Salt-N-Pepa on ASCAP 'Women Behind the Music' Salute: 'We Did This Damn Thing'

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Salt-N-Pepa backstage at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill on July 16, 2015, in New York City.  

Pioneering hip-hop act also talks new music, filming its cooking show pilot & "Push It" workout line.

It doesn’t seem possible, but pioneering hip-hop act Salt-N-Pepa will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year. Getting a jumpstart on the proceedings is the American Society of Compers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). The organization will honor Cheryl “Salt” James and Sandra “Pepa” Denton during its seventh annual Women Behind the Music series Wednesday evening at Subrosa in New York City.

Over the years, the Grammy Award-winning group has churned out such classics as “Push It,” “Expression,” “Let’s Talk About Sex,” “Shoop” and “Whatta Man.” Says Salt, “Time goes by so fast. But we’re learning to embrace that we’ve been in the business and lasted this long. We’re blessed to still be here, relevant and loved.” She and Pepa reunited with bandmate Dee Dee “DJ Spinderella” Roper in 2007 after breaking up in 2002.

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Appearing on Tuesday’s (Oct. 27) Halloween-themed episode of Bounce TV’s comedy series Family Time, Salt and Pepa stole a few minutes of downtime from a string of dates across Canada to chat about various subjects, including the status of their proposed cooking show -- and the possibility of a new album.

The secret behind the act’s long-running career:

Salt: We were friends before the music. That has a lot to do with it. And there’s a combustible energy that we have. We always say there’s a salt and a pepper in every friendship. Pep is the hot, wild, edgy one; I’m more conservative. She pulls me to the edge, and I pull her back from the edge. The chemistry between us is just undeniable.

Pepa: Women come up to us all the time and give us the most amazing compliments like “Salt-N-Pepa was the soundtrack of my life.” They remind us that we meant so much to them. Sometimes artists don’t really grasp that. But when you talk to fans, you get in touch with your legacy. Fans make you understand it was more than music to them. It was a movement, a voice they felt they didn’t have that we expressed for them.

The one thing they want people to remember about Salt-N-Pepa:

Pepa: That we pioneered and did this damn thing for women and music. Period. It can be done. Even in such a male-dominated world, when the odds are still against you, it can be done.

Salt: Ditto that and also two more words: Female empowerment.

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Rappers Salt-N-Pepa and their DJ Spinderella pose for a portrait in 1988.

Ongoing lack of females in front of and behind the scenes in hip-hop:

Pepa: We’re still so baffled. There was a time when we had a nice little run: Eve, Lil’ Kim, Queen Latifah, Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill, Remy Ma, Da Brat -- it goes on. But what I noticed is that a lot of talented females in hip-hop came out of a male camp.

Salt: Pep and I always discuss, Why aren’t there more women? But it’s true: Women are usually adopted and brought into the fold by a male camp. That’s just the lay of the land. If there isn’t a male stamp on somebody, basically the world -- record companies, the establishment -- are not convinced. It’s sad but a reality. Pep and I feel that talent, perseverance, hard work and believing in what you do will always make the difference no matter what anyone thinks. That’s the passion I felt: It was do this or die. I had no plan B.

Update on proposed cooking show and other future projects:

Pepa: Our GEICO commercial won a Clio, and we have another commercial for Kia running in Australia that uses “Push It,” and they just renewed that contract. We also just shot a pilot in Los Angeles for our own cooking show. So we’re waiting to hear back on that.

Salt: As soon as we get to any city, we’re looking for the best food and restaurant with the best ambiance. And that’s what the show is about: following us as we travel and do what we love to do … eat. I’m eating right now. [Laughs] We’ve also found a designer we love for Pep’s brainchild: a Push It line of workout clothing. Rather than just a dance song, “Push It” is a lifestyle. So that’s the concept behind the line. And we’re working on some new music. We’re not going to try to compete with our legacy, but we’re going to play around and see what we can do. We’re just planning to really go hard in 2016 for our 30th anniversary and have our dreams come completely true.