Last week if you stuck by me (despite my horrible use of Chaka Khan related puns) you followed my “educational” blog on the Queen of Funk; I gave you my opinions on her work and provided some background information about her, BUT I have a confession to make: I had heard of Chaka Khan before the assignment. I’m sorry folks, but some artists are just too famous to fly completely under my young white radar. HOWEVER, this week, you called in and requested I learn about MC Lyte to which I responded: Who’s that guy Lady B?
I have never heard of, or heard anything by MC Lyte, so when I discovered SHE was the first female MC to record and release an album I became very excited for this week’s blog. MC Lyte is a game-changer folks; she was a FIRST, and if history shows us anything it’s that FIRSTS make the history books for a reason. BUT before I get into the nitty-gritty details of her background history, music, or contribution to women in Hip-Hop, I’d like to set the stage so I can get a feel for the time period she rose to fame in: The 80s.
Let’s ignore how the decade started, the eruption of Mount St. Helens and John Lennon’s assassination had little effect on the Hip-Hop community anyway, so let’s move straight to the late 80s when MC Lyte enters the picture. It’s the Reagan years, disco dies, and New Age artists like Devo and Blondie monopolize the mainstream airwaves, but more importantly the Sugar Hill Gang introduces Rap to the world.
So there you are with your fresh high top fade, new Reeboks, and awesome portable boom-box, chillin’ on the stoop with your boys listening to some funky fresh tunes on the radio, when someone hands you a cassette labeled “dopest rhymes ever”. You trust the label, pop in the cassette, and hit play. The song starts…the beat is solid; in fact, it inspires you to bust a sick freestyle, but right when you’re about to lay down some ill rhymes a voice comes through the speakers…A WOMAN’S VOICE.
A rabble of “chicks can’t rap” and similar comments circulate the group, but for some reason you give her a chance and what happens? This ‘chick’ BLOWS YOUR MINDS. It’s MC Lyte and her ruff lyrics hits you hard, rappin’ like (if not better than) any male MC out there. Rap is no longer a man’s game.
Of course, this is back when Rap still had a purpose; when Rappers told stories and talked about issues like civil inequality, racism, and poverty from a perspective that, until that time, was unheard of. It was a brand new genre of music used and created by the minority to speak to the majority about themes they ignored. Women had just as much to offer to this message as men. Black female MCs suffered the same racism and indignities as their male counter parts, but had the extra obstacle of being a woman during a time when women were still treated like second-class citizens.
This aspect of the Old Skoole is what I like best; Rap hasn’t been used as a vehicle for change in a very long time which is why I hope you’ll follow me as I experience MC Lyte.