It was in Spanish Harlem, N.Y., where she first fell in love with hip-hop. Her musical influences include Prince, De La Soul and Salt-n-Pepa who, she said, “spoke to me like no other hip-hop had, because I was right there with it.”
MC Lyte, one of hip-hop’s first major female artists, visited The Underground last week as part of her campaign against the negative portrayal of females in the hip-hop industry.
The 35-year-old rapper, born Lana Michele Moorer, released her first single at the age 12, and currently stars in the UPN sitcom Half & Half.
During the lecture, Lyte said she was surrounded by an ethnically rich environment growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Harlem, N.Y.
Lyte said her inspirations taught her to be herself and not be afraid to express how she felt. She said was determined be an emcee because she knew she had something to say and wanted to reach out to people.
“[I wanted to] speak to people’s soul and spirit,” Lyte said.
During the Q-and-A portion of the event, Lyte was asked how she feels the hip-hop community has evolved since she first began rapping.
“It’s hard to listen to hip-hop songs over and over again and not really understand where you are coming from aside from wanting to party,” Lyte said. “I come from an era where we were well-rounded emcees, and when you listened you knew exactly who you were listening to.”
She added that in today’s hip-hop world, “it’s trickled down and over, going out of the realm of just a rapper not wanting to say what they know. Everything is dumbed down.”
She looks to Queen Latifah for inspiration to be proud of her womanhood through her lyrics. Another female she said she is influenced by is Lauryn Hill.
“I think she most certainly gets busy with the lyrics and the content, it makes my heart happy,” Lyte said. “She encompasses everything I believe in, not being afraid to say what she knows, to be different, to be at the forefront and teach through her music.”
“Women have fallen into a secondary role in hip-hop,” Aaron Preacher, a senior who attended the event, said, “they’re just jumping the bandwagon, doing what everyone else is doing instead of defining themselves. When Lyte was doing it, she was defining herself.”
Lyte said the female emcees of today and yesterday serve a purpose to speak to a particular type of woman.
“All of the female emcees today are here for a reason, and they are here to teach us one thing or another,” Lyte said.
She said she believes that “hip-hop does not dictate to the community, the community dictates to hip-hop.”
Lyte said she is disappointed with the way certain magazines portray females, especially black females. She pointed to King magazine’s recent cover, which features up-and-coming female artists half naked.
Lyte said she is extremely upset with those new artists who “feel they have no other means of gaining their nationwide publicity, so they agree to be on these covers where that’s not what you do for a living. Let the pin-up girls do the pin-up stuff.”
“The same goes for male emcees who feel like they are not enough, have to put naked girls in their videos, because they think their talent isn’t enough to keep people entertained,” Lyte said.
Lyte was also disappointed by an article in a magazine called “How to Mack It to These Women.”
“I think what she is doing can educate a lot of people in general about how to come up and do things for themselves,” Kendra Weldon, a sophomore, said.
“It’s time to support all the young men and women who don’t have record deals, who are independent, who have something so prolific to say but yet no ways of being heard,” Lyte said.
To her, hip-hop is a movement because it’s ever-changing. She said she believes poetry is the next phase of hip-hop.
“Just when people think they can pin it down, like this is what it is, no, it’s not because its always going to be changing, we are always looking for more inventive ways to express ourselves,” Lyte said.
MC Lyte is also involved with anti-violence campaigns, public service announcements for Rock the Vote, Children with AIDS Project and the Star Giving Foundation. She has written a book, called Just My Take, which is a collection of poetry and inspirational words.
The event was sponsored by the Main Campus Program Board, and co-sponsored by Sigma Gamma Rho, Incorporated.
Liron Milbar can be reach at firstname.lastname@example.org.