You Say It's Your Birthday: Pepa

Today is the 36th birthday of Sandy Denton, better known as the Pepa in Salt-n-Pepa.

Salt-n-Pepa were one of the first rap groups to have crossover success on the pop charts

and helped to kick open rap's misoginistic doors for female MCs and DJs. Cheryl "Salt"

James and Denton first met when they worked together at Sears with co-workers Herbie

"Lovebug" Azor and Martin Lawerence. Azor first approached his girlfriend James and

aspiring comedian Lawerence to rap on a project for his audio production class at New

York City's Center for the Media Arts. When it turned out that Lawerence told jokes better

than he rapped, birthday girl Denton was brought in and Salt-n-Pepa were born. The

single Azor cooked up for his class was "The Show Stoppa," a female-centric response to

Doug E. Fresh's "The Show" that was in the spirit of "Roxanne's Revenge," Roxanne

Shante's response to UTFO's "Roxanne Roxanne," When "The Show Stoppa" hit #46 on

the R&B charts, they recruited Pamala Green to be their DJ and hunkered own with Azor to

record their first full length album, 1986's Hot, Cool and Vicious. The album's

singles, "Chick on the Side," "My Mic Sounds Nice," and "Tramp," all did pretty well on

the R&B charts, but it took a re-mix of "Push It," the b-side to "Tramp," to make the girls a

household name.

Hot, Cool and Vicious went platinum on the strength of "Push It," reaching #1 on

both the rap and R&B charts and giving the group a Best Rap Performance Grammy in

1987. The group boycotted the ceremony because the rap portion of the show wasn't

televised. Diedre "Spinderella" Roper replaced Greene behind the wheels of steel right

before recording for 1988's A Salt With A Deadly Pepa began with Azor once

again producing. The album spawned "Shake Your Thing," a collaboration with go-go

band E.U. on a re-worked version of the Isley Brothers' "It's Your Thing." It also

contained an ill-advised cover of "Twist and Shout,' a song which signaled to many fans

that the group had sold out. The group came back hard, though, with 1990's Black's

Magic, an album which saw James and Roper helping out on the production and

spawned the hits "Let's Talk About Sex," "Do You Really Want Me, "Expression," and

"Independent." Azor and James broke up after the album was released but he still helped

out on their follow-up, 1993's Very Necessary. Very Necessary went to

#4 on the pop charts and spawned such huge hits as "Shoop" "None Of Your Business"

and "Whatta Man," a collaboration with soul divas En Vogue. "None Of Your Business"

earned the group it's second Best Rap Performance Grammy in 1994. Salt-n-Pepa released

Brand New last month to lukewarm reviews and tepid sales.

Other birthdays: Lee Anthony Graziano (American Breed), 54; Joe Bauchard (Blue Oyster

Cult), 49; Ted Ansani (Material Issue), 30 and Texas Scarface (Geto Boys), 28.