In this week's Dallas Observer we profile 20 of the metro area's most interesting characters, with new portraits of each from local photographer Can Turkyilmaz. See the entire Dallas Observer People Issue here.
Deidra "Dee Dee" Roper, better known as DJ Spinderella, of the '90s hip-hop girl group Salt-N-Pepa, moved to Dallas in 2010. In the years since, she's hardly positioned herself as a local celebrity, but she has quietly embraced the city and its nightlife. She's become an active member of the local DJ scene, working with Too Fresh Productions to throw Fresh 45s parties at The Crown and Harp. She's been a keynote speaker at Girls Rock Dallas! summer camp. She even spent a year spinning the midday shift at KSOC-FM 94.5 K Soul. Music, as is always has, rooted her here.
"I grew up in a household where music was the atmosphere," Roper says. "My father was a collector of vinyl records. ... Growing up in Brooklyn, we lived in the projects, on the seventh floor, and we were the loudest apartment music-wise, because my father was always blaring records after work -- everything from Quincy Jones to Grover Washington Jr. to Hall and Oates."
As she got older, with help from a DJing high-school sweetheart, Roper began to learn her own way around a turntable. At 16 she landed an audition with Salt-N-Pepa, who were just starting to gain buzz in the New York hip-hop scene. Within two weeks, she hit the road with 18-year-old Sandra "Pepa" Denton and 22-year-old Cheryl "Salt" James. Finishing her senior year on tour, "Spin," as she's often called, traveled the world with the influential group.
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"I worked on an ice cream truck at the time, making my little dollars. I was always a hustler," she says. "So it was interesting to go from that to being on the road, and then we just steadily grew from there." She fell into a homesick depression adjusting to life on tour, she says. "Most people seek out that kind of career, but me, I was comfortable at home with my family and my girlfriends."
Her move to Dallas, she says, is rooted in a desire to live at a pace not afforded by her native New York, but she also seems to be using the city as a sort of staging area for the long-awaited reunion of Salt-N-Pepa. After a few sporadic appearances together starting in 2007, the trio recently started performing a new set. Among their classic cuts like "Push It," "Let's Talk About Sex" and "Shoop," Spinderella interpolates mixes with Beyoncé and Destiny's Child, illustrating the full-circle effect of Salt-N-Pepa's message of female empowerment in pop music. There's talk now of a reunion show in Spin's adopted hometown.
"We got the matching jackets redone and everything," Roper says. "When we put those on and do 'Push It,' it feels like '88 again."