Salt-N-Pepa Say Female MCs Are Dropping The Baton

by Anastasia K Zimitravich

In case you missed it over the holidays, Cookin’ With Salt-N-Pepa is now on the Cooking Channel as of December 17. In an interview with Huff Post LIVE, they plug their long-time-coming cooking show and celebrate their 30th anniversary as alter-ego duo, Salt-N-Pepa, which digresses into a poignant criticism of the hip-hop music industry and whether the “female MC baton” has been dropped.

“Definitely dropped,” says Cheryl James, aka Salt, in response to a question from a long-time fan, who via webcam praises the duo’s influence on her life.

Salt-N-Pepa argue that nowadays female MCs seem to require a male stamp of approval to make it big, priming the example of T.I. and his support for the career of Iggy Azalea. “We didn’t have to do it really, because back then, we didn’t have to do it.”

Up-and-coming MCs like Azealia Banks and Angel Haze win Salt-N-Pepa’s favor, but the duo remarks being baffled by how few others there are amongst the newest generation. “There’s Iggy and then [Nicki Minaj], those are the two that come to mind. When we were coming up we had Latifa, Eve, Lauryn Hill, Lil’ Kim, Foxy, Yo-Yo,Trina, the list goes on.”

“The baton has been dropped.”

“In any area, in business, corporate, doesn’t matter, we’re still fighting for our voice to be heard, for our value, for our worth. That’s just nothing new,” elaborates James. 

And it’s true, it’s not new. Just a little light googling resurfaces a 1987 interview from an obscure British music program where Salt-N-Pepa discuss the beginnings of their musical collaboration. “It just fell into our laps, we were in school, we never thought of doing this before,” says a young, sheepish Salt in mustard tights and tube socks. The interviewer, a woman with a strikingly similar haircut to Billy Idol’s, asks about their first producer, Hurby “Luv Bug” Azor. “He wrote all the music and most of the lyrics. He wrote all the music for us from the first hit to ‘Show Stoppa’, from ‘I’ll Take Your Man’ to the album. Everything was his idea, concept, all that,” states a younger Pepa, aka Sandra Denton, a matter of factly.

“We were never rappers. Sandy was into punk rock. We worked at Sears. We were in college.”

Salt-N-Pepa were the first female MCs to go platinum in hip-hop. They’ve been accused of selling out, but they headlined their own tours, won Grammys, got people to talk about AIDS, and have become hip-hop legends. But they didn’t do it without help. Their familiar producer has been with them every step of the way, but now they don’t seem to be too candid to admit it.

“When a woman is strong and opinionated and assertive, then she’s labeled the B-word. But that with men, it’s the same way, but he’s a boss,” iterates a much older Pepa, during the Huff Post Live interview. To reach a male-equivalent of power, a woman must compromise, she must be both opinionated and assertive, but balanced with the demeanor we expect of a woman. Whatever that means. Hitting the top of any industry requires the same qualities expected of men, but with a sweeter delivery. This commiseration is talked about openly, acknowledged by all and accepted. 

This generation’s female MCs aren’t dropping the baton passed to them by Salt-N-Pepa. They’re firmly holding onto it. Perhaps the female MCs aren’t anywhere to be found because they are unwilling to compromise. Perhaps, through the advent of online audio distribution and social media, they can make art and spread their messages to their target audience without being taken under the wing of T.I. and forced to be something they’re not. Perhaps, nowadays, you simply have to know where to look to find your inspiration.

Image via “Let’s Talk About AIDS”

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