Cheryl "Salt" James and Sandra "Pepa" Denton formed the trailblazing hip-hop duo Salt-N-Pepa more than 35 years ago — and the iconic rappers' career is celebrated in a new Lifetime biopic.
James and Denton reminisced about their first meeting as college students and co-workers in Queens, New York, on TODAY with Hoda & Jenna Friday.
"We used to see each other in the lunch room, and we clicked from there," recalled Denton. "So, when Salt-N-Pepa began, that was just, like, the icing on the cake, the cherry on the top, with our friendship already in place."
They also remembered hearing their 1985 track "The Show Stoppa (Is Stupid Fresh)" on the radio for the first time, after catching the attention of local DJs.
"We were, like, 'Ahhh!' Couldn't believe it," James said. "Sandy went crazy, jumped out of the car, screaming, 'They're playing my song! They're playing my song!' 'Cause this was so unheard of. There was no female hip-hop girls on the radio."
"I didn't know, really, what I was going to do with my life," said James. "When I got on the mic, it was like do or die. This is what I want to do, no plan B. Salt-N-Pepa was me and Pepa's destiny, and it really just saved my life."
The duo, later joined by DJ Spinderella, went on to become the first female rap group to have a platinum album, with "Hot, Cool & Vicious," which featured "Push It." After the release of 1993's "Very Necessary," which included the hits "Shoop" and "Whatta Man," they won a Grammy in the best rap performance by a duo or group category for "None of Your Business."
James also opened up about her private struggle with bulimia in the late '90s, which contributed to her decision to leave the group.
"It was just difficult, because I felt the pressure of being beautiful and being thin and, you know, satisfying the record company. So, I had to take a break, because fame can be traumatizing."
Actors GG Townson and Laila Odom, who star in Lifetime's "Salt-N-Pepa," also joined the segment to talk about what it was like portraying James and Denton, who executive-produced the film.
"I grew up on the East Coast," said Odom. "So, there's no way you can be from the East Coast and not know about Salt-N-Pepa, and not have, like, some type of connection to them."
"It was definitely a fan girl moment," Townson said, of meeting the real-life Salt-N-Pepa. "To be little, old me and be in their graces is just nothing you can prepare yourself for."
James said of the film, "At the end of the day, what I got from the movie, personally, is a story of triumph, the things we have to go through in any genre, whether it's corporate, whether it's music, and how women keep pushing it."
"Salt-N-Pepa" premieres on Lifetime Jan. 23 at 8 p.m.