The First Ladies of Rap and Hip Hop culture are all forward-thinking pioneers whose legacies, both individual and collective, are undeniable. While these women don’t technically require a proper introduction at this stage in their careers as veterans, there’s no better time than Women’s History Month to celebrate the achievements, challenges overcome and contributions each have made over the past three decades.

The relationship women have with Hip Hop is a complicated one, as listeners, as creators and in how they are represented. While overcoming being subjected to misogyny, adversity, economic hardship, incarceration, sexual abuse/objectification, violence, and so on, these particular women have long worked to get their voices heard, consequently paving the way for other women to blaze their own paths as well. Despite securing a rightful place and identity within the culture not coming easy, the First Ladies of Hip Hop have pushed all sorts of boundaries over the years, creating some of the most seminal works helping to define and refine the genre as we know and love it today as a result.

Celebrating: Salt-N-Pepa

Introduction: Salt-N-Pepa is a trio (often thought to be a duo given its strong presence from members Salt and Pepa) hailing from Queens, New York. These women have been making Hip Hop history since the group’s conception in 1985. Salt-N-Pepa absolutely changed the game, leaving their influence on the genre forever. Salt-N-Pepa is comprised of Cheryl “Salt” James and Sandra “Pepa” Denton, who have been actively holding it down from the jump, with the third member originally being Latoya Hanson, who later was replaced by DJ Spinderella.

Very Necessary: Salt-N-Pepa have been trailblazing both as a group and in their individual careers, for over three decades now. The group was active from 1985-2002, and then disbanded for a five year period, later to return in 2007. Forming at a time where rap was considered to be a passing fad, the group helped to push the genre forward, overcoming all sorts of adversities in an extremely male-dominated industry.

List Of Achievements: Award-wise, the group has taken home a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group (1995), which in turn, made these ladies the first females within rap music to win a Grammy. The group also took home several MTV Video music awards, and was awarded the the I Am Hip Hop Icon Award at the BET Awards in 2010.

Career-wise, the group released five studio albums, the first of which, Hot, Cool & Vicious (1986), awarded the trio the female female rap act (group or solo) to be certified gold or platinum. The album went on to sell 1.4 million copies worldwide and seven years later, the group would reach a new milestone for women in hip hop, with their 1993 album Very Necessary selling seven million copies worldwide, making them the first female rap act to have a multi-platinum selling album.

Noteworthy: Pepa penned an autobiography titled Let’s Talk About Pep, which touches on some of the hardships she’s endured, such as surviving abuse in her troubled childhood, escaping from domestic abuse in her adults years, her failed marriages, becoming a mother, all while giving a first hand account of her time in Salt-N-Pepa, through their breakup and eventual reunion.

Fun fact from the vault: The group got their start while working at Sears. One of their classmates asked them to help with a class project, which in turn resulted in a recorded remake of Doug E. Fresh’s hit “The Show.” The project came out so good that a local radio gave it airplay. 

Wise words: “We’re feminists. We’re doing something that only guys are expected to do and doin’ it right! At our concerts we’ll do one hard-core rap song and then do one where we’ll be real sexy. I don’t like the fact that there are so few women in rap. There are a lot of good things that we can do. Maybe my example can help someone.” – Salt

Where they are now: The group currently is embarking on an “I Love the 90s” tour, hitting cities across the U.S. alongside Coolio, Vanilla Ice, Color Me Badd and more. Salt and Pepa also debuted their new cooking show debuting on TV this past December, aptly titled, Cookin’ With Salt-N-Pepa. The reality show’s premise is simple and sweet, showcasing their favorite foods in conjunction with their travels, as inspired by years being on the road and making it a priority to eat well.

Take a listen:

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