pepa managed to sell over 15 million records worldwide which made them one of the best-selling rap group of all time. In this article, we are going to find out the story behind this girl group and how they managed to earn the title “The First Ladies of Rap and Hip-Hop.”

Formation and Early Years

In 1985, Cheryl James met Sandra Denton while they were both studying nursing at Queensborough Community College. Since then the two became close friends and even co-workers at Sears. While working, the met Hurby “Luv Bug” Azor who was their co-worker and a student at the Center of Media Arts who is taking up record production. Hurby then asked Cheryl and Sandra if they could record a song for him as his class project. The girls agreed and it resulted to the song called “ The Showstoppa” which happens to be an answer record to Doug E Fresh hit song “The Show.” The girls originally called themselves “Super Nature” and the song they recorded with Hurby gained some airplay on a New York City rap radio program. After gaining some attention, the independent Pop Art Records decided to officially release the song with the title “The Show Stoppa (Is Stupid Fresh)” which instantly became a modest R&B hit song. The song managed to reach the 46th spot on the Billboard R&B chart which led to the group signing a record deal with Next Plateau Entertainment. They then used the stage name Salt-N-Pepa as they release their first album called “Hot, Cool & Vicious” in 1986. 


The following year, Salt-N-Pepa decided to recruit Deidra Roper who is a 15-year-old high-school student DJ who was nicknamed “Spinderella.” Salt-N-Pepa entered the music scene at the time when hip-hop was considered to be a fad and when major record labels were hesitant to sign rap and hip-hop artists. That’s why during that time, most hip-hop artists just like Salt-N-Pepa, recorded for independent labels. However, this fact didn’t stop the group from rising up and changing the look of hip-hop. They performed their songs while they wore sexy clothes and they were not afraid of talking about sex and their thoughts about men. This look and approach were new in the hip-hop and music industry that’s why the group’s single “Let’s Talk About Sex” became an instant hit. Their debut album “Hot, Cold & Vicious” was even nominated for a Grammy Award and it managed to reach platinum status in the because it sold over a million copies in the US alone and another 1.4 million copies worldwide. The album made the group the first female hip-hop artist to go platinum.

In 1988, Salt-N-Pepa released their second album called “A Salt with a Deadly Pepa” and it featured the top ten R&B hit song “Shake Your Thang” where the group collaborated with the go-go band E.U. The album managed to produce two more singles which were “Twist and Shout” and “Get Up Everybody (Get Up).” The album reached certified gold status and sold over 600,000 copies in the US alone and 800,000 copies all across the globe. The group’s third album was called “Blacks’ Magic” and it was released in March 1990. This was also the time when Pepa got pregnant and this was the first album to feature Deidra Roper on vocals and DJ’ing. The album featured six hit singles namely “Expression” which became a platinum single, “I Don’t Know”, “Independent”, “Do You Want Me ”, “You Showed Me” and the certified gold single “Let’s Talk About Sex.” Their third album managed to sell over 1.6 million copies worldwide and the group followed up its success by releasing a greatest hits album called “A Blitz of Salt-N-Pepa Hits.”

Salt-N-Pepa released their fourth album called “Very Necessary” on October 1993 under London Records/Polygram Records. The album showcased production and songwriting by Spinderella, Pepa, Salt, and as well as Hurby Azor. it managed to produce several hit songs such as “Shoop” and “Whatta Man” which featured En Vogue, and “None of Your Business.” The album reportedly sold seven million copies worldwide and five million copies in the United States making it a five times platinum album.  it earned the group the reputation of being the first female rap artist to have a multi-platinum selling album. Their single “None of Your Business,” won Salt-N-Pepa a Grammy award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group in 1995. That’s why the group earned another milestone for being the first female rap act to win a Grammy award. 

The group went through some legal process before releasing their next album because they wanted to completely break away from Hurby Azor. Salt-N-Pepa accused him of unfair royalty payments. Without Azor, the group also left Polygram Records and signed with Red Ant Records which offered them a 15 million dollars signing bonus. Salt-N-Pepa recorded their new album without Azor being involved in any part of the album. 

Salt-N-Pepa released their fifth album “Brand New” in 1997. However, Red Ant records filed for bankruptcy afterward which stopped all of the promotion on all its releases and that included Salt-N-Pepa’s new album. The group still continued to tour and promote their album even without the help and marketing of their record label. Despite all these troubles, the album still managed to sell over 500,000 copies in the US and 200,000 copies worldwide. 

Without any albums planned to be produced and release at the time, Salt decided to quit the group in 2001 staring that she is tired of the music industry. The next year, Salt-N-Pepa officially disbanded and Salt announced that she will be releasing a solo album which she never ended up doing so. 

After four years since their disbandment, Salt-N-Pepa reunited for the Hip Hop Honors program and they performed their hit single “Whatta Man” with En Vogue. In 2007, the group had their own show on VH1 entitled “The Salt-N-Pepa Show” which chronicled the events in their lives as they work out their issues and make another album. 

On March 2019, the group will reportedly release a biographical miniseries in the Lifetime Network. The show will highlight their story and how they became one of the most successful female rap groups of all time. 

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