MC Lyte is one of the most powerful female pioneers of hip hop. Starting out, like so many artists, as a breaker, after dropping her debut album – Lyte As A Rock in 1988, her stance in the legacy of hip hop only gets stronger as the years go on. Last year, she was quite rightly one of the honoured hip hop artists at VH1's Hip Hop Honours.
Member of Sigma Gamma Rho, and constant inspiration to female hip hop souls around the globe, I caught up with her as talks of a new album are circulating…
First off, long time no see. Where've you been? What have you been up ta?
MC Lyte: Always working. Here in CA I have been acting, doing voice over and also preparing the next project. Been doing quite a bit of travel over seas.
Starting out as a bgirl how do you feel now about the way breakin’ has been ripped and wrongly represented as 'breakdancing' in the global media? With all these people teaching hip hop dance classes, who have never actually lived hip hop?
MC Lyte: Hip hop is just that way. It's a culture that people can chime into and do whatever they want. If you're good at what you do it shouldn't matter when you started.
What made you pick up a mike after entering the hip hop scene initially as a bgirl?
MC Lyte: Just wanting to be heard. I want to ride the track and create a world.
Do you think the whole Russell Simmons idea of removing certain words like 'nigger' and 'bitch' from hip hop lyrics will make any significant difference?
MC Lyte: I think words can heal and they also have the power to hurt and destroy. Yes I think it would make a difference, especially if today's new artists adhere to it.
Do you think that as long as real hip hop heads exist in the street scene, the false media representation and ignorant impression most people have of the 'guns bitches and bling' really matters?
MC Lyte: I think it's up to us, as lovers of hip hop, to push forth a positive message whenever and however we can. That's what will keep hip hop alive.
Would you ever consider being involved in any independent film projects perhaps documenting true hip hop or your own experiences and beliefs?
MC Lyte: Sure.
What have you got planned for the upcoming year?
MC Lyte: New music project, more acting, touring. On a bigger scale than ever before.
Will we see you touring in the U.K.?
MC Lyte: Hopefully so! Tha's the big plan.
Are there any current mainstream hip hop artists you respect and support?
MC Lyte: Kanye for sure. He speaks his mind and isn't afraid to be disliked. He's hip hop's Ali.
So, new projects… Was this album all planned and written at the same time or put together from spontaneous sessions over a spread of time?
MC Lyte: It's being put together right now. I am creating as I write.
How would you describe the beats and lyrical content? Is it different to your past work?
MC Lyte: Yes, it's way more laid back. This is a mature sound and much more laid back approach. I'm not in a rush to make a song, I'm in a rush to tell a message.
Are there any aspects of the hip hop evolution which have come about after your initial involvement in the scene that you think are really positive and exciting developments for hip hop?
MC Lyte: Certainly. Clothing lines that put a lot of people of colour to work. Just the biz generally has grown and giving more opportunities to young creative people.
Are there any unknown artists from your ends we should look out for?
MC Lyte: Chocolate Thai, Emon out of Chicago.
Are interesting collabs coming up?
MC Lyte: This record, has Macy Gray and I'm working on India Arie.
If you had to pick one of your songs to define you as an artist and person, which would you pick and why?
MC Lyte: Probably Paper Thin. I'm no non-sense. I say what I feel and most of all I want and need to tell the truth to the youth.
Which artists to you, always have been and always will be pure hip hop and an inspiration and example to you?
MC Lyte: KRS 1, Chuck D. they have a long lasting commitment to the people and the culture.
You are recognised as one the few positive and influential women in hip hop. Often the media represents hip hop as demeaning to women. Do you agree with this? Why do you think there are few strong women forefront to hip hop?
MC Lyte: Unfortunately I have to answer that with a yes. They do degrade women a lot in hip hop and I think it's just their experience with women. Maybe they've never been loved and admired by women until now. Now they're in the biz and women love them but not really. The male rappers don't really understand unconditional love so they think the women that want them now are just after their money, and they might be, who really knows.
Finally, is there anything you want to say to your British audience and any aspiring bgirls or MCs out there?
MC Lyte: Hopefully I will be seeing you soon and to all of you who are breaking into the biz, stay true to you and continue to create your own style.