Let’s close out Women’s History Month with a musical group who impacted my most formative time-space moments: Cheryl ‘Salt’ James, Sandra ‘Pepa’ Denton, and Deidra ‘DJ Spinderella’ Roper! Collectively, you know them as Salt N Pepa.
I remember my first encounter with Salt N Pepa. “Push It,” came on the radio, and I listened to the lyrics as it played. I had no earthly connection to what they were talking about, but their vocal delivery, their ‘out there’-for-a-tween lyrics, and frankly, their female-ness sent me into an array of emotions: Amazing! Who are they? How cool; they’re rappers…and women! With boom box in tow, I ran into my brother’s room, breathlessly exclaiming, “They’re girls! And they’re rappers!!” in a tone suggesting, “See big brother? Girls are just as good at hip hop as boys!”
He responded, “GET OUT OF MY ROOM!” which, translated, meant, “You are the best sister anyone could ever ask for. You are correct; that is a wonderful discovery and what a historical vault for American womankind.”
During our last art date, Marie and I talked about how “Let’s Talk About Sex,” the seminal Salt N Pepa pop tune that spurred much controversy, saved us from haphazardly jumping into an activity with serious life consequences. The song came out about the same time my classmates were getting physical, yet none of them could answer for me, “Why do you have to have sex?” Here they were, 13, 14, 15 years of age, engaging in mating ritual, without putting much thought to the significance of the act. Then this song came out, and I’m practically stuffing my headphones into my ears. What the hell is this ‘sex’ business about??
Let’s talk about sex, baby
Let’s talk about you and me
Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
I set out to talk about it. My mother, when confronted, checked out a copy of “The Joy of Sex” from the library and hid it under my bed, with a simple suggestion to check under there for answers. My best girl friend gave me a copy of Nancy Friday’s “Forbidden Flowers” to peruse. The following summer, I took a job at the local daycare center for Army babies. Oh boy…that’s why everyone’s having sex?? Seems like non-fun.
Salt N Pepa prepped me with life-saving messages in lyrical form. As such, when the guys pushed up, I asked, “We’re friends. Why complicate that with sex?” I had no want for disease or oopsie babies, thanks to my hip hop muses.
I fear today’s young ladies in their formative years aren’t receiving the right empowerment messages. Iggy Azalea prides herself in…what? Guys noticing she has friends and a huge ass (which is how I summate her freshman album)? Nicki Minaj wants to encourage sexual desire, but only on the B side does she refer to its consequences (which is how I summate her sense of accountability)?
Perhaps I’m just a tired old bag who feels the genitals have nothing to do with self-esteem or positive living, but I am glad that, because I listened to my musical mentors and their messages of truth, I own my sexuality. I determined upon my start and still today, when, how, and with whom I engage with sexually. I am a goddess, I only get this one body, and only I am responsible for it!
Thank you, Salt N Pepa, for using Hip Hop to educate, influence, and lift up those within listening range.