Salt-N-Pepa: Our Life in 15 Songs

The hip-hop pioneers tell the stories behind "Push It," "Shoop," Whatta Man" and more

"The Show Stoppa (Is Stupid Fresh)" (1985)

Salt: We were working together at Sears. I had met Pep in our first year at Queensborough College, and we became friends. Hurby ["Luv Bug" Azor, producer] and I were in a relationship. Hurby was a music student and he was always working on beats and music and he wanted to produce a song.

Pepa: He was looking to put this band together. And I remember him asking me, "Can you rhyme?" … At work. At Sears. His desk wasn't too far from mine, his cubby hole. … I don't remember it all right now, but I remember it was something like, "I'm Sandy D, from coast to coast, somethin' somethin' somethin' I like to boast." That, to me, was an audition. Even though we were good friends.

I've never rapped in front of a crowd, ever in my life. I grew up with park jams. That's how I knew about rap. … The local MCs would grab the mic and start rapping. I just used to be so in awe and fascinated and like, "Wow, this is amazing!" But I would never, ever touch the mic. Heck no. 'Cause they was really, like, going in! I just had my little raps that I used to write, but I was nervous, I was scared. I always wanted to, but I never did. And Hurby was like the first person that was like, "Let me see if you could rap." And that was the first time.

Salt: We answered Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh's "The Show," which was a bold move for these two little girls from Queens that no one had ever heard of before. … We recorded it in [Azor's] attic, and then we took it to Power Play Studios, and we recorded it professionally. He took it to Marley Marl, which was a DJ who had a radio show on WBLS – back then, you could only hear hip-hop on the weekends. And he promised Hurby that he would play the song. Finally, listening weekend after weekend, we were driving down Guy Brewer Boulevard in Queens, Pep and I, just hanging out, and we finally heard "The Show Stoppa" playing on the radio, which was one of the most exciting moments of our career. … Pep being the crazy person that she is. … She stopped the car in the middle of the boulevard, she jumped out of the car, and she started screaming, "They're playing my song! That's me! That's me on the radio!" And I'm like, "Get back in the car!" We started doing shows, based on just that record alone. So we were going to school, we were working at Sears after school, and on the weekends we were doing shows in Manhattan.

We were hearing rumors that [Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick] were gonna answer the record. We were nervous about that, because they were established, amazing male artists in this male-dominated field of music. So we were kind of bitin' our nails, waiting for that answer record that never came. One time we saw them at a club, and they were just really nice to us. They gave me the impression that they were saying, "That was really cute, girls." [Laughs.] We were relieved that that was the end of it.

Pepa: Doug is such a great person, by the way. … I remember Doug E. Fresh telling me that Slick Rick was gonna get us, but Doug Fresh said, "Ah, let 'em live." Those were his exact words, "Oh, let them girls live." [Laughs.