Over three decades into their musical career, Cheryl “Salt” James and Sandra “Pepa” Denton are closer than ever.
As for the key to their long-lasting friendship? “Space,” James, 57, exclusively told Us Weekly on Thursday, August 10, while chatting about their recent performances on the Smirnoff Relaunch Tour benefitting Women in Music. Denton, 56, agreed, before James added, “We’re with each other more than we are with our own families and it’s important to give each other some space.”
James even compared their relationship to that of a marriage, joking, “Sometimes we sleep in the bed together and sometimes Pepa sleeps on the couch.”
Denton and James formed Salt-N-Pepa in 1985 with former member Deidra Roper, a.k.a. DJ Spinderella. While the group has received multiple awards and recognitions over the years — including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame — nothing was more “surreal” than hearing one of their songs on the radio for the first time.
“We had been waiting week after week to see if they would play it because you only got hip-hop on the weekends. So, you know, you tune in and hear all your hip-hop,” James told Us. “And then, they told us they were gonna play it, DJ Marley Marl, and we kind of gave up. But then one day, we were driving together and it came on. And Pep jumped out the car, screaming, ‘That’s my song on the radio!’ And I’m like, ‘Get back in the car so we can hear it!’ It was a great moment.”
Another one of their memorable career highlights was the 1989 Grammy Awards. Salt-N-Pepa earned their first nomination for the song “Push It” in the Best Rap Performance category, which was introduced that year. Upon learning the category would not be televised, they chose to boycott the ceremony with stars such as Will Smith, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Public Enemy, LL Cool J and more.
“[We were] really fighting for our music to be, you know, visual and seen, as well,” Denton recalled. “And then to go on to win a Grammy a few years later, taking such a big chance as women in a male-dominated field, and to also go on to win — nominated and win — it felt good.”
Salt-N-Pepa scored their first Grammy win for Best Rap Performance By a Duo or Group for “None of Your Business” in 1995.
Denton and James recently took to the stage on Smirnoff’s Relaunch Tour benefitting the nonprofit Women in Music. “It was just cool for [Smirnoff], you know, getting the message out through music and teaming up,” Denton said of their August 10 performance. “The cause is supporting women in music. I think it’s just amazing. And just to be part of the whole collective.”
She continued: “All of the ticket sales will directly benefit Women in Music, which is nonprofit, you know, also like advancing equity and opportunities and visibility for women in music. I think that’s important.”
Tickets for the tour’s remaining shows are available for purchase on the tour’s official website.
With reporting by Christina Garibaldi