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June 18: Black Music Month artist Salt n' Pepa

President George W. Bush had a lot of screw-ups during his eight-year term, but he did do a couple things right. One of them was proclaiming June as Black Music Month on May 31, 2002. June is here,* and to celebrate Black Music Month, I'll be featuring one of my favorite artists each day, sharing my first or most personal memory of them, and explain what their accomplishments are and why I felt they should make the Black Music Month Top 30 list. There will be some oldies, some newbies and some artists you may not know of yet.

Sandra 'Pepa' Denton and Cheryl 'Salt' James of Salt-n-Pepa attend the Bethenny Frankel launch party at Metropolitan Pavilion on September 6, 2013 in New York City.
Photo by John Parra

Black Music Month Heat Factor "Why's this artist hot?": For the first 17 days of June, I stuck to single artists but this female hip-hop emcee group was one that I just couldn't separate. It would be about as odd as putting a salt shaker on the table without the pepper. See what I did there?

I struggle with today's female hip-hop artists (minus Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliott, Erykah Badu, Eve and Rah Digga) because too many aren't talking about anything besides name brand clothes and purses, what a guy has to buy to have sex with them and how sexy they are. I was raised during a time when female hip-hop artists were still conscious of what they were saying so you had to come correct and talk about something that mattered. The triple team group Cheryl "Salt" James, "Sandra "Pepa" Denton and deejay Deidra "Spinderella" Roper was ahead of their time. When the topic of HIV and AIDS was still taboo, they were coming out with songs like "Let's Talk About Sex" and "I've Got AIDS." Like Angie Stone, they were celebrating the good men out there on songs like "Whatta Man" with super group En Vogue. They were also making party music like "Shoop" and "Everybody Get Up."

Their feminist-style music was excellent, but it was the female rapper group's lesser-known appearances that made them even more of a stand-up group. When most of today's popular rap groups and emcees (minus Mos Def, Ice Cube and Bun B) were nowhere in sight during the Jena 6 rally, Salt n' Pepa was in Louisiana helping to build a home. Those who watched VH1's reality show "The Salt-n-Pepa Show" about the group saw the respect they received for bringing attention to current events. Pepa also made quite an impression with her 2010 VH1 reality show "Let's Talk About Pep," trying to find a new man without giving up the goods. She'd been celibate for four years. Now if that doesn't tell young girls it's okay to wait, I don't know what does. In her 2008 book "Let's Talk About Pep" (with an epilogue from hip-hop star Missy Elliott and an introduction from hip-hop icon Queen Latifah) she also talked about leaving an abusive relationship with Naughty by Nature's Treach. This group did so many admirable things that had nothing to do with music, and it made them legends.

First Memory, Most Personal Memory of the Artist: When I came up, there were a lot of quality female emcees like MC Lyte, Yo Yo, Monie Love and Queen Latifah, but Salt n' Pepa was one of the first female hip-hop groups and clearly the most popular. I used to watch BET's "Video Soul" and "Yo! MTV Raps" to see them perform. They dressed sexy instead of trampy. Their makeup and hair were always in place. But they could hang out with the fellas, and there was mutual respect. I grew up with a strong mother and two very strong grandmothers, in addition to other positive female relatives, but music certainly affected my attitude. When songs like 1995's "Ain't Nuthin' But a She Thang" came out telling me I could be anything I wanted to be career wise, I stood a little taller in my 13-year-old shoes.

Accomplishments from the Artist: In 1987, it wasn't common for hip-hop artists to be nominated for Grammys so when "Push It' got the nomination, hip-hop heads celebrated this significant accomplishment. In 1995, "None of Your Business" actually did win a Grammy, and the group did well on the Billboard charts, too. Songs that made an impression on the charts included "Whatta Man" and "Let's Talk About Sex" (29 weeks), "Do You Want Me" (26 weeks), "Shoop" (25 weeks), "Push It' (24 weeks), "None of Your Business" (22 weeks), "Expression" (21 weeks), "You Showed Me" (20 weeks) and "Gitty Up" (13 weeks).

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* This entry was originally published on Associated Content in June of 2010. It has been republished with permission from Shamontiel. To find out who the other 29 artists were who were selected in 2010, visit this Pinterest board.

Shamontiel is also The Wire Examiner, and for the gladiators, she's the Scandal Examiner, too.

Follow Shamontiel on Pinterest for all of her latest TV, book, music and movie reviews; photo galleries; entertainment saving tips and other entries, or subscribe to her National African American Entertainment channel at the top of this page. Also, follow her @BlackHealthNews, and follow this Pinterest board to read her celebrity interviews.

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