by Starla Muhammad
Special to the NNPA from The Final Call
Lana Michele “MC Lyte” Moorer burst on the rap scene in the late 1980s, and immediately established herself as one of the best female emcees in the game and one of the most popular. She was the first female rap artist to release a full length solo album, be nominated for a Grammy award and to be inducted into VH-1’s Hip Hop Honors. Never one to be one-dimensional, through the years MC Lyte has branched out into acting, voice over work and business endeavors. She is also a well sought after motivational speaker, DJ and is known for her community activism.
The Brooklyn bred rapper has recently added “author” to her extensive resume with the release of her book “Unstoppable, Igniting the Power Within To Achieve Your Greatest Potential.” Final Call staff writer Starla Muhammad recently interviewed MC Lyte about her career longevity, the current state of hip hop and her new book at the 2012 African Festival of the Arts that took place in Chicago during Labor Day weekend. Below are excerpts from that interview.
STARLA MUHAMMAD (SM): The first question, M.C. Lyte, you’re a hip hop legend, of course, and have accomplished so much in the rap game. You’ve evolved as not only as an artist but an author, businesswoman, activist and much more. How do you view your development and evolution over these years?
MCLYTE (MCL): Oh boy, how do I view it? I definitely see it as necessary. I mean there’s only a couple of ways you can go and that’s either up or down. It’s either to grow or wind up depleted. The evolution to me has been, it’s God-sent but it’s Him giving me the vision to be able to get it done. I don’t know. It’s almost like when people say to me how was it being a woman in the business? Well, shucks that’s the only thing I know. When you ask me what it’s like to expand is the only thing I know to do. To do more, to be bigger and be greater than I was before.
SM: As an artist when you see and listen to hip hop today, what are your honest thoughts and feelings when it comes to lyrical content, presentation and imagery?
MC Lyte dicusses her new book at the African Festival of the Arts in Chicago. Photo: Starla Muhammad
MCL: My thought is they’re doing what feels either one, comfortable for them which sets a whole other place in time. What is now acceptable in our community back when I was there is not. If we were to go back in that space and time, and what is also deemed necessary I think mainstream, the record labels have made it so that it’s no longer entertaining to just hear a woman rap. You’ve got to see skin, you’ve got to see things that just don’t make sense when it comes to hip hop. Like the whole reason for hip hop has become one to be heard and so I think we’ve moved into a space that’s a little disheartening but that’s only on the mainstream level. We have so many female MCs that are kicking knowledge that are, you know, well respected in their circles, in their community and even online for just being the MCs that they are and not selling sex.
SM: Do you think it’s fair to say that this new generation of artists is destroying hip hop culture versus examining the record corporations and their role in it?
MCL: No. For me destroying feels so malice like they’re intentionally doing it. They don’t know what they’re doing and they don’t know that they’re being used as pawns in the game either until they’ve moved into a space where they’re able to stop, look and listen; and right now if you have an artist out there that’s selling, you know, a whole lot of records and people are showing up at concerts in droves, screaming. They’re calling women out of their names but yet women are the top purchasers of their music and they’re the ones spending $60 to 100 bucks to get into their concerts, you can’t tell them they’re doing anything wrong.
How am I doing anything wrong? These people love what I’m putting out there. So, I don’t feel like they’re intentionally destroying it, but we see what they don’t. Just as our parents saw things that we didn’t see. That it’s much more of a community and that means generations of people that will suffer because of what’s happening, if it’s not turned around.
SM: In light of the continued violence that we see in our communities, do you think remakes of songs like “Self-Destruction” or “Not With the Dealer”, could aid in heightening the awareness of how violence is really destroying and impacting the Black community in particular?
MCL: Yeah, yeah, but I don’t know who’s going to do it. Who’s going to do it that someone is going to listen? It could be a Nas; it could be a Jay-Z; it could be a Kanye. It could be one of those people to actually put it in a record where it’s cool enough. When Jay-Z said, okay, we’re part of the 40-Club now, it’s time to take off the jerseys and suit up. You know it’s time to be a man. When he said that in a song, it resonated with people, especially with the guys I know because they all of a sudden, nobody was wearing jerseys. They were all wearing button-up shirts. These guys are trendsetters and so in understanding their power, if they took on a mission like that, I’m sure there could be some success to it.
SM: Of course, your new book, “Unstoppable, Igniting the Power Within To Achieve Your Greatest Potential,” talk a little bit about the inspiration behind that title and what you want to share with the young people out there.
MCL: I just think for me it’s all about inspiring people the best way that I can so if by chance this book can inspire some young kids to want to do better, be it male or female, that’s what I’m after and I’m hopeful that one page in that book has the possibility of changing someone’s outlook and having them be better for themselves so then they can be better for their friends, for their family and for their community.
SM: Last question, MC Lyte: Are there any final thoughts you would like to share with the readers of The Final Call, any messages that you would like to send, especially to the young people.
MCL: Oh goodness! I only could say to believe in yourself. There’s so many things out here that try to deter us from being who we really are at the core. Things that tell us it’s not cool to be nice; it’s not cool to be kind or generous or thoughtful. It’s cool to just take. It’s cool to look out for self. And to me I think kids are happiest when they are themselves and when they’re true at the core and not hung up on trying to be like the in-crowd or taking upon activities that takes them outside of who they really are, whether that’s smoking weed, whether that’s drinking, whether it’s hitting on girls, you know, whatever that thing is, I just want them to get to the core and love themselves.
SM: Thank you very much.
MCL: You are very welcome.
You can follow MC Lyte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mclyte or visit her website athttp://www.officialmclyte.com or http://www.hiphopsisters.org