Legends aren’t just made — they’re created out of blood, sweat and tears. When Cheryl James and Sandra Denton took on the moniker, Salt-N-Pepa, they also took on the mantle of being co-conspirators in the fight for women’s liberation in rap. The venerable hip-hop duo, known for hits like “Push It,” stopped by Blavity News last week to discuss women empowerment, this generation of female rappers and their upcoming tour.
On women’s empowerment in hip-hop
Salt-N-Pepa may have debuted almost 40 years ago, but their influence still stands as strong as it was when they first stomped onto the hip-hop scene solidifying their status as icons. So much so, that the reigning female rapper of today’s era, Megan Thee Stallion, sampled the pair’s 1987 hit “Push It” for her latest single, “Flamin’ Hottie.” Aside from our favorite hot girl sampling the hit record, it also appeared in an ad spot for this year’s Super Bowl.
“I just think it's an honor that each generation continues to honor the generation before, and I think that's very important,” James said. “The interesting thing about ‘Push It’ and the Super Bowl, and Megan doing the song, is this is ‘Push It's’ second Super Bowl commercial debut.”
On the new era of women in hip-hop
When it comes to honoring the greats that came before them, this new iteration of women in hip-hop has no qualms about doing so. This comes as no surprise considering that Salt-N-Pepa has nothing but love for this latest crop of women paving their own lane in this convoluted industry. The New York natives especially have nothing but nice things to say about Megan Thee Stallion, who is leading said generation on a path to sexual liberation much like her predecessors did in their era.
“I embrace what Megan is doing because she represents exactly what Salt-N-Pepa is about, and it is embracing yourself and your worth and knowing who you are,” Denton said. From us being out all the way from the '80s and still relevant to this day, and then having Megan Thee Stallion bridging that gap together, it was a great fit, especially for ‘Push It.’”
According to James, there were some doubts about if the longevity of hip-hop would continue. The question of whether hip-hop would last was asked of the dyad on more than one occasion during their rise to fame.
“‘Will hip-hop last?’” was the question every journalist asked us, and so, here we are, over 30 years later,” James said. “‘Push It’ is in the Super Bowl with Frito-Lay, Megan Thee Stallion, Salt-N-Pepa and Charlie Puth, making its own debut by itself without us.”
On women supporting women in hip-hop
While Salt-N-Pepa may be idolized by the vast majority of the world, there was a time when they were just getting started in the rap game. When it comes to opening doors for the next generation to thrive as they have, this is something that they welcome with open arms, as it’s been done for them when they first started.
“I think about the women that came before Salt-N-Pepa that don't really get a lot of recognition, like Sparky D, Wanda Dee, Sha-Rock and Angie Stone,” James said. “I think that we stood on their shoulders, and they opened doors for us. I feel like that's what Salt-N-Pepa has been doing for the next generation. It's amazing to just still be here and be celebrated still to this day the way we are.”
On their current favorite female rappers
With a multitude of women serving up fierce rhymes and visuals in hip-hop today, it can be hard to pick a favorite. Denton, who listens to a diverse roster of artists, appreciates the fact that there is an abundance of women’s voices in the mix.
“We have Thee Stallion, and then we have Saweetie, we have Kash Doll, and I listen to a variety,” Denton said. “It's a variety out there, but it's good that we're being heard and we're bosses at the same time. I think it's important that these women and their voices, and the platform they have evolved with is awesome.”
On their upcoming tour
For those who’ve been itching to see the dynamic duo back in action, look no further — y(our) wish has been granted. Alongside other prominent, distinguished acts, including En Vogue and New Kids on the Block (NKOTB), the two will headline the 2022 MixTape tour. As for whether or not they’ll be donning some of their iconic looks from the '90s? Of course.
“The '90s was the best era in hip-hop as far as I am concerned. So, we're always gonna bring that '90's vibe. Back in the day, we always felt like we were performing for people,” James said. “Now, it's like, we're just enjoying going back to the '90s together with the audience. So, it's way more fun to perform. It's way more of an experience, and just come in your eight-ball jackets, your spandex, your asymmetrical haircut, your door knocker earrings and it's just gonna be a party.”
For advice to younger artists, James advises them to seek longevity as the payoff will be the gift that keeps on giving.
“My advice to artists is to reach the longevity because for you to still be able to make a coin all these years later off of what you did in the '90s, is a testament to, not only us as artists, but to the fans who've been so dedicated to us for years,” James said.
Salt-N-Pepa’s tour kicks off on May 10.