How MC Lyte’s Voice Helped Bridge Generations In Hip-Hop
The long-lasting rapper displays on being the primary feminine emcee to launch a solo album and teases a brand new podcast.
MC Lyte’s voice reverberated throughout Forest Hills Stadium like a pastor’s at church at LL Cool J’s Rock The Bells Pageant. She had the viewers within the palm of her hand, as they rapped alongside phrase for phrase prefer it was 1993 and never 2023. She hit the stage with fervor, rocking a varsity jacket that learn “Lengthy Dwell Hip Hop” to commemorate 50 years of the style. MC ShaRock and Roxanne Shanté had taken the stage proper earlier than her and Salt-N-Pepa proper after. These ladies had been instrumental in Lyte turning to rap as an artwork expression and profession rising up in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Thirty-five years after dropping her debut album, she stood proper the place she belonged.
You may’t correctly have a good time 50 years of hip-hop with out MC Lyte. The pioneering artist has efficiently had the muse, longevity and respect many OGs dream of. She turned the primary feminine rapper to drop a solo album with “Lyte as a Rock” in 1988, opening doorways for a lot of to come back. She went on to drop a number of different albums and have become the primary feminine rapper to realize gold certification for her hit track “Ruffneck.” She’s obtained the “I Am Hip Hop” Lifetime Achievement Award from BET and has been honored on the VH1 Hip Hop Honors. Except for rapping, she’s had a profitable profession on the radio and doing voice-over work for animated exhibits and award exhibits.
“I wasn’t actually desirous about something besides being heard for what it was that I used to be saying,” MC Lyte, 52, informed HuffPost over the cellphone just some days earlier than the pageant. “Individuals say, ‘Oh, you wore saggy pants,’ and sure, I wore no matter was going to make you pay attention greater than look. I used to be far more into delivering a message that was essential to me, which was an anti-drug message. I didn’t have sense sufficient to assume that I needs to be scared or fearful that right here I’m a lady on the mic, and I ought to look to say this due to that.”
MC Lyte is without doubt one of the most recognizable pioneering voices in rap throughout generations. For those who’re not a Gen Xer or early Millennial who is aware of her for her music, you’re a late millennial or early Gen Zer who is aware of her for being the voice behind every BET Awards or the 2023 Grammy Awards. She’s helped construct a bridge that made it potential for hip-hop to see 50 years. And that’s no exaggeration.
The very fact of the matter is that MC Lyte at all times knew the facility of her personal voice. Effectively earlier than her pursuit of hip-hop, she picked up a microphone early, taking part in Rockers’ music and pretending to be Sister Nancy. Her cousins in Harlem launched her to hip-hop by way of Funky 4 Plus One Extra, Chilly Crush Brothers and The Treacherous Three. She was mesmerized by tapes of rappers who battled to rock the get together essentially the most. It wasn’t till she heard Salt-N-Pepa, nonetheless, that she thought that she may do it, too.
“That’s once I type of discovered [I was] gonna begin writing, however I didn’t know what that meant,” she stated. “I simply was attempting to get in the place I slot in.”
She stated trying to the likes of Salt-N-Pepa and Roxanne Shanté impressed her, particularly listening to them diss male rappers on “The Showstopper” and “Roxanne’s Revenge,” respectively.
“It felt like, ‘Oh, my goodness, I can relate. This particular person is me. They’re younger, they’re vibrant. They’re speaking smack,’” she stated. “It was undoubtedly empowering for a younger lady from Brooklyn, who acknowledged in a short time that hip-hop was a language for the youth.”
This afterward opened the door for Lyte’s personal “10% Dis,” which has been extremely sampled since.
Poems and raps stuffed her composition pocket book. She wrote about her experiences rising up. She ultimately related with DJ Clark Kent by way of a mutual pal with whom she labored with at a Mexican restaurant. Lyte recorded her first rhymes in his basement studio in Brooklyn. She recorded her debut single, “I Cram To Perceive U,” at 16.
Releasing “Lyte as a Rock” was kismet for MC Lyte. She had beforehand been in a rap group that didn’t work out. At the moment, lots of labels had been “throwing singles towards the wall, hoping they might stick” and lots of gifted artists “acquired caught up,” she defined. Launched by First Precedence and Atlantic Data, she known as herself “fortunate” to even have had the chance.
She wasn’t the one fortunate one on the time ― 1988 was an enormous 12 months for hip-hop because the style was pushing full steam forward to a brand new frontier. That was the identical 12 months N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton,” Massive Daddy Kane’s “Lengthy Dwell The Kane,” Public Enemy’s “It Takes a Nation of Thousands and thousands to Maintain Us Again,” and EPMD’s “Strictly Enterprise” had been launched, simply to call just a few. Hip-hop was maturing and its message was potent. Even with a flooded 12 months, “Lyte as a Rock” stood by itself and have become a business success and a big milestone for hip-hop.
“It’s my child,” Lyte stated of her debut album. “I lived with the lyrics for that report for a few years previous to getting within the studio and getting a deal. So in fact, , that’s the prized possession. And, fairly frankly, is the simplest, since you’ve been ready so lengthy. It’s the sophomore album, that’s normally the hardest. After which so on, and so forth. As a result of now you’ve acquired to muster up new issues to speak about, which might be simply as related as the primary album.”
Her goals didn’t cease at rapping, nonetheless, as voice-over work and performing had been aspirations for her since childhood. Lyte was in between registering for lessons to check communications at Norfolk State College, however pivoted to Hunter School in New York Metropolis as a substitute as a result of she had a report deal, and her mom didn’t need her to be so distant. On her second day of faculty, she acquired known as to tour in Denmark, Copenhagen, and determined to not attend faculty.
“[It’s] a tragic level for me, as a result of I want I did have that have,” she stated. “However I acquired a special type of expertise. I opted in for some road sense. However with that, I knew that I wished to make use of my voice once I heard California on New York radio.”
Lyte opted for performing faculty and voice-over teaching. She made her performing debut in an off-Broadway manufacturing known as “Membership Twelve” in 1991 and commenced doing stints in radio within the mid-’90s. She stated the gigs she’s at all times excited to be part of, nonetheless, is the BET Awards, noting that it’s been “so lengthy that I’ve that I’ve truly stopped counting” what number of years she’s labored it.
“It’s a contemporary place. Hip-hop hits the BET stage first after which they go on to do many different issues, however that’s the place they’re appreciated first,” Lyte stated. “That award present means lots to me as a result of it retains me related with youthful people. I perceive that it’s a privilege to have the ability to sit in such a spot the place I can see all of it, because it occurs, and other people understanding their exhibits and in the course of the rehearsals, after which I get to see Showtime with everybody else. And it’s like a household reunion each time. It’s actually so enjoyable.”
Lyte has just a few different tasks brewing, together with her personal podcast and a Netflix docuseries highlighting the historical past of ladies in rap known as “Women First: A Story of Ladies In Hip-Hop.” The four-part sequence premieres on Wednesday and options old-school and new-school voices together with Queen Latifah, Yo-Yo, Sha Rock, Da Brat, Remy Ma, Latto and Saweetie.
Lyte, who government produced it, stated even when audiences don’t see their fave within the mission, it doesn’t imply they didn’t attain out and sure couldn’t make it work attributable to scheduling. “Everybody was invited,” she stated.
Extra importantly, she desires viewers to worth the facility and variety of ladies in rap.
“Ladies are a vital and important a part of hip-hop, of the tradition, and it’s essential that we’re represented. It’s essential that we’re heard and seen. And if given the chance, we’re capable of present that we’re simply as viable as anybody else on this enterprise,” Lyte stated. “There’s unity, [at the same time] we’re very completely different from each other. And that whenever you say feminine emcee, you’ll be able to’t lump all of us into one class simply as Technique Man is completely different from Widespread and Ice Dice is completely different from LL.”
Many years into her profession, MC Lyte is as booked as ever. However even along with her stacked calendar exhibiting no indicators of slowing down, she’s considered what she desires her legacy to be:
“That I wasn’t afraid to talk up and communicate out and I hope that I’m capable of encourage all individuals as a result of it’s by no means too late to get began no matter you wish to do,” she stated. “Dwell it, dream it, write it. With no matter it’s, carry it into existence by understanding that it might occur and by having religion.”
This story is a part of a HuffPost sequence celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of hip-hop. See all of our protection right here.