Lana Moorer, better known as MC Lyte, is a Hip-Hop legend.
Having developed her career for over twenty years, the Brooklyn native has cemented her reputation as not only one of the pioneering female emcees but also a street anthropologist of sorts. Her intricate storytelling and undeniable presence within the game even earned her the honor of being the first female artist to be recognized by VH1’s Hip Hop Honors. Never afraid to speak her mind, Lyte’s outspoken approach has gained her nothing but respect and admiration from both peers within the industry and listeners alike. Between her Executive Vice-President position at DuBose Music Group and a number of new musical and creative projects, quitting the game is certainly the last thing on her mind; as always, she is still rockin’ with the best.
I’m now recording more songs at a steady pace than I’ve done in the last couple of years!’ She laughs, immediately dismissing any retirement rumors. Usually I just do a song, let it out, then do something else and rest up then come back, but this is the most consistent I’ve been. Since joining DMG last spring as both EVP and the flagship artist for the label, she has no intention whatsoever to trade her studio time for just an office job, stating I’m doing lots of recording for internet-based release music, as well as for the album.
The exact details of the release remain a relative mystery at this point in time, as Lyte highlights that there is no intention of rushing this unnamed project to meet any industry demands or expectations. I am just working on it and out of it is coming truth, flow and lyrics, she explains proudly before describing the project as just me, back at what I am accustomed to doing and that’s rocking a microphone. Though recording is still a priority for her, she has also enjoyed throwing herself whole-heartedly into the business side of the industry. It’s very hands on for me, which I enjoy, she says passionately. There’s a bit of an executive that lives in me, so I get to let that part of my creativity fly, which is awesome. It is actually rather refreshing to learn that a veteran emcee like Lyte still clearly views the game with the passion and hunger of a rookie.
After spending most of her adult life perfecting her craft, Lyte has certainly learned a great deal about her creative abilities and the need to develop as an artist in order to stay relevant. When asked what she feels she has learnt from the game over the years, she responds honestly, I think I’ve become more accustomed to flow. She elaborates, The last five records, there was really a lot of attention paid to flow, but now more so than ever. When I first came out with Paper Thin and Lyte As A Rock, I was just talking. Now I’ve grown into more into somewhat of a melody. Although she has tried to inject a little more soul into her rhymes, she stresses that it is still important for her to retain enough edge to reach her listeners but in a melodic way.
Maintaining the fine balance between edgy and soulful is not an easy task, but it is the ability to do so that sets MC Lyte apart from many female rappers today. Frankly, with a much greater focus on image and controversy than actual ability, it almost appears as though they just don’t make femcees like they used to. It must be said, however, that the industry has also changed a great deal since the first wave of female artists surfaced in the Hip-Hop world. Fans are no longer content with just rocking to a record and finding empathy with the lyrics; they now want to know every intimate detail of an artist’s life and with the development of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter it is becoming increasingly easier. Lyte explains, There used to be a time when mystery was better but it’s completely changed. It is no wonder that artists sometimes find themselves bearing their souls a little too much in their tweets or updates, especially since it seems to be expected of them today.
Rather than fight the inevitable, many artists are choosing to embrace the Twitter Age. A member of plenty of social networks herself, Lyte reasons, People want to know that they can find you and touch you and I think [joining the networks] makes much more headway in that capacity than hiding. After all, in her eyes it’s just a matter of really making yourself accessible, because you get to touch the people from all around the globe. In fact, as Lyte quite correctly points out, Once upon a time, there wouldn’t really be a way for you and I to set up this interview. You know, it’d be a bunch of beaurocracy, but [now] we can actually get things done!
Inspired by the power that the internet has to bring like-minded people together, Lyte decided to develop a new social network specifically for women in Hip-Hop. Initially the idea grew from her desire to make more information available to the young female MC and then she later decided to open the floodgates to women in all aspects of the game, from DJs to journalists. In the past few years Hip Hop Sisters has grown phenomenally and provides not only a platform for women to network and create opportunities, but also a safe space for people to be themselves.
She explains that HHS is a place where women get to share their work and have it respected. Men are of course also welcome on the network, so long as they “understand that they’re in a space where all of that disrespecting of women is not going to take place.”“We definitely like to show support for people’s artistry,” she stresses. Eventually, Lyte also hopes to expand the movement further by planning yearly events with concerts, showcases and seminars, where women in Hip-Hop from all over the world can come together.
A symbol of unity and strength among females in the industry, Hip Hop Sisters is certainly proof that there is a great deal of talented women in the game. Lyte explains why these potential stars do not tend to get the opportunity to shine within in the mainstream music market. Bluntly she says, The bottom line is money. Until a female emcee comes out and sells some units it’s pretty much going to be this way.
It is not, however, a question of women lacking talent, as there are plenty of gifted femcees out there. When it comes to lyrics, there are plenty of people who can rock the mic in circles around some of those people that have major record deals. The implication is that when it comes to the mainstream Hip-Hop market, lyrical ability and authenticity tend to be viewed as less significant than qualities like image and marketability today. [Female emcees] may not be on the front of that magazine but they’re definitely still there to be seen and to be heard, she maintains. They’re definitely in existence; they’re just not pushed in the forefront because possibly they’re saying too much.
There is little point in denying that Hip-Hop is still very much a man’s game, bringing forth the question as to whether there really is any scope for change in the near future. It’s just right now we’re all playing follow the leader, so I’m waiting for a real, male emcee to take the forefront and let folks know that there’s no need to have to disrespect a woman in your rhyme, she says bluntly. [Dissing women] makes you look no bigger, no tougher and no badder. According to Lyte, It just takes a handful of men to do it and it’ll switch up because the rest of them are followers. This is how misogyny caught on in the first place, monkey see, money do.
As one of the first artists to speak out about the misogyny in Hip-Hop, MC Lyte has always provided a strong voice for women. A truly pioneering artist within the game, her music has always been more about putting a message in the music rather than merely catering to the mainstream. Making a very valid observation about the seemingly disposable nature of both music and artists today, she states, I think a lot of people lose the zest when their aim is to do more than just communicate with people or give them a message. Blaming profit-focused record labels for the decline in pure, authentic Hip-Hop, she explains that things were much better for the culture when labels just stepped back and let the creative people do what they did. Perhaps the true problem is that artists have lost the originality and innovation they once possessed. After all, according to Lyte the development of this copycat mentality is where it all started going to s**t.
For more information on MC Lyte and the Hip Hop Sisters movement, just go to www.hiphopsisters.com and find out how you can make a difference in the game.