VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: MC Lyte Talks Being First Female Rap Artist With Solo Album
Legendary lyricist MC Lyte performed in the heart of Brooklyn at Kings Theatre at the Finding Ashley Stewart finale concert on Saturday. The event hosted by the plus-size retailer also featured performances by SWV and Naughty by Nature.
In 1988, MC Lyte became the first female rapper to release a full solo album, which charted #50 on the U.S. R&B Charts. Lyte also continued to break records by earning three #1 songs on the U.S. Rap Charts and three top ten hits on the U.S. R&B Charts.
Lyte is modest about her trailblazing history. “There are so many female MC’s before me, you know it just so happens that they had laid a lot of the foundation down, so I was able to get a major recording deal as a soloist, and that was a huge deal, so I was the first with that,” MC Lyte told uInterview exclusively.
Coming up in the 80s, Lyte was protected from sexism by a close group around her. “I was pretty much protected, but being with First Priority Music I was with a group of people who were like my family, and my manager promised my mom that he would always look after me,” Lyte said. “I was under close watch so if anyone was plotting anything they didn’t get a chance to live out their mission.”
Lyte believes that there is a lot of sexism in hip-hop today. When it comes to sexism in lyrics, she feels that artists aren’t putting much thought into it and that “they’re just going with the flow of what they call creativity.”
Today, the rapper continues to release music on her MC Lyte app as well as other streaming services for her fans. Lyte has also moved into an acting career, having recurring roles on S.W.A.T, Queen Of The South and Power, and is also developing her very own film and TV productions.
When Lyte isn’t on the stage or screen, she’s running her managing company MC Lyte Now, which manages artists, DJs and stylists. She is also in the process of giving away $50,000 scholarships to young men attending Historical Black College and Universities through her foundation Hip-Hop Sisters.
Full interview transcript below:
Q: How does it feel to be performing in New York?
A: [MC Lyte]: “It feels great you know, I’m back home this is Brooklyn uh I just did the Barclays Center earlier this summer and so now to start off fall in br- in the heart of Brooklyn, I love it.”
Q: Do you consider yourself to be one of the first female rap artists?
A: [MC Lyte]: “Well, honestly there are so many MC’s before me, you know. It just so happens that they had laid a lot of the foundation down and so I was able to get a major recording deal for a- as a soloist and that was a huge deal so I was the first with that but then there was Shy Rock, there was Roxanne Shante there was um Pebblee Poo, the Mercedes Ladies, Sequence. There was so many of them so you know I’d love to be able to say “I did it first,” but ahah that wouldn’t be true.”
Q: Do you think there is still sexism in hip-hop today?
A: [MC Lyte]: “Uh absolutely it’s still there, I think even more so now. You know everybody feel- is feeling themselves on freedom of speech and I think lots of times they wind up just um rhyming words that, they say words that just rhyme.”
Q: So do you think a lot of sexism in lyrics today is accidental?
A: [MC Lyte]: “No, I don’t think it’s accidental but I think what happens is they’re not giving much thought to it. They’re just going with the flow of what they call creativity and um I just think, what I won’t do is judge them at this point in their career because there’s always room to grow and expand um but if you ask me if sexism exists in hip-hop then and now and yes ha.”
Q: Have you encountered any blatant sexism in your career?
A: [MC Lyte]: “No I think I was pretty much protected being with first priority music, I was with a group of people who were like my family and so and my manager promised my mom that he would always look after me and she would never have to worry about me, so I was under close watch. Uh so if anyone was plotting anything they didn’t get a chance to live out their mission.”
Q: What are the biggest projects you’re working on today?
A: [MC Lyte]: “uh I mean you know I play around with music all the time I got, I have an app that has a bunch of new music that I just like to you know, like to give the fans they ask for new music all the time. So I have a record called legend and another one called spotlight and it’s on the app so they can stream it however they please. It’s on streaming services as well and um but for the most part I’m acting now so I’m doing quite a bit in that world.”
Q: What are some of your most recent acting roles?
A: [MC Lyte]: “Recurring on S.W. A. T, recurring on Queen of the South um now on Power and so those you know give me the opportunity to show my skills in an existing show so I’m waiting on the sidelines for a show that I can call my own. And so we’ve got some productions in development which I’m excited about uh film and TV. And then I just finished a movie called Bad Hair um which I’m you know, excited about. The creator of Dear White People and so um Justin is his name, Simmion so I’m excited about that and then I did a movie called Last Exit um and that was great too so I’m, I’m floating with theatrics because it all kind of started there for me I wanted to act before I wanted to rap.”
Q: What are you working on when you’re not on stage or on screen?
A: [MC Lyte]: “I have a management company that manages quite a few artists, and dj’s, and stylists and so I’m having fun in all aspects. We have quite an empire going, employees moving around and my- the most important thing for me is to have people that work for me, be happy while they’re working and then also we have the foundation Hip Hop Sisters, we’re giving away $50,000 scholarships every year to young men attending HBCU’s and we have four guys at school and two of them are- well we have five at school two of them are about to graduate this coming uh spring and so I’m excited for them, one of them might even be valedictorian you know 4.0’s all the way through.”
Q: How would you describe the state of rap today?
A: [MC Lyte]: “Oh I think the state of rap today is certainly grown, it’s a big business worldwide um and there also sub genres that exist now and you know um everybody kind of draws to what it is that they like you know, some like R&B Hip-Hop, some like Trap, some like Reggaeton you know but it all kin- kind of stems from a music motivated uh um um, spawned from the youth and perpetuated by the youth, yeah.”