It would be difficult to overstate Salt-N-Pepa's significance for many of today's biggest artists. Beyoncé could never have sung "Can you lick my Skittles/It's the sweetest in the middle" if Salt-N-Pepa hadn't rapped "Felt it in my hips, so I dipped back to my bag of tricks.../Lick him like a lollipop should be licked" first. And Nicki Minaj's entire career rests on the shoulders of "Push It."
DJ Spinderella, on the decks behind Salt-N-Pepa since the group's first album, Hot, Cool & Vicious, is well aware of her influence on these and countless other artists. But she demurs when asked to share the props she's received from artists who claim her as an influence and inspiration.
"Without naming names, I hear that along the way," she says. "It's always weird to me, because I'm just a humble type of person in my foundation. I grew up in a household of six kids, and my parents were like, 'No one's better than the other. I don't care who you are. You're not Spinderella in this house, Deidra Roper!' I hear that from guys and girls, young and old, celebrities and noncelebrities... it doesn't matter. When I hear that, it's very humbling."
Spinderella surely is humble and down to earth, but she speaks with the maternal authority of a woman who knows her words carry weight. She knows that she's a pioneer in her field and that women of all walks of life look to her for advice on navigating the male-dominated music world. If she'd never made it as a DJ, a career as a motivational speaker would have been a solid plan B.
Without prompting, she launches into a discussion on the importance of building a circle of women who empower one another in spaces where they might not otherwise feel welcome. She knows that experience all too well, having come up in the nascent age of hip-hop in Brooklyn, where DJs were a new sight to begin with, but female DJs were even more scarce.
"That's why women are so strong — because they have to be."
"From a DJ standpoint, I'm really proud to see that the women have come through and some of your biggest DJs in the world are women. Just to see that grow, it just makes me very proud. The whole female empowerment thing — that's what Salt-N-Pepa and Spinderella was all about. That's why we keep that torch going, because we know there are more generations to come, and we know there's people that want to hear from us. Or that need to hear from us."
Some of the people who want to hear from Salt-N-Pepa are longtime fans who grew up with their music and want a chance to relive the glory days. South Florida fans will get the chance twice this week. The iconic rap group headlined the Crystal Pepsi Throwback Tour at Marlins Park this past Sunday to rave reviews, and it will take the stage at the I Love the '90s Tour in Pompano Beach tis coming Saturday.
"The stage is magic for us," says Spinderella of playing together more often in recent years. "I think it was time for us to get back. Anything old school or throwback is a hot commodity. We enjoy the stage. We always enjoyed the stage. We're show women. We're about the show."
Of course, it's not always all about the show for everyone in the music world. Asked about the recent furor over Rick Ross' sexist comments about being hesitant to sign female artists to his label without expectation of sexual favors, Spinderella laughs off the remarks. It's clear they barely registered a blip on her radar.
"Well, at least he's being honest," she says between chuckles. "Thank you for telling us, you know what I'm saying? Some of these guys have ulterior motives and that's their goal: just to get with the girls or whatever. But there are some that are really about getting good talent out there. Thank you to those that do that... because women, we have to try a whole lot harder to get to the level that we want to go to — because we're women. The thing with us is we can't worry about what others are trying to do. We have to be smart, we have to be focused, we have to be prepared with our talents, we've got to practice, we've got to try even harder. That's why women are so strong — because they have to be.
"How smart... to find talent in anybody — man or woman — and invest in that talent," she continues. "Put all that womanizing stuff away and pull that out of the equation, and really focus on good talent. There's a lot of women with that good talent out there."
I Love the '90s Tour, With Salt-N-Pepa. Saturday, August 19, at Pompano Beach Amphitheater, 1801 NE Sixth St., Pompano Beach; 954-519-5500. Tickets cost $48 to $275 via ticketmaster.com.