It is an undeniable fact that few MCs have contributed more to the game of Hip-Hop than MC Lyte. To say she helped blaze a trail for other female MCs to follow would do her a severe injustice. Not only has she garnered the respect of her peers, she has captured the imagination of those that would come later (Missy Elliott and Da Brat can vouch for that). Her versatility and edgy mic skills have allowed her a successful career in music, movies, and television. With a resume as undaunted as hers, you think it would be easy for her to attain a deal with a major record label. Think again.
Despite deals with labels that have ultimately folded and appearances on TV shows that have since been canceled, Lyte appears unscathed and continues to push forward. During a recent interview with Allhiphop.com, we had the distinct pleasure of talking about her new label, her latest Hip-Hop project, upcoming movie appearances, a little bit of this and a little bit of that. She feels blessed to get a second chance at doing what she loves to do most, so take heed, sons and daughters. Not everyone is quite this lucky!
Allhiphop: Let me set the tone and the mood of this interview right by singing your praises. You have given this game more than most, and it is a rare treat that I have the opportunity to sit down with a legitimate legend in this business. So, I will truly soak up everything you have to say throughout the course of this conversation.
MC Lyte: Ah man! I truly appreciate you sharing that with me. Thank you!
Allhiphop: Absolutely. Start off by talking about your latest musical project that is out right now.
MC Lyte: It’s called Undaground Heat Volume 1, which is hosted by Jamie Foxx. It was just an idea that we came up with while we were out on the road doing shows. I got back into the circuit of doing shows last year, and people would say, “we see you now, but when are you going to have something out that we can buy and listen to?” I needed to do my own stuff. We went into the studio, recorded the album, did a photo shoot, artwork, and shrink-wrapped it and everything.
Allhiphop: Weren’t you on Will Smith’s label at one point?
Lyte: Yes I was.
Allhiphop: Whatever came of that venture?
Lyte: The deal with Interscope went sour, and I just got caught up in that.
Allhiphop: The deal was just on Will’s end, right?
Lyte: Right. His label (Overbrook) severed its ties with Interscope. I was just sitting around waiting for them to do a new distribution deal. Because they were my friends, I could easily say, “Let me see what I can make happen on my own.” And they were very open to that. So, it worked out well.
Allhiphop: You also did some work with my dogs from Def Squad. Talk about that for a moment.
Lyte: I’m on Erick’s (Sermon) new album, with him and Rah Digga. And we’re looking forward to doing another Def Squad album. So, as soon as they can get Redman’s album out, then they can look toward making the Def Squad album happen.
Allhiphop: Speaking of Rah Digga, there’s a song out there somewhere that y’all did together. What song is that and where can we find it?
Lyte: The song is called “Where You At Mama?” You can get it on the mixed CD I got out now, called “The S### I Never Dropped.”
Allhiphop: Let’s talk about your recent appearance on the TV show “Platinum.” Tell me about that experience, how it came to be, and how it was to work with Sticky Fingaz and the rest of the cast.
Lyte: Sticky is the only one I actually knew for an extended amount of time. We’ve known each other from way back in the day. He was very supportive. They called me up and said, “Look, we got this role for you…can you be in Canada in three days?” So, once I saw the script, I was like, “OK, great…as long as I can get a clean copy of the tape that I can add it onto my reel, I’m happy.” It was a wonderful experience for me.
Allhiphop: You’ve been in this game for roughly 15 years. Do you think that due to some of your contributions, females are finally beginning to get a piece of pie?
Lyte: I certainly can’t claim it all by myself because Salt –n- Pepa opened up a huge amount of doors for all of us. Before them, so did Finesse –n- Synquis, Sha Rock and The Funky 4 Plus 1 More, Sparky D, Sweet T…I was a fan of the female MC. But today, it feels good because the female rappers let me know how much they appreciate me. Rah Digga will say it in her interviews. Eve will say it in her interviews. Lil’ Kim will use my lyrics. Missy will sample my voice saying something and she’ll tell me, you know? Missy and (Queen) Latifah have no problem telling me. And Brat will get on stage with me and rock “Cha Cha Cha” like it’s her song…
Allhiphop: I can dig it. How important is it for artists, whether male or female, to understand the entire history of Hip-Hop and what it was derived from?
Lyte: Exactly. I think your fate is sealed if you’re just in it for the money because all of that comes to the light.
Allhiphop: Cats went from African medallions to $250,000 medallion on a $50,000 chain…
Lyte: What’s funny to me is the cats that really have money wear fake jewelry. There’s no way that they would spend that kind of money on some jewelry that can be ripped off of your neck. White folks keep their jewelry in a safe, and they wear the best quality fake diamond that money can buy.
Allhiphop: Think back to when you first started. Did it ever dawn on you that Hip-Hop could possibly grow into this global phenomenon that we have on our hands today?
Lyte: It’s pretty amazing. No, I never thought about it. When I was doing it, I just thought that it was what it was. I remember the first show I did, I made $100. I had to give $25 to my manager, and I went home with $75. But that was OK because it was mine. My attitude was, “I can do this and make money?”
Allhiphop: What has this business taught you in the time that you’ve been in it?
Lyte: It taught me to never take anything for granted. This time out is a special time for me.
Allhiphop: With the market being as fickle as it is, that’s damn near impossible. Also, the producers who can make that sort of impact want $250,000 or more for one song. Are you kidding me?
Lyte: The truth is the only one that’s truly suffering is the artist. The producers are making a sh*tload of money and the artist has to get out there and work for their sh*t. You have to get on the stage to make your money because the 14% or 15% that these major record labels are kicking out to these artists, it’s terrible. How do you even recoup? You got to sell millions of records in order to recoup and see anything at the end of the day. It’s a sad story.
Allhiphop: You being, in my opinion, a bona fide legend in this business, give me your best description of what a true legend is. To me, you’re not a legend just because you sell 30 or 40 million albums.
Lyte: To me, a legend is Chuck D. A legend is KRS-1. A legend is Nas. It’s just something that makes you everlasting. It’s when you’re gone, you’ve created a legend for yourself and people are still talking about you. I think it’s one who is able to touch the depth of another’s soul, and is able to be alive.
Allhiphop: Do you view a 2Pac or a Biggie as the true definition of a legend?
Lyte: Definitely. We are still playing 2Pac and Biggie’s songs as if they are here. Aaliyah is a legend as well.
Allhiphop: I have one last question for you before we conclude this. What have been the greatest highlights of your career thus far, whether it has been on the mic, the TV, or the big screen?
Lyte: I would say the first was being nominated for a Grammy with the song “Roughneck.” Unfortunately for me, it was in the category with Dre and Snoop…they had “Deep Cover.” (laughs) But it was great for me to be in a category like that because at that time, it was hard to be a female and be nominated for anything in the same category as men. It was a huge deal. Even now, they have created categories with all women. I’ve had some monumental things happen for me. I was the first rapper to perform at Carnegie Hall. At 16, I had a page in the New York Times written about me. It was good because at the time, Hip-Hop was new and fresh. I’m just happy to have the opportunity to do it again.