Following the success of last year's Fresh Fest concert tour, rap icons Salt-n-Pepa are making the rounds once again and bringing with them some of the finest names in vintage hip-hop. The Queens, New York, duo gained notoriety in the mid-'80s with its debut album, Hot, Cool, & Vicious, and reigned as the top female emcees in the game well into the '90s. After a nasty split — and a reconciliation on reality TV — Salt, Pep and Spin have returned to the stage and have been regaining momentum ever since. We spoke with Sandra "Pepa" Denton about the group's long and storied journey in the music business.
B-Sides: When Salt-n-Pepa started out back in 1986, did you imagine that you'd be playing arena shows 25 years later?
Sandra "Pepa" Denton: Back then, the infamous question was, "Will hip-hop even last?" At the time, I was like, "OK, we're doing shows, we're winning Grammys — we've made our mark." So, with music evolving the way it has, for us to know we're still relevant is pretty amazing. It feels really good.
What are the biggest changes you've seen during your time in the industry?
The '80s and '90s were just a fun time. I think that's why people love the old school — it was so much fun. It was all about the rhymes; now, it's about perfume and clothing lines. [Laughs] That's a good thing, though — I think it's great that the industry has grown the way it has. The downside would be all the great artists we've lost, like Pac and Biggie.
What kind of response are you getting from the tour so far?
The response has been really good so far. People are coming out with their gold-rope chains and Kangols on — it's almost like an indoor block party. It reminds me of back in the day, when everybody would come to the park, and the DJ would hook his turntables up to the light post. The people are showing up, and everyone's having fun. We take a lot of pride in our shows, and we try to make sure everybody leaves like, "Damn, I had a good time."
A few years have passed since your much-publicized reunion with Cheryl "Salt" Wray. Initially, finding middle ground seemed to be difficult for the two of you. Do you feel like that issue has been resolved?
Oh, definitely. There was some tension at first, but after all these years, we're closer now than we ever were before. We're enjoying the road again, we're in the lab working on more music and more television — we are in a great place right now. It's all about communication. Whenever there's a problem, we talk about it and try to reach a happy medium.
Was it a challenge to get to this point in your relationship, or did things just fall into place?
After such a long time, it was a little difficult, because I viewed [Salt] a certain way, and she thought about me a certain way. When we did the Salt-n-Pepa show, that did a lot for our relationship. That's when we got to hash out everything and really get to know who we were dealing with — even though we were friends way before we formed Salt-n-Pepa.
You mentioned that you and Salt are back in the studio. What do you have coming down the pipeline?
Well, we've put a couple songs out, one called "Big Girls" and one called "She's Killing Me." Everybody's asking for new music, so we're trying to bust some out — new music and television.
Would you care to elaborate on the television project?
Well... [pauses] Not just yet, but you'll hear from us soon.
This time around, would you prefer to stay independent with your music or go the major-label route again?
It's all about the Internet now. You don't have to wait for a record company; you can promote yourself. You've got Soulja Boy and Justin [Bieber]; so many people are being discovered that way now. It's definitely a good route for any artist to take.
Lastly, you had your own dating show a while back. I have to ask on behalf of the fellas: Are you still single?
I'm currently still single. [Laughs] As my girl Trina would say, I'm back on the prowl.