At last, we bring you Part 2 of our exclusive interview with Salt-N-Pepa (here’s Part 1 of our Salt-N-Pepa interview). After the jump, the hip-hop titans talk more about The Salt-N-Pepa Show (their upcoming reality series that debuts Oct. 15 on VH1), women in hip-hop, feminism and the question that’s on everyone’s mind: where on earth is Spinderella?
From what you said previously, it sounds like you’re hinting at something. Are you guys recording again, or are there plans to record again?
Salt: She’s like, “Yes!” and I’m like…we’re taking this one step at a time.
Pepa: I’m makin’ these plans. Look, my family cued it, I’m working on it.
Salt: Right now I’m trying to adjust to being back at work. My son doesn’t even know me as a working woman, my family, my husband, my kids, we’re all trying to just adjust to this, you know?
And how is it? You’re a reality show veteran, Pep, but how is it for you, Salt, dealing with the cameras and production?
Pepa: She’s a nervous wreck, she is adjusting. Some people can’t deal with that at all. I told her that this is nothing compared to The Surreal Life, what I had to really deal with. It was overwhelming. Spinderella came to visit me during filming. It was supposed to be a sleepover. She left she didn’t even stay! She was out.
Well, that brings up the question that’s on everybody’s mind: What is up with Spinderella? Where is she?
Salt: Well she’s coming she’s gonna be on the show. We shot an episode already with her and there might be another one. We’re introducing her gradually but…
Pepa: She lives in L.A. She has her thing, her DJing. She has her own radio show and she DJs all over the country. But we definitely incorporated her. I guess we’re trying to introduce what happened and where we are and the Salt-N-Pepa thing.
Was that always the dynamic? I know she joined after Hot, Cool and Vicious was recorded. Was she, for lack of a better term, a third wheel?
Salt: I wouldn’t call her a third wheel but you’re right when you say this group was already established before she came in. We had “Push It” out and we were already a success and we needed a DJ and we always thought of Spinderella as an addition to something that was already there. We have a whole episode about that where we’re going deep into that whole thing.
Together: People are like, “Where is Spinderella?”
Pepa: And it’s explained.
It seems that no better experts exist on women in hip-hop than you two, so I’d like to pick your brains about something. Something I’ve noticed is that it seems like for a woman to be successful or even noticed in rap today, she either has to have a very hard, sort of thuggish, with maybe even a butch image, or she is incredibly sexualized. Salt-N-Pepa never was either really, you guys were just sort of yourselves. I wonder what you think about that. What do you think about the state of women in hip-hop now, then?
Salt: I think that there is definitely room for more innovation, more originality. I think that goes not just for hip-hop, but for women in music right now, period. Everyone is getting caught up in this momentum of who can be the sexiest and who can be the baddest. And I think that the essence of a person is so much more interesting than what they think everyone wants them to be. I don’t agree that Amy Winehouse shouldn’t go to rehab. If she has a problem, she should go, but I appreciate her music. I appreciate how real she is and what she’s singing about. That is art to me. She is talking about something that is real and so I just respect that and I just feel like there’s more room for just realness.
Pepa: It’s always baffling because there aren’t that many female artists that actually make noise and stay making noise. I wonder too like what is that? Why? It’s dominated by the male rappers and male audience, musicians and I’m like what is that? And you’re right when you point that out it is that extreme. Like is it the pressure of that? “I got music that needs to be heard or I have to be apart of somebody’s camp,” whether it’s G-Unit or the Terror Squad. You know there’s always that women of that group, but they’re not that independent. You know, like Remy Ma. Eve even started out as the first lady of Ruff Riders.
Salt: Respect to Eve.
Do you feel like anybody is carrying out your legacy now?
Pepa: To me, group-wise, there hasn’t been another Salt-N-Pepa. People seem to acknowledge that, which is good. Even Missy [Elliott], she’s a big fan and she’s a good friend. She’s like, “Ain’t nobody can do it like you girls. You could drop off the face of the earth and come back and have a show and everybody will want to watch!”
Speaking of that, ageism is alive and well in hip-hop. You two bowed out of the game, but a lot of people just sort of fade away. What do you think about the lack of career longevity in rap music?
Salt: Well LL kinda…LL kinda did well.
Pepa: Hey, Jay-Z is pushing 40. He didn’t come from the time of the Runs, the Salt-N-Pepas, the LL’s, the Whodinis, but it’s still ageless in that way. He’s still hot, like the kids love him. That is amazing.
Salt: Age is an attitude. Look at Halle Berry. She is 40 years old and she’s having a baby. Look at Brad Pitt. My daughter was saying the other day, “My girlfriend has a crush on a guy he’s 42 years old.” I said, “You like Brad Pitt?” She’s like, “Yeah.” I said, “He’s 43 and he’s still hot!”
You both had kids in the height of your careers, around the release of Blacks’ Magic. Did motherhood change you?
Pepa: Yeah, especially when it came to concerts and shows and stuff, you feel a sense of responsibility. And I can speak for Salt, as well. We started out a little rough around the edges, I mean we were always rough but there was a time I was cursing at my shows, I was a little bit more provocative, a little wilder. Then all these kids started coming to the show more and more and we started seeing these little kids in the front row and I’m like, “Damn!” It just changed gradually, and it’s basically the same having your own kid. For me, I’m still a little rough. I had a hard time with Surreal Life, when I did that scene with the banana. My son is 17, so I had really a hard time, but I am an entertainer. I try to weigh it, but I don’t wanna lose me either, ’cause these things are just for fun. I’m not really that serious. I just do me. I’m a Scorpio I’m just Pep.
Well yeah it seems like it probably goes for a lot of parents but its just different cause there’s a camera on you. You can’t really keep stuff from your kids that happens on a reality show.
Pepa: Exactly! And that what it is. You can’t keep it from him! That’s why with me, it’s about balance. I think we’ve been a really good group for a long time. We’ve always been all about empowering women. That’s what people talk about, especially about this show. People look up to us, they count on us. We’re a voice and they’re like, “I hope you’re not going on doing nothing crazy, ’cause we still love you. We need you. We’re here. We wanna make sure you’re still giving us advice.” To some of them, there’s nobody else.
When you speak of empowering women that what’s so mind blowing to me, you would think that the way society goes is that certain things become more and more acceptable and more and more visible. You guys released pro-woman stuff like “Expression” and “Independent,” Yo-Yo was a self-proclaimed womanist, Queen Latifah did “U.N.I.T.Y.” All of these really political songs were also very popular. You just don’t hear that anymore. I mean real music with a message…
Pepa: That’s why people, they’re crying out to Salt-N-Pepa. People literally come up to us and go, “Please! Help!”
That hasn’t changed with you, right? You’re still very much about lifting up women?
Salt: Absolutely. I have a women’s group that comes to my house once a month. We support each other. I mentor young females. I’m very female-oriented.
How do you feel about the word “feminist?”
Salt: It doesn’t bother me, but I feel like anything taken to an extreme is error. I feel like there is a role for everyone. In a marriage, I don’t think the word feminist works and I’m a married woman. It’s a partnership for me. And so, open my car door, you know? Treat me like a lady all day long!
But I also get the feeling you don’t really take any crap either, though…
Salt: You know what? I don’t. But there is a way you can not take crap without acting crappy. There is a way to get what you need out of every situation, which is a learning process for all of us, in a smooth non-confrontational way. That’s what I’ve learned, accepting a pilot.
Pepa: She pushes my buttons. You see it on the first episode.
Salt: And they have me blowing up, but they never show what she says before I get to that point, so I’m like the ranting raving maniac.
The way it’s set up, Pep’s coming to you so you’re, in a way, calling the shots. Right? Is that safe to say that is the dynamic? You’re the boss?
Pepa: What? What? What?
Salt: She got to do what I say.
So my question is I guess when you meet again for the first time on the first episode, and you’re reluctant, Salt, why did you go at all?
Salt: This girl been asking me for years. I had to hold her back. She is relentless and so it’s like I have to do something with this woman. I just had to, I have to, I feel like I got to a point where I’m like I have no choice. This is never gonna go away.
Salt: Not just obligation for me, I wanted her to be my friend, I do, and this is what I gotta do for her to be my friend.
Pepa: This time around I’m trying to make it easy. It’s about communication, ’cause I didn’t really know what the problem was before. And so now I’m trying to make sure everything is OK. Runs smoother.
Salt: Before the reality show, she came up with a sitcom idea, and I was like, “OK. I can do that without feeling compromising and like I would still be able to have a family life.” Like, that’s a 9 to 5, basically. But when I went to pitch it to an agent, he was like, “Reality is the way to go these days.” At first I was like, “No way!” and then I thought about it and I was like, OK, as long as we’re not working for VH1, but for ourselves. We went and got a production company. So this is our show that we pitched to them and they picked up, as opposed to something they made up. I feel like we’re in control of our image and we’re in control what goes into this show. And me being a control freak, like she calls me on the first episode…I feel like I could do this as long as I didn’t feel like I was at somebody’s mercy. Cause that’s not a good place for me, that’s when I get stressed.
Pepa: What I like about the show is that it’s fun, but we are still dealing with issues that we want to address and points that we want to get across. There is an episode where we show our involvement with AIDS, which is something we’ve been doing for years. This is still a problem, still an issue among women, black women. The numbers are still high and we’re still educating. We still wanna get that in. We don’t want to let our fans down.
Salt: Just like our music, we want our show to be meaningful as well as entertaining.
And just to wrap this up, you say in the show that you went from friends to competitors, is it safe to say that you’ve gone back to friends?
Salt: Yeah absolutely.
Pepa: I just told her I just put up a picture up for the first time in I don’t now how long, of her and I…
Salt: We’ve been working out our stuff. It’s still a work in progress. She was here [at Salt’s house] till, like 3:30, the other morning.
Pepa: I can’t even tell you…
You were up that late, still working stuff out?
Salt: Yeah man. If they can get that, that’s the reality!