In 1986, they were the gals who (gasp!) told America to “Push It.” The dirty ditty may have made some blush, but the song and its sexually empowered lyrics quickly catapulted Cheryl James and Sandra Denton — better known as Salt-N-Pepa, respectively — to their first platinum hit.
For the next 15 years, the duo, along with DJ Spinderella (Deidra Muriel Roper), continued to crank out singles — “Shoop” and “Whatta Man” became instant girls’-night-out classics — that showcased their vocal dexterity and edgy sense of humor.
But by 2002, the ladies were tired of touring and growing frustrated with the business — and each other. They called it quits. An olive branch appeared five years later in an unlikely form: The VH1 reality series “The Salt-N-Pepa Show,” where the women reconnected and worked through past grievances. Things became so friendly, in fact, that the trio decided to get back together and hit the road.
Salt-N-Pepa’s “Legends of Hip Hop” tour brings the ladies to DAR Constitution Hall Saturday — sans Spinderella, who’s stuck in Dallas with another DJ gig. The duo will be joined by other hip-hop pioneers, including Doug E. Fresh and MC Lyte, to bring you back to the days of Hypercolor shirts, backward pants and songs too hot for your middle school dance.
Watching the “Push It” video, your choreography was quite the aerobic workout.
PEPA (Sandra Denton): We try to do the moves in the “Push It” set. We don’t quite do all of ’em.
SALT (Cheryl James): I wouldn’t want to do all of those moves ever again! But we repeat a lot of the dance steps from a lot of the videos, and the crowd always recognizes it. Like, when we do that part when we go backwards and our hands come up? We still do that. I’m always amazed we can still do that — and we’re doing it in heels now.
Is this a test run to see if you’ll do another album?
PEPA: It’s important to hear female rappers. It’s still a male-dominated field, and we still need to be heard. We have the best fans out there, and they want to hear from us. So, yes, we will be going back into the studio.
Will you start brainstorming after the tour?
PEPA: We have a few songs on iTunes. We’re getting our feet wet putting some stuff out there. We have a song called “She’s Killin’ Me” and one called “Big Girls.” We’re definitely going back to the lab.
As a born-again Christian, you’ve expressed concerns with lyrics to songs like “Push It” now. Do you perform those racier songs today?
SALT: It’s the song that everybody loves. It’s a song that made us break, and I would never do a Salt-N-Pepa concert without doing “Push It.” I would get beat down at the end of the concert! The girls would be waiting for me.
So, maybe not as many hip thrusts?
SALT: Yeah, I leave most of the hip thrusting to Pep.
PEPA: I’m still hip thrusting, all the way! All night!
What are you doing lately when you aren’t performing?
SALT: I want my own cooking show. I’m an infamous nester.
Well, you already have the name!
SALT: I know, the name works perfect, right? I’ll do all the cooking, and Pepa will do all the eating and criticizing.
PEPA: I’m going to add my Jamaican touch to it.
SALT: She’ll be adding hot sauce to everything. I’ll be, like, “That’s souffle! You can’t be putting hot sauce in souffle!”
» DAR Constitution Hall, 1776 D St. NW; Sat., 7:30 p.m., $45-$70; 202-628-4780. (Farragut West)
Written by Express contributor Kris Coronado
Photos courtesy of Getty Images and Is It Done Communications