Know Your History: A Spotlight on MC Lyte

MC LyteCover of MC Lyte

Welcome to the third installment of Know Your History focusing on Women in Hip-Hop. We are doing this here on DOPEfm to celebrate International Women’s Day and shine a spotlight on hip-hop’s better half, the women.

We’ve already spent a half hour focusing on the 1970s and how present women were in the early days of hip-hop culture. In the last episode, we discussed the Ladies of the 80s and only scratched the surface there. Today we are going to celebrate a legend in the hip-hop game who burst onto the scene in the late 1980s and forever changed the face of hip-hop.
Thanks for tuning in. And don’t forget DOPEfm’s Women in Hip-Hop tribute is going all night long. That’s right, seven hours of quality hip-hop where each and every track we play is blessed by a woman. If you’re listening to this after March 12th, don’t worry. You can download the entire show for free.
Today, we are going to look closely at an amazing female artist, MC Lyte. We will listen to some of her music, and discuss the huge influence she has had in hip-hop and popular culture. You can download this episode for free our stream it with the player below.

MC Lyte has managed to build a lengthy career and can still be found on radios, television screens, movies, and bookshelves all across the world.

Let’s start off with a classic in all aspects of the word. This is “Paper thin” from her debut album “Lyte as a Rock” which came out in September 1988. Listen to the track and we’ll be back to discuss her career and the influence she had in really paving a way for women to be heard in a genre of music that was overtly, and continues to be, dominated by men.
One sign of a classic track is hearing how many songs have scratched part of it for a hook. If you haven’t heard “Paper Thin” in a while, or of it is your first time hearing it, I am sure you picked out some of those classic lines that have been sampled in many other hip-hop songs.
MC Lyte was the first solo female rapper to come out with a commercially successful album. “Lyte as a Rock” went gold and her next album “Eyes on This” in 1989 sparked a few gold and platinum selling singles as well.
MC Lyte called attention to issues of misogyny, sexism, and racism in her music. She began rhyming at the age of 12 and wrote her first single one year later way back in 1984 and she recorded it in 1986. This song tackles some heavy content. It tells the story of a failed relationship due to the boy’s addiction to crack.
That was “I Cram to Understand You” and was the song that caught the attention of First Priority Records. They signed MC Lyte to a recording contract in 1987 and I’m sure they weren’t even aware of how much influence she would have in the hip-hop world.
A few years ago, VH1 celebrated MC Lyte by including her in their annual Hip Hop Honors Award Show. Da Brat, Remy Ma, and Lil’ Kim took to the stage to perform some of MC Lyte’s biggest hits. It was really great to see the television network paying attention to the women of hip-hop and doing so in such an open and honest way.

MC Lyte is pioneer who came out in what many consider to be the first golden age of hip-hop. She stayed active in the second golden age as well by releasing her fourth album “Ain’t No Other” in 1993. Her single “Ruffneck” hit #1 on the Hot Rap Singles and #35 on the Billboard Hot 100. That’s pretty impressive for an industry that regularly sees hit rappers disappearing after only an album or two. There are very few female emcees that have managed to put out such an impressive body of work as MC Lyte. No wonder why she is so celebrated.
That was the legendary MC Lyte and a track called “Ruffneck” from her fourth album “Ain’t No Other.” MC Lyte didn’t just stick to the microphone. She expanded her way into other endeavors including television.
I know that I was pleasantly surprised to see her appear on another VH1 series, “Ice T’s Rap School.” This show was amazing because we could see hip-hop legends taking a bunch of prep school kids under their wings to educate them about rap music, hip-hop culture, and the music business.
MC Lyte still champions hip-hop music and is even featured and celebrated by the Smithsonian Institution. They put together a collection entitled “Hip-Hop Won’t Stop: The Beat, The Rhymes, The Life” and added MC Lyte’s diary and turntable to the collection. That is huge right there. I’m glad to see hip-hop being celebrated in a museum and to have artifacts being collected and set aside. It’s nice to see women included in that as well. MC Lyte definitely deserves her spot in the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame.
You can listen to the whole show right now by streaming it with the player below, or you can download the podcast for free. Make sure you come back on Wednesday to read the article on Queen Latifah.

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