In 1985, the world was officially introduced to the dynamic female hip hop group known as Salt-N-Pepa. The Queens, New York natives, along with former member DJ Spinderella (née Deidra Roper), blew the industry away with their debut single "I'll Take Yo' Man." Using that momentum, the group followed up two years later with their still-in-rotation classic "Push It" before going on to dominate the charts for years.

The duo recently took part in a powerful 3-day panel series—presented by Mastercard—during the Grammys that centered women's hip hop and entrepreneurship. As we honor the 50th anniversary of hip hop this year, EBONY spoke with Salt-N-Pepa to learn the keys to their success and longevity as entertainers, as well as businesswomen.

EBONY: What has been the key factor to your longevity in hip hop? 

Pepa (Sandra Denton): Believe it or not, it was a question if hip hop would even last, and here we are celebrating 50 years, performing again at the Grammys. Coming from a strong Jamaican background, I believe, helped me face and overcome the adversity in such a male dominant field. We became a voice for women all over the world, talked about issues that were taboo and commanded respect!

Salt (Cheryl James): One way was by remaining true to our brand, Salt-N-Pepa brought fun, fashion and femininity to hip hop, we represented the “around the way girl” that LL Cool J spoke of. We were relatable, authentic and knew the importance of identifying with and tapped into our hard-core fans, our day ones. We also created timeless music and understood the importance of re-inventing ourselves. Besides that, it was written in the stars.

Salt-N-Pepa during Mastercard's She Runs This event in LA. Image: Rich Polk/@polkimaging.

How does it feel to be celebrating 50 years of hip hop, and to be among the industry’s greats/trailblazers? 

Pepa: It feels awesome! Hip hop has also been a powerful tool for social and political activism, giving voice to communities that have been marginalized and underrepresented. Today, hip hop is one of the most popular and influential music genres in the world, and its impact can be seen in various aspects of popular culture. To be celebrating with our peers Run DMC, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and LL it's a beautiful thing. Who would have thought hip hop would take it this far—from boycotting the Grammys to being the first female hip hop group to win and be televised, and now, celebrating 50 years. 

Salt: It feels like a dream; it's surreal. It feels like a responsibility, but it also feels like I’ve just begun.

What advice can you give to young entrepreneurs and entertainers as it relates to making sure their business affairs are in order?

Pepa: Keep accurate records of all transactions, contracts and agreements related to your business and entertainment ventures. This will help you keep track of your finances and ensure that everything is in order. Protect your intellectual property. If you're in the entertainment industry, it's important to protect your music, lyrics or other original works. Register for a copyright and/or trademark and make sure your work is legally protected.

Salt: Be disciplined and consistent. Do the challenging stuff, even if it’s hard to do. Don't forget things like reading contracts. And, don't be afraid to identify the people who are impeding your progress and let them go. Overall, do the business just as fiercely as the art. 

How has Mastercard’s resources and tools helped you succeed?

Salt-N-Pepa: Like all Black women artists in the music industry and Black women business owners, we have always faced deep-rooted inequalities that exasperate the already difficult challenges of pursuing our passions and continue to succeed in music. Mastercard supports us to continue to accomplish our dreams, and this year, they are specifically going out of their way to help equip Black women entrepreneurs with the financial tools and resources that they deserve.