Cheryl James, better known as "Salt" from Salt-n-Pepa, is
celebrating her 38th birthday today. Legends in their own time,
Salt-n-Pepa kicked open the doors for female MCs and DJs in the rap scene
and were one of the first rap groups to have crossover success on
the pop charts. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., James first met rapping partner
Sandy "Pepa" Denton when they worked together at Sears along with
co-workers Herbie "Lovebug" Azor and Martin Lawrence. Azor approached his
girlfriend James and aspiring comedian Lawrence 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 Lawrence was a better joke-teller than a rapper,
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." When "The Show Stoppa" hit #46 on
the R&B charts, they recruited Pamela Greene to be their DJ and hunkered down
with Azor to record their first full-length album, Hot, Cool and
Vicious (1986). That album's singles, "Chick on the Side," "My Mike Sounds
Nice" and "Tramp," all did pretty well on the R&B charts, but it took a
remix of "Push It," the B-side to "Tramp," to make the girls a household
Hot, Cool and Vicious went platinum on the strength of "Push It,"
reaching #1 on both the rap and R&B charts and earning the group a Best
Rap Performance Grammy in 1987, a ceremony that Salt-n-Pepa boycotted
because the rap portion of the show wasn't televised. Diedre "Spinderella"
Roper replaced Greene right before recording for 1988's A Salt With A
Deadly Pepa began, with Azor once again producing. The album spawned
"Shake Your Thang," a collaboration with go-go band E.U. on a reworked
version of the Isley Brothers' "It's Your Thing." 1990's Blacks'
Magic saw James and Roper helping out on the production for the first
time 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. Containing such huge hits as "Shoop," "None Of Your
Business" and "Whatta Man," a collaboration with soul divas En Vogue, the
album peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. "None Of Your Business"
earned the group its second Best Rap Performance Grammy in 1994. Late
last year, Salt-n-Pepa released their first album without Azor's loving
touch, Brand New. The album received lukewarm reviews and tepid
sales but still scored a minor hit with "Giddy Up." Last month,
Salt-n-Pepa picked up an award from Rock the Vote, honoring them for
their community service work and songs educating fans about the dangers of
Other birthdays: Shel MacRea (the Fortunes), 55; Mickey Dolenz (the
Monkees), 53; Randy Meisner (the Eagles/Poco), 52; Mike Allsup (Three Dog
Night), 51; Mel Galley (Whitesnake), 50; Gary Numan, 40; and Peter Gill
(Frankie Goes To Hollywood), 34.