'Salt-N-Pepa' Review: Lifetime's biopic needs you to look beyond your screens to soak it all
The movie stars GG Townson portraying Salt, Laila Odom as Pepa, Cleveland Berto as music producer Hurby Azor, Jermel Howard as rapper Treach and Monique Paul as DJ Spinderella
Let's talk about Salt-N-Pepa! The legendary female hip-hop pioneers are making their way to your TV screens today (January 23) for a brand-new biopic aptly titled 'Salt-N-Pepa'. Movie stars GG Townson portraying Salt, Laila Odom as Pepa, Cleveland Berto as music producer Hurby Azor, Jermel Howard as rapper Treach and Monique Paul as DJ Spinderella form the cast. With a total runtime of over two hours, the film has done an exquisite job of including as much content as viewers would want to enjoy, but this is also where it can fall short at times.
We will discuss some of the negatives before diving into some of its many plus points. The movie opens in the present day of 2005, when Salt and Pepa reunited to perform at VH-1's Hip Hop Honors and when they hadn't spoken to each other for years. The opening scene signals a sense of tension among the two stars and instead of inducing a feeling of mystery or suspense, it can feel disorienting and awkward, especially if you're not necessarily a fan or follower of their history.
After they get on the stage together and before their performance, it cuts back into their origin timeline in 1985 — when the story unfolds. It's all a quick succession of critical events from there which often tends to make the acting feel forced — not enhancing serious dialogues, or contrasting enough from the fun stuff — leaving the viewer unsure of which moments in their past are more crucial to experience their journey.
Suggesting you look beyond the "TV movie" lens and focus on the project's message, it is easy to get lost in the music, the story, and all its charms. Over the underlining component of being a woman up against the typically male competition, the biopic is all about friendship. Finding the proverbial "salt" to your "pepper" and vice versa will set you on a road with someone where challenges that could potentially break you are what ultimately make you strong — that's where the empowerment lies. Relationships matter, even if business protocol preaches against it, and 'Salt-N-Pepa' embraces it.
Heading into the music of 'Salt-N-Pepa' and what you'd hope for is all there. Fans will get to see what it's like to start from the bottom and become the next big thing with business smarts, determined confidence, and a whole lot of sass.
GG Townson and Laila Odom give relatable performances of an amateurish start with a lot of headspace to wonder whether to turn left or right. Increasingly, their drive and loyalty push them through to knowing exactly who they are and what they want. There is also a build-up of fun — like a shy person attending a party and as the music elevates, they can't help themself but get pulled to the beat in the name of music and freedom of restraint. Salt-N-Pepa's classic songs 'Push It', 'Let's Talk About Sex', and more hit hard and the sense of nostalgia fires on all cylinders. It's wild, it's fun, and oh-so old-school.
We also get to see some iconic outfits such as the eight-ball jackets from their 1986 'Push It' music video, or the combo of their black bras, biker shorts, and signature knee pads. The acting paired with the atmosphere of each scene feels so '80s-'90s and the old-school vibe is celebrated while at the same time, Salt and Pepa carry the prowess of a modern empowered woman.
Whether you're from a young generation or have lived in that era, there is a lot of meat as to why such things became catchy in the first place. You're forgiven if you want to adopt the style again after watching. Salt-N-Pepa were pioneers, and when the music kicks in, it has to be respected, even if you don't know the history of hip-hop.