The first time she heard their song over the airwaves, Sandra “Pepa” Denton slammed the brakes of her beat-up yellow Datsun, got out in the middle of the street and started yelling, “My song is on the radio!” – even as her friend Cheryl “Salt” James tried to urge her back into the car.
“You’ve got to have a sane one in the group, right?” Ms. James said Friday during a panel discussion hosted by the Cayman chapter of 100 Women in Finance.
Around 75 chapter members and guests gathered on the rooftop of the newly renovated Beach Suites on Seven Mile Beach for Friday’s discussion with the Grammy Award-winning duo in advance of their Saturday performance at KAABOO.
Hip hop and finance might seem an odd mix, said the event’s host Angie Baraud, CEO of Baraud International and a member of 100WF’s global advisory council, “but one of the real messages we always like to highlight is women empowering women, and I really feel like you guys have been able to do that from the beginning.”
After the 1985 release of “The Showstoppa,” recorded under the name Super Nature, Ms. Denton and Ms. James, along with DJ Deidra “Dee Dee” Roper, quickly gained mainstream traction as Salt-N-Pepa, with the breakout single “Push It.” The struggle, they told the attendees, came from within the industry, where they felt sidelined by their gender and commercial success.
Like many creative artists, they had to learn along the way how to manage finances and staff, and how to assert themselves in negotiations, the women said. The decision to part ways with their manager Hurby “Luv Bug” Azor, who they had first met while Ms. James and Ms. Denton were students at Queensborough College and had part-time jobs at Sears, led to their successful “Very Necessary” album. That release included “Shoop,” their 1993 trademark single that resurfaced after its inclusion in 2016’s “Deadpool” soundtrack.
“If I could go back, I would understand my value and my worth more, and be OK with it and be unapologetic about it and be aggressive about it,” Ms. James said.
“I always admire women who just go hard.”
According to the group’s official biography, Salt-N-Pepa officially disbanded in 2002, but have been resurgent in recent years, headlining the “I Love the 90s” tour and in residence in Las Vegas. A movie and documentary about the group are in development. The women are also in the studio working on new music.
“I just think it’s amazing that women who are such pioneers in the industry can still inspire women of the next generation,” said Monette Windsor, co-chair of 100WF Cayman, after Friday’s discussion.
Proceeds from the event will help fund the Cayman Islands chapter of 100 Women in Finance’s NextGen initiatives, supporting young women interested in diverse areas of the finance and alternative investment industries.