Back on the Ones and Twos

Spindarella

hide captionSpindarella photographed at the NPR West studios.

Bettina Wiesenthal-Birch, NPR

DJ Spindarella and her Grammy Award-winning group Salt-N-Pepa became one of hip hop's first all-female acts to make it big in the 1980s. She hosts the nationally syndicated hip hop radio show "The Backspin."

Copyright © 2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

(Soundbite of song "Push It")

SALT-N-PEPA (Hip-hop Group): (Singing) Get up on this!

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

DJ Spinderella burst on the music scene in the 1980s as part of the sexy female hip-hop group Salt-N-Pepa. They hit it big with beats like "Let's Talk About Sex" and "Push It."

(Soundbite of song, "Push It")

SALT-N-PEPA: (Singing) Salt and Pepa's here, and we're in effect. Want you to push it, babe. Coolin' by day then at night working up a sweat. C'mon girls, let's go…

CHIDEYA: Salt-N-Pepa went on to sell over 10 million albums worldwide. And they were the first female rap group to win a Grammy in 1995 for their song "None of Your Business."

(Soundbite of song "None of Your Business")

SALT-N-PEPA: (Singing) If I wanna take a guy home with me tonight, it's none of your business.

CHIDEYA: Today, Spin, as she likes to be called is still spinning records and hosting a national radio show. She's here at our NPR West Studios. Hey.

DJ SPINDERELLA (Host, "The Backspin"): Hey

CHIDEYA: It's so great so see you. I just have to describe you. You look gorgeous.

DJ SPINDERELLA: Wow. Thank you very much.

CHIDEYA: Very elegant. I've been a big fan.

DJ SPINDERELLA: Do you how good that makes feel like?

CHIDEYA: I've been a big fan for a long time.

DJ SPINDERELLA: Thank you. I appreciate it. I really do.

CHIDEYA: So first, tell me about your DJ name. How did you come with Spinderella?

DJ SPINDERELLA: I have the best name in the business. I have to say - I don't know what God was doing. He poured it out on me like blessings. So, but the name came up from Hurby, our producer/manager at the time. Actually, there was another Spinderella that started with the group when they originated it. And I've been with the group since '87. So, you know, that's many, many moons ago.

CHIDEYA: And Hurby, legendary producer in New York.

DJ SPINDERELLA: Yeah. He was the creator of Salt-N-Pepa, the producer and everything else…

CHIDEYA: Yeah.

DJ SPINDERELLA: …in the beginning of our career. Yup.

CHIDEYA: That's great. So it sounds like a situation where you almost had to audition or something? How did you go by this?

DJ SPINDERELLA: Yeah. There was an audition. I was in high school. And I picked up DJing from my high school boyfriend. He was the local DJ and did all the school parties and the community center parties. And just used to carry his vinyl, helped him carry the, you know, the equipment and in back and forth. And I kind of picked it up then, and I wasn't trying to be in a group or anything. I was just doing it. I heard about an audition through a friend in school. I got the call. And then, they told me that it was Salt-N-Pepa. And I'm just, okay. I'm shaking my boots right there. But it was more like, wow. I did this audition, one week in school, and then next week on the road.

CHIDEYA: Wow.

DJ SPINDERELLA: Yeah. It was crazy.

CHIDEYA: That is crazy. So what did your friends think when you - when they found out that you're going to be with Salt-N-Pepa?

DJ SPINDERELLA: I kind of really didn't tell anybody, because I didn't know how these things were going to pan out. So I was like, oh, see how this work. So I really kept it to myself. And it wasn't until I did not make my last year in high school. But I did graduate with honors. And the purpose was my family would not let me go out on the road unless I got my diploma. And Salt-N-Pepa, you know, made sure that I had curfew and I, you know, did the tutor thing and they set me up in that sense. And I got my diploma. I graduated with my class and walking down the aisle with the cap and gown, what everybody was singing? "Push It."

CHIDEYA: Oh.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DJ SPINDERELLA: It's the most embarrassing moment.

CHIDEYA: That's sounds good. It's so cute.

DJ SPINDERELLA: I turn so red. And I wanted to run out and say no, you know. But it just goes back there, you know, it goes to show that, of course, my peers were really supportive in their own way.

CHIDEYA: So tell me about your band mates? How did you guys vibe, you know, get along?

DJ SPINDERELLA: Sal—N-Pepa is interesting. They have two different - there are two different extremes. Pep, of course, is the hot one. She's like the fun, boisterous one, very vivid, very colorful. Salt, on the other hand, very conservative, almost motherly-like, very like serious and it was obvious that they had, you know, their vibe and their energy was excellent.

(Soundbite of music)

CHIDEYA: Did you have to wear spandex tights like Salt-N-Pepa?

DJ SPINDERELLA: Yeah. But that's when spandex was in.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DJ SPINDERELLA: That's when they're in. Yeah. We started a movement with that. I'm sure, you know, you might remember.

CHIDEYA: Oh, I do.

DJ SPINDERELLA: You might have hair on yourself.

CHIDEYA: I did.

DJ SPINDERELLA: You know, we started a few of those trends, and let me apologize to all you ladies out there that lost your hair from the whole blonde thing, you know, the spandex thing, we did it all. We did the polka dots. We did the spandex. You know, it was really fun.

CHIDEYA: What do you think was different from the moment in time when you guys were say doing, "Push It" or "Let's Talk About Sex" and today? It seems in a way - we recently spoke with Monie Love and some other pioneering female artists. And it seems like today, there's even less space for female rappers and DJs than there might have been in the past.

DJ SPINDERELLA: You know, I think there's a movement going on right now where I've been doing a lot of traveling, doing my DJ gigs. And I meet a lot of artists - female - that don't care anymore. They're just out there and they're doing it because they have passion. And that's what it's really going to take again. It's going just be like not trying to match a standard, but just doing what you love and doing it, and building your own audience.

CHIDEYA: Well, now you have a syndicated radio show. It's called, "The Backspin."

DJ SPINDERELLA: Mm-hmm.

CHIDEYA: What do you play?

DJ SPINDERELLA: We play the gamming. We play a lot of old school hip-hop. Anything from De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, KRS-One. Come one, man. Eric B and Rakim.

CHIDEYA: "You Must Learn."

DJ SPINDERELLA: Yes. Yes. My philosophy - I mean D-Nice, we play, you know…

CHIDEYA: You've taken me back.

DJ SPINDERELLA: Rage. We played Monie Love. We played Latifah. You know, a lot of people today that listen to the show, they're a whole other generation and they might not remember or they might not have been there. They may have been babies or perhaps wasn't even born, you know. So you get a whole new audience that wants to know and they love it.

CHIDEYA: What would you like to do? I mean, obviously, music is your life. But if there's anything that you haven't done like business-wise or even adventure-wise, what would it be?

DJ SPINDERELLA: I'm really working on my Web site right now. That's really it. And, of course, there's some TV opportunities down the line. You know, Salt-N-Pepa is doing their show, the VH1 show.

CHIDEYA: Yeah. Well, yeah. I didn't know that it was confirmed. Tell me about that.

DJ SPINDERELLA: It's confirmed. VH1 is doing the Salt-N-Pepa reality show. I'm a guest on it. I'm not going to be a regular on it. And I'm going to be just as curious as you all out there about, you know, about the show. But it's basically the two of them, just cameras following them trying to put this thing together again. I'm like it's a no damn brainier. You don't have to do 10 episodes to figure this out.

CHIDEYA: When you say put this thing together, rejoin.

DJ SPINDERELLA: Reunion.

CHIDEYA: Oh. Would you tour with them if they did?

DJ SPINDERELLA: Can I say, hell yeah?

CHIDEYA: Yeah.

DJ SPINDERELLA: Hell yeah. Of course, that's my home. That's home for me, like that's home for me.

CHIDEYA: Yeah. I mean I have to say your music has a tone that's so uplifting and sometimes today, and this is me the old lady speaking - the old lady of hip-hop…

DJ SPINDERELLA: Don't say that please, because you're making me like…

CHIDEYA: All right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: We'll just pass that over.

DJ SPINDERELLA: Very good.

CHIDEYA: But sometimes I feel like there's a lot of negativity, not just in what people talk about, you know, with the big issues, but just also a sort of fatalism that's come in to what people rhyme about like nothing will ever change. And you guys, when you're like, "Let's Talk About Sex," to me, it really was about change. It was like we can make a difference.

DJ SPINDERELLA: Now, if you remember back then? We were walking this line and I remember the feeling when we were putting out those songs, like they're going to think we're corny. They're going to think we're bubble gum. They're going to think we're this.

You know, I remember having a little bit of (unintelligible) of resistance. When we would comment on things like "Let's Talk About Sex," they were issues going on that it made sense to do. You know, out of control teen pregnancies. You know, the whole AIDS epidemic was rising at the time. It was just off the chain. And now, we're back to that again. So it's kind of like forget all that. Let's do this again. We could not only do good music. We are ready for it. We are primed for it. And we're still relevant. You know what I'm saying? It seems like it's a door that needs to, you know, we need to go through again. And I think it would be even better than ever.

CHIDEYA: Spin, thank you so much.

DJ SPINDERELLA: Thank you. Thank you.

CHIDEYA: DJ Spinderella of Salt-N-Pepa is now the host of the syndicated radio show "The Backspin."

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