Afrobella of the Week, Hip Hop Heroine – MC Lyte

Back in 1984 MC Lyte released 10% Dis, a hard-hitting track that destroyed her then-rival, Antoinette. Lyte’s boasts proved prophetic:

Others write your rhymes, while I write my own,

I don’t create a character, when I’m on the microphone,

I am myself, no games to be played,

No script to be written, no scene to be made.

I am the director, as far as you are concerned,

You don’t believe me, then you’ll have to learn,

This ain’t as hard as MC Lyte can get

And matter of fact, you ain’t seen nothin yet!

For real.

Lyte didn’t just leave her rivals in her dust, she cemented her position as a hip-hop legend early in the game. I was proud to see Lil Kim, Da Brat, Remy Ma, and Yo Yo pay homage at the Hip Hop Honors, but the performance just underscored a sad point in my opinion.

Turn on your local urban radio station and try to find a female MC lyrically equal to Lyte. You’ll find yourself listening to the same twenty five, mind-numbingly misogynistic tracks all day long.

That’s a far cry from the late Eighties and Nineties, when female MCs like Salt n Pepa, Queen Latifah, and Lyte reigned the radio.

Lyte addressed the gender gap in a recent interview with Essence magazine : “Most record companies don’t even want to sign a female MC if she’s not down with a male camp. And as women, we’re still in an era when what you look like is very important. You can be lacking in other areas as long as you make up for it in looks. The way women are being portrayed reflects what’s really going on in our community. You have to teach a younger generation of women about self-respect and self-esteem;that they can separate themselves from what they see and hear on television and radio. And they have to see enough variety in the types of portrayals of women to know they have a choice.” So true.

As illustrated in my original Hip Hop Heroines article, Dr. Dionne Stephens identified specific stereotypes in the genre. Well it seems right now, the only types getting airplay are freaks, gold diggers, and divas. In the Essence interview, Lyte continued to say: “When it comes to the misogyny in hip-hop, Black women haven’t been able to change things because we’re not standing together… It’s going to take one of these really respected directors to say to an artist, “I won’t have a woman dressed like that in a video,” because that challenges the artist to say, “Okay, what other ideas do we have that would be exciting to watch?” There are ways to be sexy and classy without being borderline disgusting.

It’s great to hear a pioneer in the game point that out.

I would love to see any of the female MCs today show the evolution and range that Lyte showed. She started out so Brooklyn tough on Paper Thin and street smart on Cha Cha Cha. She revealed her knack for storytelling on Cappucino, and came out Cross Colors bucket hat chic on I Go On. (Check it out! That clip is from Video Soul. I grew up watching Donnie Simpson and Sherry Carter). Cold Rock a Party was the jam! When Ruffneck came out I was with Lyte all the way (Since then I’ve come to realize that a ruffneck dude can be a whole lot of fun, they don’t typically make marrying material. I bet Lyte would agree with me on that). Her guest verses are always tight, and I love when Lyte comes out spitting hard, sexy rhymes, like she did in one of my favorite Janet Jackson videos, You Want This. (That video takes me back to when Janet would wear clothes and be sexy. I miss that pre-NFL boobgate Janet).

Nowadays, Lyte is older, wiser, and looking more beautiful than ever. She proved her value as an actress on the now defunct UPN series Half and Half. When she isn’t accepting accolades or doing charity work, she’s out on tour. She wrote a poetry book that’s available through her official website, and homegirl even owns her own boutique.

Do yourself a favor and check out the first single off her overdue and upcoming LP, Back to Lyte, which she discusses in this great interview with Nobody Smiling. “The Wonder Years” with DJ Premier takes a fierce look back and labels Lyte “the ghetto Joan of Arc.”

I sincerely hope that this is the beginning of her major comeback. Lord knows she’s looking better than most of the current crop of hip hop contemporaries (ahemahem!) and I for one would love to hear her spitting fire over some hot Timbaland beats.

Lately I’ve been feeling nostalgic for early Nineties jams. Whatever happened to groups like Brownstone and Zhane? I miss the fast slow jams that SWV, Xscape, and Total did so well. So here’s one of my fave smoothed-out MC Lyte jams from the Nineties, “Keep On Keepin’ On” featuring Xscape.

Congrats, MC Lyte! You’re Afrobella of the Week.

Happy Monday, y’all!

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Comments

  1. Love the post. In college, a few friends and I were in a lip-sync competition. We performed the “You Want This” re-mix. I did the MC Lyte part. We did not win first place, but we won third place. It was totally fun. People were surprised to see me up there. We did have some good times in Hip Hop back in the day. There was something for everyone.

  2. Girl!!
    What happened to MoKenStep( He’s Mine),Blackgirl, and ForReal? The nineties R&B girl groups were amazing!!!

  3. MC Lyte, Salt & Peppa, Queen Latifa…those women had lyrics that I wasn’t ashamed to sing along with.

  4. coiltastic says:

    i’m feelin this week’s bella of the week and hip hop heroine. I still listen to mc lyte up loud lol. I will have my ears ready to hear this comeback. The same old rap video in a club with booties shaking and liquor everywhere, yawn!! and female rappers with slutbag lyrics, trashy clothes, bad ugly weaves, and bad plastic surgery, it’s time for it to end.

    You can also catch video soul monday and friday afternoons on betJ. They will surely take you back on that channel.

  5. I luv her. She’s one of the few ladies in the biz I have any respect for. Her voice is sooo commanding.

  6. Ahhhhh….Paper Thin was my JAM!!! I had never heard a rap song by a female that spoke of love and companionship before. And the rhymes were DOPE (aging myself with the lingo…lol) When ya say ya love me it doesn’t matter it goes into my head as just chit chatter…

  7. I love me some MC Lyte, she is the greatest. Plus, I think she has one of the best Hip Hop lines of all time.. “Do not say sh*t until you wtite your own rhymes!!” Classic!

  8. Yay for my baby MC Lyte! She has aged well and her sexy is preserved. I was glad to see her inducted into VH-1 Hip Hop Honors, she certainly deserved it.

  9. I really feel this post. I am a music lover and right now I am just tired! I am tired of the same ol’ mess. My iPod is now full of late eighties/ early nineties jams and I could not be happier!

  10. jerseybred says:

    MC LYTE is the TRUTH, Georgie Porgie is my jam.
    p.s. does anyone remember Sweet Tee’s ‘Why did it have to be me?’ *searching YouTube now*

  11. Love McLyte

    “Lyte as a Rock, or I should say a boulder
    Rolling down your neck, pounding on your shoulders
    Never shall I be an emcee, called a wannabe
    I am the Lyte, L-Y-T-E
    This is the way it is, don’t ever forget
    Hear the rhyme by someone else and you know they bit
    All in the way, just little obstacles
    Chew em up, spit em out, just like popsicles
    Suckers out of my way, we’re not on the same wavelength
    I show stability, potential and strength
    On the other hand, you are weak and unruly
    Could never be a spy, cause you’re just a plain stoolie.”

  12. I love the fact that she is the Heroine of the week!!! I’ve been bumping her in my ipos all week. I cram to understand you! Me and my dj! chachacha! She’s killing it for me right now!!! I broke up with my x, moved out from my crazy insecure ass roommate situation and am in the process of getting my bitch back (apparently she was dying to come back too cuz she’s coming sooner than I thought!)

    dead on! I love it!

    The only current album worth bumping next to it is Fergie’s; equally as empowering!

    M’

  13. I am glad that there are still people who recognize that true essence of HIP HOP. and long for it as much as I do. I can guarantee that it is on the rise again. Hip Hop works in cycles We had the 90′s and then the “new millenia bullshi*” thats out now… and this era is coming to a close! GREAT MUSIC is returning! I recommend that you ALL check out my mixtape. I am a FEMALE artist- HOTTER than anything youve heard in a long while- I PROMISE. Inspired by the likes of MC Lyte, Lil Kim, and Salt N Pepa. I believe in empowering women and Im not into all that “sell my body- rap prostitute music” I am built STRICTLY on SKILL. Just give it a listen and I guarantee you will get your HIP HOP FIX!!!! FREE DOWNLOAD @ http://www.datpiff.com/profile/atlamusic
    or send an address to atlamusic@ymail.com to request a free hardcopy disc

    Support Independent artists and become a Fan of KHARMA and A.T.L.A… We are HIP HOP and the FUTURE!!!! Thanks for the support in advance! One!

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