Salt-N-Pepa Finds a Whole New Generation of Fans

'90s icons talk about how an ad put them back in the Zeitgeist

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No '90s playlist would be complete without such Salt-N-Pepa hits as "Shoop," "Whatta Man" and "Let's Talk About Sex." A slightly earlier hit, "Push It," was appropriated by insurer Geico for a spot that broke last December and aired on this year's Super Bowl—and that brought Cheryl "Salt" James, Sandra "Pepa" Denton and Deidra "DJ Spinderella" Roper back into the spotlight. Denton and James spoke to Adweek about working with Geico, courting new fans and surviving in today's music business. 


What did you think when you heard about the Geico concept?
James: We got it right away. We thought it was hilarious. I read [the script] to my 15-year-old son and he said, "Oh my god, that's brilliant. Do it!"

What's been the public response?
Denton: We like to say that song is possessed because it'll never go away. It has a life of its own. We're fortunate and blessed that we made timeless music, and we knew we had our fan base. But since the commercial, we now have teenagers and all these young people coming up to us.
James: They think it's a new song. Their moms have to tell them it's 25 years old! It's also reminded people of our personalities, how many hits we had, and our record sales … have gone up. It's helped to open up more opportunities than we can even pursue.

Why do you think there's so much current interest in the '90s?
James: It was a hot, really memorable era. One of our favorite compliments is when people say we were the soundtrack of their lives back then. And now when they come to shows, they want to dress up in Adidas suits and wear asymmetrical-hair wigs. It's fun to remember that time.

How have changes in the music business had an impact on artists?
James: Record companies are almost obsolete because people don't buy records anymore. Music is a way of branding yourself, and that's what it's all about now. You make music for the love of it, but you move into other areas, like movies or commercials, to make money.

@TLStanleyLA T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.