How Salt-N-Pepa Turned a Diss From Russell Simmons Into "Fuel" For Their Success

By Emily Mae Czachor Oct 16, 2019 1:00 PMTags

Salt-N-Pepa have been changing the game since the beginning. 

So, even after receiving less-than-positive feedback from "Father of Hip Hop" and Def Jam Recordings founder Russell Simmons during the earlier part of their career, Cheryl James and Sandra Denton (Salt and Pepa, respectively) continued to do things their own way. 

"Someone happened to ask [Simmons] about the Salt-N-Pepa girls, 'What do you think?' And Russell gave us a thumbs down," Salt recalls in this clip from Sunday's new True Hollywood Story. "And I remember feeling like I can either listen to the father of hip hop and fold, or I can use that as fuel."

Suffice to say, they didn't listen. Trailing their first album's debut success, Salt-N-Pepa went on to become the first female rap act to earn a platinum certification and later, in 1995, the first female rap act to win a Grammy Award. 

"We were never intimidated," Pepa recounts fondly. "When they said we couldn't, we did."

That was true for the pairing in several respects. As a female-fronted '80s hip hop group, Salt-N-Pepa were pushing boundaries just by existing, and p-pushing them real good. When Simmons reached out with a revised attitude and Def Jam recruitment offer years later, they declined.

"Being ourselves and being free in this male-dominated field was always very important to us," Salt tells the camera. "Just the boldness, the fashion, the things that we talked about…empowered women."

Hear more from both legends in the clip above!