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You Say It's Your Birthday: Cheryl "Salt" James Of Salt-N-Pepa

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

name.

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

AIDS.

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.