Before they were the trailblazing rap icons Salt-N-Pepa, Cheryl "Salt" James and Sandra "Pepa" Denton were first-year college students in Queens, N.Y., where they met in 1985. They both worked at Sears with comedians Martin Lawrence and Kid 'n Play, who also had yet to reach stardom. Salt and Pepa recently sat down with "Nightline" at the Bryant Park Hotel's Cellar Bar in New York City to share with us some of their favorite songs.
"We never went to class," Salt admits. "We played spades," remembers Pepa. Despite all their success, Salt knows how lucky she was to achieve so much without focusing on her schoolwork. "When you're in school, go to school," she says. "Go to class, people."
The first single they ever recorded was called "The Showstopper," and served as an "answer" to Doug E. Fresh's rap single "The Show." They believe it was that recording that really got their feet in the door. Pepa recalls that Doug E. Fresh wasn't keen on "Showstopper." "We didn't make any more records about them," Pepa says. "Just that one."
Salt-N-Pepa hit it big in 1986 with their first album, "Hot, Cool & Vicious." The hit single from the album was "Push It," and it remains one of the group's most well-known songs.
Surprisingly, the "Push It" remix was only added at the very last minute to fill a spot on the B-side. They recorded it in their friend and producer Fresh Gordon's bathroom in Brooklyn, with no clue of the impact it would have. The album eventually went platinum. They were the first female rap group to go gold or platinum.
Their third album, "Blacks' Magic," was released in 1990 and included tracks the women produced themselves. The 10th track of the album was the controversial hit "Let's Talk About Sex," which climbed to No.13 on the Billboard charts that year.
The late Peter Jennings asked Salt-N-Pepa to revise the song for a special that aired in 1992 on ABC News called "Living in the Age of AIDS." The women responded to the request with the song "Let's Talk About AIDS," which drew attention to practicing safe sex.
Some of the most memorable Salt-N-Pepa songs came on their 1993 album, "Very Necessary." The song "Shoop" was their first Top 5 hit and was accompanied by a wildly popular video. "It was a breakout video for Salt-N-Pepa," Salt says.
"That video was so much fun," Pepa says. "People wanna know what it means. 'Shoop' is whatever you want it to mean. You just shooping around. Just shoop!"
Also on "Very Necessary" was the hit single "Whatta Man," which included special guests En Vogue. "You know, a lot of guys don't get their recognition, all the good men out there," Pepa says. "And I'm still looking. 'Cause I know you're out there."
In 2000, fans were shocked to learn that Salt-N-Pepa were breaking up. Salt made the decision to walk away from Pepa and their DJ Spinderella while the group was still enjoying success in the music world. She decided to dedicate her life to her family and to her faith as a committed Christian.
Now, more than 10 years since they put out a new album, and about eight years since they broke up altogether, Salt-N-Pepa have reunited in their VH1 reality show, "The Salt-N-Pepa Show."
Salt-N-Pepa cite an eclectic mix of songs that influenced them over the years that range from Motown classics to hard rock.
They listened to Chaka Kahn's "I Feel for You" when they were first becoming friends.