June 27, 2013

By Shonassee Shaver

Sentinel Intern


MC Lyte is a hip-hop legend.  Nicki Minaj, take note!  Not only is MC Lyte a successful artist, rapper, and entrepreneur, but also she is also highly respected in the music game. From the golden age of hip-hop, she was the first solo female rapper to release a full album, Lyte as a Rock (1988).  It is astonishing.  Interestingly, MC Lyte does not see it that way. “There are so many that came before me.  I came at a time where independent labels and major music labels were in transition. I came at the beginning when major record labels were making deals happen,” said MC Lyte. Although MC Lyte does not classify herself as one of hip-hop’s pioneer feminists, she certainly has met all the prerequisites for being one.

This fresh-to-death MC is back on the scene for the BET Experience Concert June 29th at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, California. She will be performing among the likes of fellow rapper Eve and hip hop/neo soul band the Roots.  Sounds like a good time. “Absolutely, I love working with the Roots.  I would travel back and forth with them over the years.  I am excited for the Roots, to hear them play. It’ll be a good time for good music.”

Don’t get it twisted! MC Lyte has her own agenda that is just not about the music.  She is making her presence well known behind the music scene. The hip-hop legend has an entertainment management and production firm called Sunni Gyrl Global. “The SGG Company has many facets.  I signed with BET’s production company to establish the Hip Hop Sister Foundation. With this foundation, I am developing new artists and am able to support creative singers and artists. Continuing to do work for Hip Hop Sisters Foundation, “I have given out two $200,000 dollar scholarships sponsored by the Soul Train Awards. I want to be able to send a nice young person to school,” said MC Lyte.  The MC Lyte/UW-Madison $100,000 First Wave Scholarship helps children in the community to further their education. “I want to help kids advance their creative awareness. There are many students who want to do poetry, theatre and acting.  Then there are the kids who want to do law and medicine,” said MC Lyte. 

MC Lyte believes that education is the key to succeeding.  She helps young people to be creative and successful.  From the beginning, this rap star has always been about the community. Her lyrics exemplify this and more.

“I started my foundations to understand and to give knowledge to the artistic side of the music industry. People can succeed on the industry side of hip hop, but not have the business aspect of it together,” she said. MC Lyte is concerned with the ‘whole artist.’  “Having the knowledge of the business counterparts the talent. The business aspect needs to go together,” said MC Lyte. She has lent her name to many foundations that have influenced her to establish her own organizations so that she can be creative and flourish with her own plans for the community.

MC Lyte is all about redefining sisterhood. “We need sisterhood. We need to consistently support one another. Our goals should become each others’ goals,” she said.

Being an advocate for sisterhood, it is no surprise to us.  She was a part of Black Girls Rock, a non-profit youth empowerment and mentoring organization.  She was presented in the iRock Testimony.  MC Lyte exemplifies the reason that Black girls rock because she empowers black girls.  “I was the first artist many years ago (2005) to be honored.  It was in Brooklyn at the Dumbo Art Gallery in New York.  I was happy for CEO of Black Girls Rock Beverly Bond to have started with a dream, vision and get hooked up with the right people,” MC Lyte said.

MC Lyte is a close friend to rapper Lil’Mama. “I mentor many MCs’ as well as Lil’ Mama. I was told by a music executive that she had a mind like me.  She is from Brooklyn, NY.  She raps about drugs and gun violence.  In my mind, I already knew who she was. The community needs to support Lil’Mama,” said MC Lyte.

MC Lyte is also a humanitarian.  She respects the capacity of giving back. “From the corporation to the community, I want to be used,” she said on her stance of being a philanthropist.

The humble rapper continues to give back.  She recently visited Johannesburg in South Africa to help launch iLEAD youth program.  “Thurgood Marshall College Fund is an innovative creation in South Africa to uplift the youth. Young people from ages 18 to 20 have a devastating employment percentage. They need to be empowered.  They need to know what it means to be successful,” said MC Lyte. She enjoyed herself along with artists Kenny Lattimore and Lil’Mama.

Rapper MC Lyte wears many hats in the music industry.  She is an emcee, a songwriter, a speaker, a narrator, a voice-over, a DJ, an actress and an entrepreneur. She has a diverse career where she can balance all of these gigs. “I am not afraid.  I educate myself therefore I am able to get it done. I rest then pick up the next thing. This is who I am,” she said. 

Speaking of being a “jade of all trades,” she is an author of the book, Unstoppable.  It’s about having courage and faith.  Never giving up and achieving one’s greatest potential. “I have longevity. It has allowed me to go outside of being a rapper. I believed it has helped me stay motivated and creative.”

When asked about her opinion on rap music today she responded, “it lacks balance and means. The majority of it is promoted mainstream.  Good hip hop with a positive perspective is not on top.”

She did not deny that she loves house music. In South Africa, she listened to house music.  “Beat House African music has evolved.”

As a lyrist, she feels that rap lyrics about men and women are disheartening.  “If we stop buying this kind of music, they’ll stop producing.  It is bullying on record. Women are being objectified.”

As far as female rappers Nicki Minaj, Azealia Banks and Iggy Azalea, they fit into the scope of rap music today.  “Visually and music wise, they fit in for what is called for, what is prevalent.” Music artist resemble that hard edge lifestyle.  Is it even the real thing? That gangster life is often fabricated.  Many female rap artists see themselves as “Bad.”  “Rock stars have defined that hard life of drugs, sex and rock and roll. I followed that image. The lines of cocaine and not sleeping are a part of the music lifestyle. I don’t consider this a hard life,” she adds.  “Being financially strapped, struggling to make it, is a hard life.”

Don’t count this MC out. With a career that has spanned 20 years; she stays current with the music industry and its style. “I’m a DJ.  I’m constantly getting new music. I am able to understand hip-hop and how it affects the masses.  I am able to keep up.”

There is no doubt that MC Lyte can keep up with today’s music and culture. “I’m not into high fashion.  I don’t enjoy being cold and I love layers.  I need to be comfortable.” Well this can explain why she remains a fresh-faced beauty to date.

Category: Arts & Culture