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September 21, 2007
Let's Talk About Salt-N-Pepa (The Celebreality Interview, Part 1)


"It was all a dream! I used to read Word Up! magazine! Salt-N-Pepa and Heavy D up in the limousine," go the immortal first lines of the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy." But if you're old enough to remember Word Up! in its heyday, you don't need Biggie's words to remind you that the image of Salt-N-Pepa alone could represent an entire genre of music. And if you don't know, now you now: Salt-N-Pepa are living icons. The duo's spicy brand of sass helped bring hip-hop to the mainstream in the '80s, and their sense of humor, tangling flows, brazen independence and unmistakable consciousness kept it there into the '90s. They persevered in a genre that was and is disproportionately male-dominated, not despite their femininity but because of it. They weren't just the first female rappers to show the world that women could be a force in hip-hop, they were the best.

I got to spend some time with Cheryl "Salt" James Wray and Sandy "Pepa" Denton at Salt's house on New York's Long Island last week, as they shot promos for their upcoming reality show, The Salt-N-Pepa Show, which premieres Oct. 15 on VH1. While Cheryl's house teamed with family members laughing, talking and eating, Salt-N-Pepa did their thing as veterans whose years in the entertainment industry date back over 20 years. They are nothing if not seasoned.

If you saw the preview for The Salt-N-Pepa Show that we posted a few weeks ago, you know that the fact they're in the same room together (and often these days!) is a big deal. After years of estrangement and changing attitudes (for one thing, Cheryl intensified her spirituality), they've finally reunited. For me, it was an even bigger deal: I grew up loving these women and getting the chance to talk to them was an unbelievable opportunity. It was all a dream, indeed. Toward the end of their busy day, Cheryl, Sandy and I gathered around Cheryl's dining room table to talk about their show, their music, hip-hop and so much more. Part 1 of our exclusive interview with Salt-N-Pepa starts after the jump...

It's awesome to see you guys back together. How does it feel?

Salt: It feels good. It feels different. It's a reality because it's a learning experience this time around for both of us. I'm learning as I'm going, for the better. It's good. New team, we're in charge.

I found this quote from 1995 that I thought was prophetic. Salt told Mary Wilson in Interview: "There's going to come a point in my life where I'm probably not going to want to make records anymore." Salt, when did you start to realize that the music business wasn't for you?

Salt: I don't know when it started. I just got really, really tired and depressed. I had issues. I had self-esteem issues. I was severely bulimic and it was getting more and more out of control as the stress mounted, as the pace of being a superstar got more hectic. It got sour between [Pepa and I] because of other things. Miscommunication. We felt like we couldn't express ourselves to each other. Other people got in the mix. There's so many people in your life: managers, lawyers, record-company people. "You gotta do this. You gotta do that." It just caught up with me. Since I was 18, Salt-N-Pepa just took off. It wasn't a gradual thing. So this was a build up of many things as well as normalcy. I just wanted some normalcy. If I could put it in one statement, it would be that I felt like I had no control over my life. And that's not a good feeling.

Pep, could you relate to any of this? You were both in the situation together...

Pepa: It's funny because we were both in the situation, but I felt totally opposite. I felt that, yes, we were in it since we were 18 and that's all I knew. All the things that came with it were expected and worth fixing. It is what it is on my end. My issues and all the things I was going through with Salt-N-Pepa, my relationship with Salt was my escape. She's running from it, I'm running to it. But now I'm starting to understand [Salt's position], and I didn't before. But I love [working on the show]. I'm an entertainer and what I want to do is entertain. Even with this, I don't want to tour forever and I don't want to make music forever. I want to do behind-the-scenes things, but from the strength of what I've accomplished with Salt-N-Pepa, everyone is taking it do different levels. That's what it's about right now: growing and having an empire. But the root is Salt-N-Pepa.

I'm just trying to get a picture of when it all went sour. Would you say that 1997's Brand New (Salt-N-Pepa's final studio album) was the beginning of the end? I know that you had label problems with that album.

Salt: Brand New was a very, very difficult time for everybody. We were breaking up with Hurby ["Luv Bug" Azor, the group's longtime producer], we were breaking up with management. We were switching record labels. Everything mounted up at once. It was a lot of confusion. For me, it brought everything that I was feeling to a head. There was an opportunity that came up after that that was an out for me. And I took it. I wasn't obligated to any label and I was like, "I'm out."

When the label (Red Ant) folded, that was your out?

Salt: There was a clause in the contract that was a miracle to me. The heavens parted and it was like, oh my God, I can get out of this with this little clause right here.

And I'm assuming that it was the opposite for you, Pep. This must have been cataclysmic.

Pepa: Yes. To me, we were getting out and changing management, but I was like, "Who's gonna be ours now? New team!" Brand New, for me, meant optimism. A new beginning for us. When the out came with me in mind, too, it was a shock.

But you didn't officially disband until 2002, right?

Pepa: Yeah, we promoted. It was lingering a little. There were a couple of videos.

So you went through all that and then the friendship went downhill, too. Was that like going through a breakup?

Pepa: Heck yeah. I was shocked.

Salt: I still wanted to be friends, but...

Pepa: I was mad.

Salt: She was bitter.

Pepa: (Laughs) I'm still...not mad. But this is, to me, therapy. I'm trying to work through it. Because I held a lot in.

Salt: She's still a little mad.

Pepa: (Laughs) I'm nervous. Whenever I see things that are OK, it makes me scared. We're just starting, so I still have this nervous feeling.

Salt: That's the thing with being in a group. It's very difficult. What if somebody wants to change their life? What if somebody wants to do something else? There's this huge obligation that you feel to the other person that is not fair on you when you want to do something else. I would be afraid now to say, "OK, we did a reality show. That's good. I'm done." Because then I'll be back in the hate zone.

Pepa: Some people go into their group thinking, "This is it. This is the group." I admire some groups that are going through hell, but they do what they gotta do. Because you don't think that. Some people don't fathom the thought that, "We're breaking up." Now, even though you get a little nervous, you capitalize. I will do whatever I can do now, because I put all my eggs in that. I had that one vision. She says she always knew it wasn't forever, but I didn't think that was possible.

On the show, there's an odd-couple dynamic: Salt is conservative and Pepa is sexy. Was that always the way it was?

Salt: Yes.

Pepa: Definitely. We've always been sexy together, but I'm sure Salt would feel a little...she was always sexy, but I never thought twice (laughs).

Salt: It was a stage persona to me. It was really her personality. And see, that's another thing: for me, being in Salt-N-Pepa a lot of the time meant doing what works in order to be successful. I lived as Salt on stage and I lived as Cheryl off stage. It was always a challenge to me. I'd battle with the things I'd say and the things I'd do on stage, but once again, you feel like you have no control over your life. When you're a celebrity, you don't just belong to yourself. I belong to you. I belong to Sandy. I belong to the record company. And so you do what you have to do to keep that machine rolling. And then creatively, after a while it becomes a challenge. If you listen to Brand New, what I was talking about was Kirk Franklin, "Clock Is Ticking," about abuse with women. These were the things on my mind that I wanted to express more than the stuff I said when I was 20.

You surprised me, Salt, because you say you had some problems with your old songs on the show's episode, but even when you guys did talk about sex, there was always a strong sense of morality. So I wonder if you honestly look back on your stuff and say, "I wish I hadn't done that"?

Salt: This is the thing that's not expressed in the reality show, because we have a limited amount of time to tell our story. My thing with the songs that we did is not that I wish I could go back and not have done those songs. Those songs were done at a time in my life where that was what I was expressing from the person I was then. Now, as a Christian, as a mom, as a wife, that's not what I want to say. And so when I get on stage to perform certain songs, it does not feel that it works with what I'm thinking, where I am spiritually and what I have on my mind. No matter what anybody thinks about it, whether they think I'm crazy or over-doing it or I'm stupid or what, in my head, it's just not what I want to say. I have a totally new song that I want to sing right now. It's a me thing. But it's not that I'm ashamed of Salt-N-Pepa. I love Salt-N-Pepa.

I thought at first that maybe you had a problem with secular music in general.

Salt: Not at all. There's nothing in the Bible that says music is evil. I don't have a problem with secular music. As long as it is balanced.

Pepa: And that's what we're trying to figure out. That balance. You have your Mary J. [Blige], who's changed. She's got these new inspirational songs that she does, but people are definitely gonna want to hear "Real Love," and she knows that. But then, it's like, here's a message, too. We're exploring different ways to come to a comfort zone, if that's possible. That's where we are.

Salt: This is a process for me. This is a journey and a process. I don't have all the answers. We're figuring it out together.

A lot of time is spent on the show talking about Cheryl's spirituality. I wonder where you are with religion, Sandy.

Pepa: I definitely believe in God. I have a different...love. I will go to church, but I'll go out the night before, have my drinks and whatever. I [got freaky with] a banana on The Surreal Life, but I went to church the next week! I handle it a little different, I don't care about what people think. I'm gonna have to deal with that at the end of the day. I deal with me, because you don't know what He's thinking. And he deals with me.

Salt: And for me, that's fine. I don't have a problem with that. That's my pet peeve, to be perceived that way. God gives us all a choice to live. This is my choice and I don't have a problem with your choice. Just don't have a problem with my choice. But creatively, the challenge is making her choice and my choice into one choice. And that's the show.

Check back next week for Part 2 of our interview, in which Salt-N-Pepa talk about the current state of women in hip-hop, motherhood and the question that's on everyone's mind: where in the world is Spinderella?


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Excellent interview! Very thoughtful... can't wait for the next part...


Rich, I'm SOOOO so jealous of you. And that interview WAS excellent. Insightful and everything. I'm really interested in part 2!


This is the exchange i've been waiting for years to happen. I can't wait for part 2 of this interview and cannot wait for this show to air next month!!

Billy J

Wonder what Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown are going to have to say 20 years after the fact. LOL

Tomica S Morales

I am so excited about anything they do. I love Salt n Pepa. Your interview was awesome. I cant wait to see the show. I am just elated!


Good interview, Pepa it appears you have really kept it real. Im glad you can express yourself,be yourself and not give a damm what others think, that will take you a very long way, just be yourself

Marcelle Smith Madison

I am glad to hear from the wonderful artists again in my liftime. They don't know how much they inspired this teenager from Miami, Fl who watched them in concert he very first hip-hop concert with Heavy D. I will follow your series and know that I am your number one fan. You guys are truly and inspiration spiritually. Love the interview Keep up the good work.


Salt I love you! Salt has always been one of my favorite female MC's especially after her solo on A Salt With A Deadly Pepa "Lets Get Paid" I have been watching the new show and she is still big sis even now. Keep ya head on girl and you still have fans use them wisely! Peace!


I LOVE SALT N PEPA, tru story. I learnd alot of things growing up listening to thier music, they guided my life as did QUEEN LATIFAH and MC LYTE. This is why I was more than a little troubled when I saw Ms. SANDY with her new nose! At first I was like NO!! What kind of wool is this chick drapped in? That aint PEPA...this is some wanna be...stepping in for her until she gets back from some trap set by this new envaider. Meanwhile I'm getting ready for the dynamic duo's comback to the lime light where they belong LONG LIVE HIP!! HOP!


I grew up listening to Salt & Pepa, loved them w/ a passion. This is for Pepa what did u do honey? you were so beautiful not that your not now w/ the new nose, but girl your old nose was better looking than the new one, sorry.

Angela Salamai (Pronounced

I have been a fan of Salt-n-Pepa since my early childhood years and I am glad to call all three ladies, living legends. However, I must admit that I am truly disappointed by Pepa's decision to have plastic surgery on her nose. While I realize that this was probably a personal decision, I would like certain factors to be taken into consideration. For instance, how is a generation aged 22 to 40 (who have listened to and admired Salt-n-Pepa for 20 years) supposed find a sense of inspiration among role models who themselves have obvious self esteem issues while they have taught us the complete opposite, which is to uphold the "she-thang" in all of us and to "express and respect" ourselves? Again, no personal afront to the other two ladies, but sistaz, PLEASE, if you can, sit Pepa down and shut her down before the corporate big wigs turn Pepa into a hip hop joke like so many others before her. (I WON'T NAME NO NAMES; HELL, YA'LL KNOW WHO I'M TALKIN' 'BOUT)


i saw the preview show on entertainment on demand and i loved it peppa is my girl salt needs to loosin up and stop debating every idea pep has...

Diva daya

I love that Pepa had some work done. She looks more like a woman now. SHe was looking real tired before. I say. if you got money why not improve on what need to be improved.


I love SNP, period. I look at their lives, and I am sure they will get past this. Look at "Stomp" and "Hold On" from R U Ready. Please Sandy & Cheryl, "groove wit me." I love you! Without you there would be no Latifah. C'mon step up and prove them wrong.

Speech and Truth

This show and interview is going to be a masterpiece! I love that like Lauryn Hill, Salt of "Salt'n'Pepa" are really talking about how as an artist you evolve, or should-rather evolve as you grow. It would be very sad to see them attempting to 'BE' who they were twenty something years ago. However, to see them honor the 'force' of talent and inspiration they created in the cypher of the history of Hip-hop itself is what will keep me watch the show and checking back to the website for more details. I The show does address a concern many folks had back in the day when hip hop itself was young, "what happens to the MATURING rapper?" I mean LL Cool J and Will Smith all from that era of rap had longevity on the "Rapper's Stage" but they evolved into actors, and I hope that as Salt figures things through she and Pepa will find the balance.They are in a different catagory from "Lil Mama" now! But with out S-n-P, as pioneers, she would never have been able to put "lip gloss be poppin'!" to a beat. Right?

Hope Gordon

I know that it is hard to maintain a lifelong friendship because me and my best friends are having problems. I would like to think that somewhere down the road I hope that we can become friends again because I would hate to think that our friendship could not support change because that is what life is all about and I need someone to share those changes with and what better person than a friend that has taught me to see the lighter side of myself.I hope that the two of you can fix your problems because then that will give me hope.
P.S. It's getting a little low.


I think that the interview was good because it gave salt N Pepa the opportunity to speak their minds. Watching both girls on the TV set showed viewers that they grown to be beautiful women. However, I understand where Salt is coming from because she is ready to settle down and raise her family; and she do not want to be part of the wild life unlike Pepa. I think that Pepa need to slow down and get a reality check because it is better to maintain that icon image by being mature women. Pepa want to be that video chick by wanting to be sexy and freaky all the time. I think that Pepa need to find her self, and start looking at other dreams she wants to accomplish.




You can't do anything but respect Salts opinion and new beliefs. I think the show makes her come off like a goodie two shoes though and that was irritating. At the same time I really like Pepa's statement about Mary J. Blige and her growth in the industry. I think that Salt & Pepa can get there too if everyone involved wants to.

At the same time I don't think that Pep needs to alter herself to fit Salts mode. This interview made her sound like she was not taking full responsibility for her actions in the past. Saying that "you didn't have control over your life" sounds sort of like you are trying to place the blame on others instead of accepting responsibility for yourself and your actions.

Salt said that with God we have choices, and thats correct but the reality is you have always had a choice but you didn't decide to excerise them until now. Gods plan for your life is just that, his plan.

My words to Salt would be live for now, today because the past is the past. Be present and honest, because thats the only way that true healing, forgiving and loving can occur.

To Pep, honestly the under tones of this interview do not suggest that Salt is interested in remaining as a member of the group.

Best wishes to you both.


yes indeed, where is spin? dee dee, anyway.. but don't forget about the original spin..

I want there to be a proper greatest hits cd..

lisa hanna

i respect salt,but i totally understand what pepa when thru,when you create a empire be very careful of who you create it with ,because people need different thing.and at the high of every thing they drop you like hot potato it hurts.


I heard about the new reality show from the Tyra show. Congrats!!!! I was eladed that there could be a union. However, I was disappointed to hear Salt indicate that she was not all the way back with "Salt and Pepa" but there is a show and potenially no tour or upcoming CDs.

Reading the articles and seeing the clip I am torn between the two of you and your thoughts, reality, new lives and the breakup. Personally I respect Salt's decision to find God. I have been in your shoes and embrace God in my life, my heart and soul. I do see Pepa's point of view basically because I feel Salt was selfish with her decision. She could have let Pepa in on the drama in her life. I feel your pain Salt and I feel Pepa's pain too. I am confident if you both want it you two can work through this bump in the road.

I admired you two as a duo and individually. My favorite song was "I'll take your man". I loved the song but it was not my persona unless I was actually singing the song. Think about that Salt. The words don't make you! I understand you want your life to represent who you are... but hopefully who you are is versatile too. Don't be so rigid. It appears you are trying too hard to fit a mold when you need to understand his plan for you. My sister is a minister and I have learned so much from her. She is the same person she has always been even after finding her spirtually. You appear ever changing which is why it appears you are still struggling although you took a break.

Instrestingly enough, the conversation you two were having about "Push it"...I never knew it was a sexual song. I thought it was about dancing really hard. It was strange knowing that both of you did an execllent job of performing the song but both had two different version of what it means. Release your demons.

Back in the day I was hurt when I found out that you did not write many of your songs. You did not write "I'll take your man". So in reality your both brought the song to life but you did not birth it. I hope you two can develop a since of rebirth and prove it to yourselves. I look forward to your new adventure together and new music. I now rarely listen to rap but I welcome the new music you will create.

Salt and Pepa I encourage you to actually write your songs. We loved you then and we will love the new duo as well.

I will be watching the new show. I am excited about your reunion and thanks for giving me an insight to your lives then and now. I love you both!


Hi, Miss Salt-n-Pepa. I am a long time huge fan of Salt-n-Pepa. I was so excited when I found out that Salt-n-Pepa has their own TV show. This is a major move for Salt-n-Pepa. I was a freshman at Mumford High School in Detroit, MI. When I started listening to Salt-n-Pepa. Salt-n-Pepa was the hottest female rappers period they were on the same level as Run-DMC. I loved Hot,Cool& Vicious that is my all time favorite album. Salt-n-Pepa is the definition of hip hop.
I think you two are so beautiful and talented.
I always bought all of your albums, tapes, photos and Cd's. I was very uspet when Salt-n-Pepa grew apart. You two were best friends, role models, mothers, and strong independent women. I wanted to dress like Salt-n-Pepa, look like Salt-n-Pepa and be like Salt-n-Pepa. Now,I'm 36 and a Cancer. I think you two should resolve your differences and love each other. I think it's beautiful that salt has God in her life. Salt should not judge Pepa because Pepa isn't ready to change. I like Pepa's personality she is the hot&spicy one and Salt is the cool one. Everyone has their own personality that is what makes us an individual. I have changed my life for the better but, I didn't judge my friends because they were not ready to change I just prayed on it.And if and when she is ready to change she will. I pray that Salt-n-Pepa can resolve their differences and love each other. I would like to see Salt-n-Pepa work with Timberland, Pharell,The Roots or Dr.Dre and record another album. Do you all have a web site? I pray that I could meet S-n-P one day.

**Speaking from the heart of a true Salt-n-Pepa fan.

Tyrone Testamark

I, am TRULY Salt'n'Pepa's biggest fan since the 'Supernature' days. I was trumendously heartbroken when they first broke up. However, I eventually put my feellings aside to understand that their lives go beyond Hip-Hop and satisfying the fans, and I respect Cheryl's (Salt's) feellings about the matter. Again, however, Cheryl please do NOT forget (not sayin' you did)that your role in SALT'N'PEPA gave you the fiancial lifestyle you live today, no disrespect towards your husband's contributions. Overall, I just wanna thank you both-Cheryl and Sandy for all y'all done in Hip-Hop since day one, and if y'all never make another S'N'P record, I will ALWAYS have love for y'all as y'all #1 fan. much love and respect to you both.

Tyrone Testamark

Okay, I got more to say. First off, Cheryl (Salt), I really believe I understand that you're into the church, and you've moved closer to GOD and such, but baby girl- you should NEVER look at your career from S'N'P as a negative experince. I do understand that you've moved on from that, and that's not what you wanna do anymore, I respect that. Sandy (Pepa) although you would like to keep Salt'N'Pepa alive, just as much as I would like y'all to, but you've got to realize that nothin' lasts forever, and although Cheryl's way of leavin' the DUO was a bit crabby, you have to anderstand and respect that she's moved on from that, I don't like it either, but she has that right to not wanna be a performer anymore... My advise to you is find another line of work. People sometimes change as they get older, and if Cheryle doesn't wanna do Salt'N'Pepa no more, like it or not, respect that. No offense but she doesn't REALLY owe it to you to continue on with S'N'P. Believe me Pep', I, would love to see y'all do the damn thang until y'all are too old to move, but it is what it is... Like it or not, YOU have to find another source of income as she did. That part of your life is pretty much over. The best thing you could do now is except it and move on. Believe me when I say, it hurts me too, but that's the way it is...

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