Salt-N-Pepa got their start as a group back in 1985, so there’s a lot of ground to cover when their story hits the small screen on Jan. 23 for the Lifetime biopic Salt-N-Pepa. And it wasn’t always easy for Cheryl James (Salt) and Sandra Denton (Pepa) to revisit the past, as they told Billboard in a new interview.
“I’m going to be so honest: It was a difficult process for me because I was not in a good headspace,” James tells Billboard‘s Jordyn Rolling about working on the project, which Salt-N-Pepa executive produced and Mario Van Peebles directed. “It was not a great time. It was also nerve-racking. It was emotional, you know, going over your life story — 30-something years — trying to fit it in a two- to three-hour movie.”
That said, James does believe that “it’s amazing” for the group’s legacy to be shown on the small screen. “There’s so much that people don’t know know about us,” she adds. “We pioneered in a lot of ways.”
Their pioneering spirit is what set them up to be partnered with Jane Walker by Johnnie Walker for the alcohol brand’s new “First Women” campaign. Among their most notable accomplishments: Three No. 1s on Billboard‘s Hot Rap Songs chart, five albums on the Billboard 200, and winning the Grammy for best rap performance by a duo or group in 1995 — which made them the first women in rap to win a Grammy.
On the topic of the Grammys, the duo shared their thoughts on The Weeknd’s recent criticism of the awards as “corrupt” and needing more transparency.
“We actually boycotted the Grammys back in ’89,” Denton says about the year when their hit “Push It” received a nod in the new category of best rap performance. (It also happened to be Salt-N-Pepa’s first Grammy nomination.) However, the ceremony wasn’t going to televise the award, leading Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff to boycott the event. “Everybody was able to walk and accept their awards visually. And then that was like, ‘Why, for our music, why we can’t?’ And we took a stance for that.”
“Kudos to the brave people who, you know, stand up and say what they want,” adds James. “You know, us boycotting the Grammys the first time we got nominated was huge, but we respected Will Smith, who headlined that campaign. And like [Denton] said, it made a difference.”
The upcoming Lifetime biopic will also include the group’s third member, Spinderella (Deidra Roper), who sued the duo in July 2019 over unpaid royalties. So will we ever see the group as a trio again? “You know what? Possible. You know, like, time heals all wounds,” James said. “I think that would be the ultimate, but you never know.”
Watch Salt-N-Pepa’s full interview above for more on the Lifetime biopic, the Grammys, the Jane Walker campaign and other topics.