Salt-N-Pepa hit the hip hop scene hard, in a male-dominated rap scene that frequently objectified women. With hot spits unheard of, they proved to be a provocative, dynamic trio with in-your-face lyrics and role reversing videos. This female creativity challenged norms and loudly boasted a spirit of women’s liberation and independence.

Cheryl “Salt” James, Sandra “Pepa” Denton, and Latoya Hanson exploded on the scene in 1985 with a fiery single called “The Showstopper” in response to Doug E. Fresh’s “The Show.” The following year, Hanson was replaced by Deidra “ DJ Spinderella” Roper.

Beyond the catchy hooks, songs like “Let’s Talk About Sex,” “Shoop,” and “Push It” reclaimed women’s sexuality and stated to listeners that women do not need to play coy about their sexual desires.

By subverting the idea that women’s sexuality is reduced to being the object of the male gaze, Salt-N-Pepa empowered other women to embrace themselves and feel comfortable in their own skin.

The group’s videos often confronted stereotypical narratives about sexuality in a direct way. For example, “The music video for “Shoop” features men in sexy, slightly objectified roles, and camera shots which do not pan to the face before or after a sexy body shot.”

These video depictions showed Black women free of inhibitions as well as fully in control of their bodies. This representation turned the notion of a submissive woman falling victim to a fawning hypersexual male on its head.

As the first Black women group to win a grammy, Salt-N-Pepa transcended boundaries and built a catalog of timeless records along the way that are still worthy of playing on any given day. Their knack for crafting hip hop records that got people up out of their seats and dancing while simultaneously giving the crowd lyrics with a purpose.