and fans noticed the overarching move.
Lifetime dropped the official biopic of Salt-n-Pepa on January 23rd and it was 1980 all over again. The trio that inspired me to battle rap in middle school against ambitious teen boys and to form an all-girl rap group, complete with a female beat-boxing DJ alas, were not battle rappers at all, initially. The biopic is filled with plenty of new information for a fan who wasn't raised in a borough. Directed by Mario Van Peebles and Produced by Queen Latifah, I bucked-in to learn more and the Salt-n-Pepa Biopic delivered.
Cheryl "Salt" James and Sandra "Pepa" Denton met in the '80s during their college years. They both worked for a Sears call center alongside co-workers Martin Lawrence, and Kid & Play no doubt. The chronicle was detailed in some areas and selectively gray in others. As I sat in the theater room of a colleague from New York who is also a Salt-n-Pepa fan watching the show, I was anxious to see the ladies do rap brainstorming or a rehearsal session. I was eager to see how they perfected the words that composed their raps. Early-on the biopic revealed that Salt nor Pepa were ever rappers before being approached by Hurby. Hurby was Cheryl's boyfriend back-in-the-day. He created the group and provided all of their lyrics. A stroke of marketing genius led him to hire a female DJ to exponent the visual threat.
The first female DJ that they hired grew bored of the group and split. Hurby determined to make Salt-n-Pepa a triple threat in the rap game found Deidra Muriel Roper to work the wheels of steel in tennis-shoes and heels. Honestly, she is the only Spinderella that I remember ever seeing in the stock of hard-hitting Bella legend videos. I too obtained a female DJ who would give Doug E. Fresh and The Fat Boys a run for their money. Naturally, those two were name-checked in the film and Prince Markee D (Fat Boy Rap Group) is actually represented in the film; he meets Pepa at an event and tries to chat-it-up, but Pep is cute & hard. It was dope to be reminded how early pioneers in the game networked before media.
As hard as Salt-n-Pepa femme lyrics hit the airwaves, nothing hit as hard as the news that the group's biopic decided to go forth without much of an introduction to Spinderella. Fans looked to the legendary female DJ with the pretty smile to keep the beat that supported the heat of the MC femmes. While the name Spinderella was derived from the fairytale Cinderella, not even I anticipated that Diedra would receive "step sister treatment." Fans noticed and the omission created a mental distraction the entire length of the show.
Everyone knows how essential the DJ is to any good group and many joints. If it were not so, who is Dr. Dre? It goes without saying. Hurby composed a good marketing ploy with the all-girl rap group. The vision was genius and it worked. Hurby envisioned all kinds of things, like a side-piece and a baby. Cheryl found out and cut their romantic ties but stayed loyal to the Salt-n-Pepa contract.
The biopic washed over Spinderella's contribution to the group's success much like Hurby effectively waned Salt n' Pepa's percentages before they were able to exit their contract. Spinderella filed suit in 2018 and was terminated from the group in 2019. She sued for money and residuals owed; a third of the groups' royalties. What is also true, is that the biopic depicted Spinderella as a silent 3rd member, and her fans noticed. At every commercial break, my younger New York colleague would shake his head and say,
"I can't believe that they've snubbed Spinderella's story."
I think he used to have a crush on young Diedra. He wouldn't have been alone, I was a rapper in high school as well, and I think that my high school all-girl rap group's DJ, whose name is Royal C, may have had a crush on Spinderella too. DJ love is non-binary.
How could such a legacy-story piece go forward without full recognition of all contributors? It's as if not only did the producers decide that Spinderella's story did not matter, but also that the fans who loved her mattered not, either.
The film, music, and television industry is a precarious one. It's a tough row to hoe, a high mountain to climb, and a triathlon all-at-once if you're charting to conquer it. But for what is happening in the "due credit" department is a major problem, and it is not new. Dare I delve into blaming Salt-n-Pepa for the financial misgivings rendered unto Spinderellla? No. Not one moment before I look at the way that Michael Jackson, Prince, Lauren Hill, and others were done by big-wig music execs while under contract.
Once I garnered a better understanding I could piece together how Hurby had composed a less-than-honest business plan. In the film, Hurby is noted as hogging royalty percentages; each artist and producer was to reap 6%, though at the time the members were only Hurby, Cheryl, and Sandra. The film further implies that Hurby was divvying Salt-n-Pepa 3% royalties each while he pocketed about 12% for himself, (his 6% and an additional 6% that belonged to the emcees).
Hurby was no "big-wig industry cat" at the time, but obviously, he learned well from them and structured the first all-female rap group on bull-corn percentages. This is probably why history doesn't credit Hurby with any more Hip Hop accolades beyond introducing the world to Salt-n-Pepa.
Mario Van Peebles and Queen Latifah did a wonderful job in crafting this biopic to convey a closer look into the wonderment of the early days of Hip Hop and what inspired the fire in me to rap. My rap-capacity evolved into rhyme-conversation that I now use in various script compositions to keep the viewer on his and her toes as scripted stories unfold.
Film production is a massive undertaking, especially when you are trying to re-tell a true story. I enjoyed the trip down memory lane on the female rap trio, but omitting Spinderella's storyline was a "wrap on the full legacy tale" of how awesome the first all-girl rap group came-to-be and effectively shaped female-rapping history.
good music + great lyrics + good looks always connect us.
Though what will sustain the unity in our community and propel us upward is: