A Conversation with Spinderella

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Photo courtesy of Achieve PR

For those of us who were privileged enough to live through the golden era of Hip-Hop we remember a time when the DJ was an integral part of a Hip-Hop group. The Furious Five had Grandmaster Flash, LL Cool J had Cut Creator, Rakim had Eric B, Whodini had Grandmaster Dee, Public Enemy had Terminator X, Run-DMC had Jam Master Jay, and Salt-N-Pepa had Spinderella.

Only a teenager when she joined Salt-N-Pepa, the beautiful DJ Spinderella evolved before our very eyes as a DJ, producer, actress, broadcaster, entrepreneur, and even as an emcee. First and foremost Spinderella is a DJ and she continues to rock parties across the globe. Spin is currently the resident DJ for Shaq’s All Star Comedy Jam. 

The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Spinderella about her love of deejaying, the reason for Salt-N-Pepa’s break-up, and her plans for 2013 and beyond. 

TRHH: Right now you’re on the road as part of Shaq’s All Star Comedy Jam, how’s that tour been for you so far? 

Spinderella: It’s great. It’s a lot of fun. The comedians are the best. Being around comedy all the time you can’t do nothing but laugh so I’m enjoying it. 

TRHH: I saw you perform with Salt-N-Pepa this summer on the Rock the Bells tour in L.A. and San Francisco and I was blown away. I never saw y’all perform before. How was it reuniting with the crew to perform on a stage like Rock the Bells? 

Spinderella: Incredible. It’s always magic when we’re on the stage so when we get together, which is a rare occasion these days it’s a good look. The crowd enjoyed it. I wish we could extend it or get back out there and do it again. We’ve been talking and hopefully soon we can put something together for the fans. We’ve been performing together for a lot of years so it’s magic on that stage. Which show did you like the best? I know we did San Bernardino first and then Mountain View.

TRHH: The first one was on the bigger stage, right? 

Spinderella: Yeah. 

TRHH: The first time was the best time. You were on point. The solo where you played a string of songs by female rappers was dope. It was probably my favorite performance of the entire Rock the Bells. Y’all set it off and a lot of the kids that go to Rock the Bells may have been babies when Salt-N-Pepa came out and everybody was feeling it. 

Spinderella: Thank you. We were feeling it too. Wow, that’s dope ‘cause everybody was on that stage. It was a good look. I had to do it. Everyone was fighting me on it like, “Play some more up tempo party joints,” and I was like, “Nah, let’s teach their ass!” We can’t forget Yo Yo, Lyte, and Monie Love. I couldn’t fit everybody in because we had such a short time. I wanted to make sure they know that ladies do represent in Hip-Hop. We don’t just have Nicki Minaj and that’s it. We have females that have represented along the way and made some noise and I wanted to give them that light and I’m glad you enjoyed it. 

We don’t perform together anymore. They’re doing them and I’m doing me. When I found out about Rock the Bells and Salt-N-Pepa being on it I immediately called Salt and said, “Salt, this would be a great look if we came together for this.” Rock the Bells is known for that classic vibe so to see me would be like a surprise. She said, “Yeah, let’s do it,” so we got together and put a show together and made it happen. 

TRHH: Why don’t you perform with them regularly? Why did you go your separate ways? 

Spinderella: We basically grew in different directions. Salt-N-Pepa took a hiatus from performing for a certain amount of years and I was still out there deejaying and doing events and parties. I was on the scene and I haven’t stopped but as a group they had. When they came back together they did that reality show and were going in a different direction. I was in my own space. As an artist you have to make sacrifices when you come together. It was the best thing for both sides. In that time frame I’ve grown as a DJ. Hopefully one day we can do a reunion album and tour. At this point we’ve just been talking about it. We’re in a better place because we weren’t in agreement on a lot of things for a minute. 

TRHH: Salt-N-Pepa is a trailblazing group on so many different levels. At what point during the groups run did you realize you all were doing something special? 

Spinderella: I was a kid when I started with them. I was sixteen and I basically became a woman while in the group. I was totally dependent on them for everything. I learned a lot. I learned about the business, how to be an artist, create longevity, how to perform–the basics of the industry. Salt-N-Pepa put out the album Brand New in ’97 and I really had to start taking a look at myself and what I wanted to do. I was all grown up at that point and couldn’t depend on Salt-N-Pepa. Things don’t last forever so I went out there and started doing my own thing. I got into radio. That was my side gig besides deejaying. I became my own force to be reckoned with. That was basically because Salt-N-Pepa’s popularity was going down at that time. 

TRHH: Why do you think the DJ isn’t currently incorporated into Hip-Hop acts like they once were? 

Spinderella: That’s a good question. Everyone has their own take on it but like I said before you grow individually. There was always a battle between the emcee and DJ. Originally the DJ was the emcee. They called the shots, set the tone of the party, and deejayed. When the emcee came on the scene and started making it happen the DJ was the person to back the emcee up and support them but it had to be reciprocated for it to be right. I guess the DJ felt that they had to stand up on their own because the emcee is getting all the light. So the DJ started branching off into production and being more creative and heard, the way it was originally. The DJ started to become the star. Everyone knows the importance of the DJ, they set the tone, keep the party going, and if you’re a talented DJ you can hit all those notes. For me it was that way and I think other deejays felt the same way. We have to stand out, now it’s our turn. 

TRHH: Do you prefer being a radio host or deejaying live at events? 

Spinderella: At this point I love deejaying. That’s my first love. I love radio because I got the knowledge of it in my days with Salt-N-Pepa. We always did radio and I didn’t go to school for it but I felt like I got the knowledge of it from being around it all the time. It was really important for us as a group. My love is deejaying and the radio thing is a bonus. 

TRHH: What’s your opinion of Serato? A lot of people have come around to it. What’s your opinion of what Serato has done for music? 

Spinderella: Serato is an enhancement. It makes it easier to deejay. I love Serato, I use it and I also use vinyl. I don’t have a problem with Serato at all. I’m thankful that I was a part of the beginning process of the DJ where we learned the basics of turntableism. We carried records. There are a lot of differences between Serato and vinyl. One is my chiropractor bill [laughs]. I don’t have one anymore because of that. It saved me some money. It’s technology and we have to change with the times.

TRHH: Definitely. What’s the one sure-fire song that always makes the party go nuts? 

Spinderella: Aw shoot man I got a lot of them. I hate that question [laughs]. People always go, “What you gonna start with?” Shoot, I don’t know! The thing is I don’t because it’s really about my vibe and what I feel like. You have to read the crowd depending on what you’re playing. I love the classics, I love the old school, I love ‘90’s Hip-Hop, and I love old Soul music. I love break beats, James Brown, House, there is not one song that I could say. I play everything from Camp Lo to Wu-Tang to Chuck Brown. It’s whatever I’m feeling and the vibe of the audience attending the party. I can’t say what the one song is that I have to play because you know I change that sucker up. I love beats and I do go in on the classics. I’ll go in on some MC Lyte or some Meth and Red.

TRHH: So you have to kind of read the crowd then? I know different parts of the country might like different types of music. 

Spinderella: Of course. You got the New York vibe, you got L.A., and you got Miami. I’m in Dallas right now and they love Top 40 and that Crunk, they love the ratchetness [laughs]. It all depends on the party that I’m doing. I like some of the new stuff that’s out now. I’m not going to say I love it all but I like Meek Mill and 2 Chainz. People might be surprised that I like stuff like that. Music is timeless and we’re in a time-frame where we’re the older generation and there’s a generation under us and we can remember when the people who are older than us were like, “Turn that crap off! What is that mess?” There is a difference with the music now and back then. Number one is the feeling. We need to get that feeling back. It’s so mainstream now. Everyone is trying to be popular and follow a formula but honestly the real music that lasts forever is the music that you can be creative with that has some heart. 

TRHH: I think a lot of people felt like they got that feeling with Kendrick Lamar’s record. Did you get that feeling when you heard it? 

Spinderella: I have to say Kendrick Lamar would probably be today’s Hip-Hop, God forgive me, savior. The reason why is because he has that vibe, that feeling. He kind of reminds me of the feeling that Nas gave you back then. It was feeding you. We’re basically hungering for that. In order to actually have that feeling again somebody is going to have to come out and be totally open musically. I think Kendrick Lamar is bringing that. Ask yourself which of these artists of today are going to have that song that lasts forever? I believe that Kendrick Lamar has the formula for that. He’s in a good place. I can’t say that I’m the biggest Kendrick Lamar fan but I appreciate his brand of Hip-Hop. If we can get more of that kind of Hip-Hop, man o man [laughs]. 

TRHH: I’m around your age, I’m thirty-six and I find myself being the angry old dude. The new stuff isn’t always bad, it’s just different. Like you, I’m not the biggest Kendrick Lamar fan but I do feel like what he did was unique and different for today and could open up doors. That might influence someone else to follow his lane. 

Spinderella: Yeah. Like I said you gotta give everybody their time. I’d like to see what he comes out with next. We’re hungering and we know what that feeling was back then. When you’ve gone through what we’ve gone through in Hip-Hop give me something freaking good! I’m hungry and I can’t take it no more. Or I’ll just keep listening to the ‘90’s Hip-Hop. Either you’re old school or you just know what you like. It wasn’t perfect back then. I want everybody to think back a little bit when it comes to Hip-Hop. You’re younger than me but there was a phase in Hip-Hop when people were getting called out for selling out. It wasn’t like all the groups were perfect. Do you remember that? 

TRHH: Yeah. There is a revisionist history. M.C. Hammer is kind of celebrated now but he got it pretty bad from a lot of people back then. 

Spinderella: Oh yeah, he did. Clearly he was an entertainer and he had some fun music. That was just his brand of music that was from where he was. I always enjoyed M.C. Hammer to be honest. The popular thing back then was to not sell-out and he was considered a sell-out. So was Salt-N-Pepa to a degree because we were Pop and when you’re Pop you’re a sell-out. I guess there was some that felt like once you crossed over to the mainstream you were selling out. That was a phase back then and Hip-Hop wasn’t always perfect, trust. We’re facing that same situation today but the one thing we had back then was variety and a vibe. It was a feeling in Hip-Hop. Naughty brought it, N.W.A. brought it, Eric B & Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, everyone had their zone and we thoroughly enjoyed that. 

TRHH: I’ve asked a couple of people this question. I went to a show in 1991 with Public Enemy, Geto Boys, Naughty By Nature, Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, A Tribe Called Quest, and Queen Latifah. There was so much variety on that show and everyone was so different. Something happened where the variety in Hip-Hop changed.  I went to Drake’s tour in the summer and a lot of the acts on the bill were similar to me. It was like 2 Chainz, Meek Mill, J Cole, and Waka Flocka. They’re different acts but similar in some ways. What do you think killed the variety in Hip-Hop? 

Spinderella: Well number one we had record companies that were trying to capitalize on popular urban music at the time. They were honing in on a formula. They were basically trying to mimic, especially in money and sales, that group that was most popular. The Gangsta phase was huge and it was a big shift in Hip-Hop. That was good for that time and then everybody had to come out Gangsta. It’s a lot of different reasons why the variety started to lessen and that was because everybody tried to follow a formula. I understand that they want to make money but they were clearly trying to recreate. You know who pays for it the most? Artists from the late ‘90’s really had to pay the price for that because they were being created by the record label to make that money. When you’re trying to create that formula it takes the creativity out and you start making an artist. Instead of all the talent out there being showcased they were looking for the same thing that was on the radio. 

TRHH: You rhymed on ‘Very Special’ with Big Daddy Kane, was there ever plans for you to record a solo album? 

Spinderella: I actually did an album. It was dope, too. 

TRHH: Really? 

Spinderella: Yeah, I still got it. I’m holding on to it [laughs]. I have people like AZ, Busta Rhymes, and Sticky Fingaz on it. Marley Marl produced on it, Pete Rock produced–mine was gully. This was before Eve and probably around the time that Foxy Brown was coming out. Salt-N-Pepa got a deal and they offered me an album as part of that deal and we recorded it. It was time for me. The reason I started rapping was because Hurby, Salt-N-Pepa’s producer, had me rapping on the earlier stuff because Pep was pregnant. Me and Salt had to fill in the breaks to cover the bases for when Pep was pregnant. That’s how I started getting involved in the rapping part and they were like, “Yo, that sounds dope, why don’t you do this or that,” and they started incorporating me on more records. And then it was like why don’t we just do my own album? It was a good look but it didn’t come out because the deal with Salt-N-Pepa had fell through. It was under the MCA umbrella at the time and MCA dissolved. It was like, nope we ain’t releasing it so I said alright I’ll hold it. It was dope. I had some great tracks on it. 

TRHH: So there are no plans to ever put that out? 

Spinderella: No, it’s too late for that. The fact that freaking Pete Rock produced a track and Busta Rhymes is on a track, those are gems that are in my archives. I don’t know what day I’ll bring it to the light but its dope enough to be brought to the light. If I put it out you’d be like, “Who’s that?!” 

TRHH: Really? 

Spinderella: Yeah. 

TRHH: OK. Tell me about TheBackSpin.com. 

Spinderella: The BackSpin is actually a network of my fans. It’s those who love Hip-Hop and love Spinderella. It’s a site parallel to a Facebook. I have another site that’s about to launch. It’s more of a personal and up to date site, TheDJSpinderella.com. We’re putting the finishing touches on it now. I’m excited about it. It’s more personalized; TheBackSpin was more for the fans. That one is on ice and I’m focusing on TheDJSpinderella.com now. 

TRHH: How’d you become the spokesperson for the American Diabetes Association? 

Spinderella: Because people need to be aware statistically of the diabetes epidemic. Most of us have people that we know that are diabetic if we’re not ourselves. Some are pre-diabetic and don’t even know it. I lost my mom and my brother is currently battling diabetes right now. It wears on everyone around the family. I lost my grandmothers to it so it’s genetically in my family. There are statistics showing that it’s only going to grow more. My idea was to show proactive-ness and prevention. Being on the road there’s fast food restaurants and we’re basically taking ourselves out by our eating habits. I’m just focusing on prevention and helping to raise money to find a cure for it. I just offered my celebrity because when my mom passed I heard about the ADA but I never associated myself with it, but why not? Especially in the black community it’s probably one of the biggest killer’s health-wise besides cancer. 

I’m no doctor but at the end of the day I’ve helped raise money for them and anything to help reduce the number of people losing their lives to diabetes that’s what I’m there for. I want to let all my fans know that Diabetes.org can answer a lot of your questions. People get diagnosed every moment and don’t know where to go. Especially in our health care system some people don’t even go to the doctor. If you have questions about how to maintain your glucose levels, what to eat, what you should be eating to prevent, or if you are diabetic go to Diabetes.org. That’s the American Diabetes Association’s national site. 

TRHH: What’s next up for Spinderella? What you got cooking? 

Spinderella: Oh, I got a few things cooking [laughs].  I’m already looking into 2014 right now. I’m trying to close some things out for 2013. I’m continuing on with the Shaq tour next year. Besides that there’s talk of some TV stuff. I’m going to continue on my fight with this DJ world and this culture. I want to let the youngins know to preserve the foundation of Hip-Hop. I know we got the technology, use it, embrace it, but also remember the foundation of those who started it. That will create longevity in Hip-Hop. 

I also still do my parties and events and if people want to know what city I’m going to be in they can hit me up on Twitter. I’m a Twitterholic so everything I do I put on Twitter, well mostly everything [laughs]. I’m @Spindeezy and I’m also on Facebook, DJ Spinderella.

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About Sherron Shabazz

Sherron Shabazz is a freelance writer with an intense passion for Hip-Hop culture. Sherron is your quintessential Hip-Hop snob, seeking to advance the future of the culture while fondly remembering its past.
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