As part of Salt-N-Pepa, Sandy Denton struck a blow for women rappers everywhere. The famed trio’s string of hits, including “Push It” and “Let’s Talk About Sex,” opened lots of doors and lots of minds. Since her pioneering heyday of the ’80s, Pep’s gone on to participate in VH1’s Surreal Life, be celebrated on Hip Hop Honors, and show us the subtlties of the reunion with her old partner on the Salt-N-Pepa Show. Of course, she lived her life, too – it’s had its ups and downs.
The new Let’s Talk About Pep, a tell-all autobiography, is filled with the particulars of those ups and downs. Her rough childhood, teen stardom, falling out with Salt, battles with domestic abuse , premonitions of death, promise of celibacy, and lots more. You can purchase the book right here.
We grabbed one of the book’s more dramatic chapters to illustrate how candid the whole thing is. Here’s a section of “The Nightmare.”
“In my dream, I was standing at the top of this huge staircase. This staircase was like something out of Dynasty—with its white, wooden railings that seemed to go on forever. It was the kind of staircase you find in a mansion, splitting two wings. The staircase was so huge that in this dream I couldn’t stand in the middle and grab the railings—they seemed like a mile apart. In my dream, I’m at the top of the stairs and I’m in a fight. I’m on the wrong end of this fight, with my back to this huge staircase. I’m being beaten and I’m not really fighting back because I’m over this staircase—this long, hard, wooden staircase—and if I fall, that’s it. So I’m holding on to this person, trying to hold on to my life. But in my dream, I lose this struggle and end up at the bottom of this staircase broken. I don’t know whether I’m dead or paralyzed, but I’m not moving.
I was barely speaking to Brad. I was recuperating from that last incident with the IUD. I spoke to him long enough to tell him about the no sex for two months. But why was I even entertaining being with him again after that? I was not in my right mind. I was not in a good place…
During this time, I got an invitation to hang out with a friend and her fiancé in California. Her fiancé was actor Omar Epps, and they had a beautiful house in the hills and a child together. Since I didn’t get to go to Jamaica, once I was well enough to fly I decided to go chill with them. I had planned to stay a week and
would leave the kids with my mom. It felt so good to be around friends. I told her everything that had happened, and she was happy to give me a place to get away from it all. We had so much fun those first few days catching up, laughing, sitting by the pool, playing cards, and talking. I couldn’t drink because I was still on antibiotics, but I had just as much fun without drinking.
That fun, however, came to a halt when Brad showed up. He supposedly flew out to California after me to win me back. During the week I was there, Omar was telling me that I should give old boy another chance. And with his coming all the way to California, it showed that he really cared about me and our
“Just hear him out,” Omar said. “You don’t have to take him back, but he did come all this way.”
I guess men stick together on things like this. I respected Omar. He made me a little open to hearing what Brad had to say, because this was my marriage and I was taught that you don’t just bail out—no matter how bad it is. My parents stayed married, no matter what. That’s what I was raised knowing. I didn’t have a manual. And while I didn’t like the way I was being treated, I couldn’t really remember ever being in a relationship where it was good, where I was treated well. Maybe I thought this was normal.
Brad put his stuff in my room. He didn’t really have much to say. It was weird, very weird. He was cordial, but still distant. He just flew in and was like “I’m here,” acting as if nothing had happened, making small talk. As the evening wore on, I noticed he was drinking a lot. Everyone (but me) was drinking. But he was drinking a lot of hard liquor. And he kept drinking. Around one in the morning, I was ready to turn in. So I went to bed. He stayed up and drank some more. When he did come up, he slid in the bed next to me and started feeling on me. I had to remind him about the two month rule, doctor’s orders. It had been less than a month since
“Can we just lie here and cuddle and just be here together?” I said.
He seemed to be okay with it, and I fell asleep in his arms. The next thing I knew, tap, tap, tap. I opened my eyes and he’s standing over me, looking at me with the same look he had had in his eyes the morning he took it from me. I knew it was trouble.
“Bitch, I want a divorce!” he said.
Oh, brother! I was looking at the door to see if I could make it out. But he was standing in front of it, over the bed. This was it. This was going to be his “one more time.” I could see in his eyes that he was going for it. He knew he was going to do something and he didn’t care. The last time he beat me, I told him, “I don’t
care if it’s five or ten years from now, you got only one more time and I’m gone for good!”
I have this thing about me where I set dates. I set goals for myself and stick by them. I may seem to be all over the place, but I am really focused when I am set on doing something. When I was smoking cigarettes for a small period in my life, I remember setting a date when I was going to quit. I said that by December 28, I would not smoke another cigarette. I didn’t cut back or anything. I was smoking away right up through December 27, and on December 28 that was it. No more.
So Brad had one more time. He might as well make it good because this was the last time.
I sat up in the bed. “Okay,” I said calmly, trying not to make things escalate. But it was too late. He grabbed my ring, which I had put on the nightstand before I went to bed, and threw it at me with all his might. It was like a five-carat diamond and it hit me right in the middle of my forehead. It was on!
It was about five thirty in the morning. The sun wasn’t quite up. It was still dark out, but you could see the light squeezing through. I was dressed in this flimsy nightie—a camisole with matching silky shorts. I wasn’t dressed to fight, and the door to the room seemed to be in another building. So I sat there and
didn’t react to his hitting me with the ring. I started to ease up in the bed, preparing myself for the next blow.
“Where’re you going, bitch?!”
He grabbed me and yanked me out of the bed. It was a queensize bed with a wrought-iron headboard and footboard. I thought it was pretty until Brad started slamming me into it. He picked me up by my throat, choking me, and he slammed me into the footboard. I felt as if my back had cracked open on the hard metal.
“F*ck you, bitch!” he said, grabbing me up again by my throat to throw me over the footboard. “You want out of this shit! You ain’t trying to fix it.”
He was choking me so hard, I thought I was going to black out. But I didn’t. I started to get angry. Here I was catching a beating because I didn’t really have much to say to him after he raped me. And then I couldn’t have sex with him after the rape because he’d caused an infection that almost killed me. And he was beating me for that? Could I be mad for a little bit after all of that? Could I think for a minute before I just ran back and pretended everything was okay?
I always went back after a couple of days or a couple of weeks. This time, I might have needed a couple of months. I needed to make sure. I was going to take my time. I needed him to know I was serious and that he couldn’t just do what he wanted anymore. Could I just take my time with this?
“Bitch, you ain’t trying to work on this shit,” he was now yelling, and throwing me into everything. I guess Omar and Kalima couldn’t hear all of the noise because their bedroom was on the other side of this mansion. I was praying they would hear something and come and rescue me. My prayers were answered after he threw me into the glass credenza they had.
While they were making their way across from the other side, he banged my head into the wall several times and continued to choke me. I was scratching at his hands, trying to pull him off because I thought he would really choke me to death.
“Yeah, fight back, bitch! I want you to fight back!”
He was slapping me and choking me. Slapping me as hard as he could. It seemed to be going on forever. At one point, I had almost made it to the door, but he pulled me back by my hair and slammed me into the bed railing again. He was going crazy, as if he knew that this would be the last time he would have the
chance to do this, so he was going for it. At one point, I looked up at him and gave him a smirk. I didn’t say a word, but he knew what that smirk meant. Get it all out now because I’m done!
I didn’t know if I was going to make it out alive. But with each blow, I knew that this was it—I was never going back. This had to be one of the longest ass-whippings in history. But finally, the door swung open. Omar ran in and Kalima was right behind him, screaming and hollering for him to get off me.
Omar was trying to be real calm and cool. “Come on, man. Stop.”
Kalima was calling Brad every name in the book and making him angrier. But he let go long enough for me to make a run for it. I hit the door and headed to the stairs. He ran after me, though, and caught me right at the top of the staircase. My back was to the stairs—these huge, Dynasty stairs. And he had a handful of my hair with one hand and was choking me with the other one. I was practically dangling over these stairs.
This was my dream, my nightmare, and I was living it out.”