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Class Of ’88: Lyte As A Rock

lyte-face

 

 

1988 was a huge year for Rap. If you have been following this series up to now, then you know why. The amount of legends those twelve months produced will probably never be matched again. You had Kane, Rakim, Public Enemy, EPMD and a host of other dudes dropping classics left and right. Imagine trying to compete with them and being a female on top of that. Well MC Lyte did just that.

 

Born Lana Moorer, it seemed rocking a microphone would be her birthright. As the younger sibling of then burgeoning Rap stars Audio Two, she would start writing rhymes at the age of twelve. Once she got her chance to rock she didn’t disappoint. With the release of her debut Lyte As A Rock, Lyte ushered in a new type of female MC with her brazen confidence and her lyrical abilities.

 

Songs like “Lyte As A Rock,” “10% Dis,” and “Paper Thin” pushed the LP from good to great to classic. Now after twenty years later we pay tribute to one of Rap’s most significant albums. We talk to MC Lyte herself as she discusses each track, her infamous beef with Antoinette, and her legacy in the game.

 

“Lyte Versus Vanna White”

Produced By Audio Two

 

I mean I found it really weird being in opposition of Vanna White. I was like what is this? And he said just go with it, it will come out good. Then I guess the more I got into the recording of it, the more I realized how fun it was.

 

“Lyte As A Rock”

Produced By King Of Chill

 

That was really funny because a lot of the rhymes that were written before I even knew I was really going to make a record. I had those lyrics written three to four years ago in a notebook. I didn’t have any music to go with them. What happened was when I sat down with Audio 2 and The King Of Chill, we were able to take the lyrics and pin them to certain tracks.

 

My first time in the studio I was like a fish to water, I didn’t have a problem at all because I had been waiting so long and rehearsing other people’s lines. I used to rap Salt N Pepa’s rhymes on a daily, so that made my voice real strong. I was able to really use my abdomen and really bellow it out.

 

The House version of “Lyte As A Rock” ended up being more popular than the regular version. Especially in Detroit, Ohio; that whole little pocket right there.

 

“I Am Woman”

Produced By King Of Chill

 

Yeah “I am woman, hear me roar.”  I got the line from Helen Reddy of course. I just thought it was a call to all the females that were loving Hip-Hop to stand up and be strong; to show its okay to show your strengths. It wasn’t much more to that.

 

“MC Lyte Like Swinging”

Produced By Prince Paul

 

That was a play off of “Hollywood Swinging” (Kool & The Gang) which was one of my favorite songs. I did that song with Prince Paul of Stestasonic and it was fun. At the time he was producing a lot of stuff for De La Soul. He’d been in the studio and a lot of people were there. He’s pretty laid back, let’s just go back and do whatever you feel; that’s how that joint was born.

 

“10% Dis”

Produced By Audio Two

 

There was so much more to that song. We were on our way back from Boston and we had heard about Antoinette’s version of “I Got An Attitude.” She said something about a bodyguard and we all know that bodyguard line is potent line in “Top Billing” that stands out. So the guys took it as she was dissing them.

 

So they didn’t think it would be right to for the guys to diss a girl so they wanted a girl to do it and at that time I was up for the challenge. But in any case I went to the studio and I wrote the song, recorded it, and mixed it all in one night. We got to that studio straight from coming from Boston. We got in the studio about one a clock in the morning and didn’t leave until ten the next morning.

 

The record really shook things up a bit. Then we had the confrontation at The World night club where she did her song first and I did mine. I had only seen her once all my life up till now. It was pretty tense in there. I think the major difference between Antoinette and my career is a matter of crew. I had a management company that was very serious and wasn’t going to stop.

 

I already had songs out that allowed me to build up a little more of a fan base than she was able to get with that one song. That’s the only thing that separated us. If she kept coming with songs, she would be here today. I think she is very talented.

 

“Paper Thin”

Produced By King Of Chill

 

I wrote that rhyme so long before I recorded it. I guess at the time you didn’t have any concept and you just said what was true for you. We didn’t even put a hook on that song which is so crazy when you think about Hip-Hop; hooks are extremely necessary. The beat was so hot that we had a dub on it. Even when my lyrics stop, the beat goes on for three more minutes.

 

Yeah for the video Ralph McDaniels and Lionel Martin were at the top of the game at the time. We signed on to do three videos. “Paper Thin” my first video. We did it at the transit museum; we were able to get a lot of the stuff there. Then at a couple of different train stations and got some exterior shots of the train moving and everything.

 

We put a lot of different people on the train. I had Serch from 3rd Bass; matter of fact there wasn’t even a 3rd Bass then. It was just Serch the white boy who could really dance at Latin Quarters. Jazzy Joyce was in there, so was April Walker who went on to do Walker Wear. D-Nice came through to show his support. I donated that jacket from the video to the Hard Rock Café on 57th Street in New York.  

 

“Lyte Thee MC”

 Produced By King Of Chill

 

That’s Me. That’s who I am.

 

“I Cram To Understand U”

Produced By Audio Two

 

I wrote this when I was twelve and recorded it when I was sixteen. Back then it was real easy to get tied up in a situation with a guy who was selling drugs or doing drugs. I just wanted to put a call out there to people that you don’t be involved in that relationship and take yourself through a whole bunch of nonsense.

 

“Kicking It For Brooklyn”

Produced By King Of Chill

 

That’s was one of my favorites to perform back in the days. Not because it represented Brooklyn but also represented the 90’s which is where I’m from. I was really happy to say that’s where I came from and also show them what I’m doing. It was a crazy kind of beat for that time. It was a sparse beat with not a lot of instrumentation which I still kind of still gravitate towards. Those are the beats that let an MC do what they do. I enjoyed making that record.

 

“Don’t Cry For Big Girls”

Produced By King Of Chill

 

I listened to a lot of different music and that was one of the songs that were one of my favorites amongst all of the Helen Reddy and the James Peelers, and Kenny Rogers and all of the stuff I used to listen to and that was one of the joints that stuck out. I wanted to say no matter what problems may occur; you can get over it. Just be big about it.

 

 

[In regards to her lyrical abilities compared to her female counterparts]

 

Don’t get me wrong, I was completely aware of them. I have so much respect for Salt N Pepa, I said their lyrics like every day and I knew all their songs. It was no doubt about it that I was a true fan of those ladies. But in regards to Sweet T, and Sparky D, and Roxanne Shante, just all of them who existed prior to me coming out I just knew I was coming with “I Cram To Understand U” it was a story. Nobody was really getting in depth with a line by line creating the vision. I knew I was doing that differently.

 

[In regards to the legacy of Lyte As A Rock]

 

In terms of like seeing where I’m at now I can look back at it and say wow. When I was in it, I was just living. I couldn’t separate it from anything else because it was me. When I look back at it, it was just a time where the communities were aware they had leadership. Like we were true leaders; even though we had songs that dealt with more of the Hip-Hop side we were still doing songs that were moving the communities of people and it was such a positivity that radiated from groups at the time. It was true leadership coming Rap.

 

1988 was a very good year; it was a catapult to what I do now. It was a foundation for which MC Lyte can get on any stage and rock it because people identify with those songs. It was a year that propelled me and my business into the future.

 

 

MC Lyte

“Paper Thin”

Paper Thin – MC Lyte

 

MC Lyte

“Lyte As A Rock”

Lyte as Rock – Mc Lyte

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