FEATURE: Pepa:Pep Talk
The Hip-hop literary world has seen a lion’s share of tell-all books over the past couple of years—primarily featuring ex video vixens and wifeys exposing sordid details of steamy scandalous affairs with various rappers. Said books are often frowned upon but sometimes, even rappers have to clean out their closets.
Enter Sandra “Pepa” Denton, half of Salt-N-Pepa, one of the most influential rap crews in history. She’s gone from platinum record sales with her group (which eventually disbanded), to resurfacing on the reality TV circuit. From Vh1’s The Surreal Life and then The Salt-N-Pepa Show, Pepa has added another realm of media to her resume as an author. Let’s Talk About Pep, released in August, is the story of Sandy Denton, chronicling her childhood in Jamaica to her rise as a hip-hop superstar. She also candidly reveals details of surviving child molestation and several physically abusive relationships as an adult. Now that everything is aired out, XXLMag.com caught up with Pep to get her take on why she felt writing this book was important, and the future of Salt-N-Pepa.
XXL: It was a bold move to air out your dirty laundry so when did you decide to put it all out there and be so open and honest about your life?
Pepa: At one point I wasn’t really ready but I realized that so many women are going through some of the things that I was. I was having some trying times and dealing with issues besides the music and I realized [I should] just tell my story. Just talking about it and letting them know they weren’t alone and hope that it could help some through the pain [with] how I’ve overcome my issues. I get a lot of mail and women are going through it and I’m like “Wow!” I have this platform and like I said, I just love that to let people know [that] besides my music, I’m the girl next door. I went through some stuff too. I’m a star in your eyes but I’m dealing with issues and real stuff. So, I just wanted to share my story.
XXL: Did this book open up some avenues for you to speak to women in other capacities like public speaking?
Pepa: I’m getting requests to come and speak [in different places] but I’ve never done public speaking so I’m nervous.
XXL: You, nervous to do public speaking? But you’ve performed for millions of people.
Pepa: I know, but that’s so different. Once I hit the stage [for music] it’s like I’m on fire. But with this, it’s something I’ve never done. We’ve done our little Salt-N-Pepa talks about stuff, but this is on a different level. It might be great to do [one day], anyway.
XXL: You got support from women (Kim Osorio, Karrine Steffans) who have gone through similar things but did you get any backlash from people who think it’s best to remain silent?
Pepa: My story and title are different. No one can tell me about my life because this is real talk—so, no one can really judge. But so far I have to say, the reviews have been really nice. Everybody who has read it or heard about it, enjoys it.
XXL: What do you like most about reflecting on your life?
Pepa: [That] I learned from it. I’m not the way I was back then. I’m not stressing any relationships [with men]. I could have ended up in a lot of places [today] with the way I was then [but] I learned from that. It’s been great for me [and] I’m glad to say that I’m nowhere near where I was then.
XXL: Now that you’ve learned a lot, what would you say to the younger Pepa, and that’s literally and metaphorically?
Pepa: I’m gonna be really honest with you. I was replaying this one relationship when I had borrowed some money in this little investment [that] this guy had me involved with, and I was sitting there going “What were you thinking?” This might not answer the question but in relationships, women become the mothers, the sisters, the bankers and the therapists. We get caught up in our spouse’s issues—start putting things in our name [and] doing a lot of different things. I have a daughter. She’s only 10, which is great because as she grows I can just be there to see the signs and stop it there. If I’m a mess, how am I gonna help her? I have to be the one to tell her, “You don’t want to be like that.”
XXL: Speaking of lessons learned and female empowerment, Salt-N-Pepa has paved the way for a lot of women in rap but there’s not many female hip-hop stars around anymore. What’s going on?
Pepa: It’s funny because [Salt and I] just talking about how it’s always been a male dominated field. In our era there was [only] a handful of female rappers but now there’s nobody. And then, on the Top 10 all you got is T-Pain and Lil Wayne so [women] just have to think outside the box. Salt is officially back [with the group] now and she’s excited. We were in the studio working with these hot producers out of Atlantic City [called] Rock Zone. You’ll hear from them cause they’re doing tracks for J Lo [but] what we’re doing is different. We’re gonna make music for everybody. You gotta stretch yourself a little bit [because] you don’t wanna think you can only be played on Hot 97. There are other stations and other kinds of music. You just gotta think outside the box and explore that sound.
XXL: How is the chemistry with you and Salt coming back together?
Pepa: It’s better than it was before. We had a great time before but now it’s all about better communication. We talk everything out and I’m cool with that because it works. We’re just having a good time. Like I said, she’s officially back and I think it’s because we have this understanding now. I get her and I know where she’s at now. I know what she went through, what she was feeling and vice versa.
XXL: With you guys in the studio when can fans expect to hear something?
Pepa: We’re just locking the album down now. We were just in the studio over the weekend and we did a couple of songs, so we’re just getting it in. We’ll be hitting the road again soon; we have a couple of shows coming up [even] overseas.
XXL: Will we be able to watch any of this process on a new season of The Salt-N-Pepa show?
Pepa: That’s up in the air. That’s our last thought because it’s rough. We just rather lock the songs down, get the studio out the way and then pursue TV.
XXL: Cool. Going back to the book, you mentioned an uncanny ability to predict future events. Let’s talk about the election. Who’s gonna take it?
Pepa: [Laughs] This might just be wishful thinking but I’m hoping Obama. Not only because he’s black but [because] I believe in what he’s saying. It is time for change. –Starrene Rhett
For more info about Pepa’s autobiography visit www.letsalkaboutpep.com.