MC Lyte talks new album, ‘Legend,’ and why she steers clear of rap beefs

mc lyte legend

Elegance, poise, beauty, intelligence, professional and bars are just a few words to describe Mc Lyte. Over the past 20 years she has remained a relevant and powerful force in hip-hop culture. She consistently adds value to the musical landscape. This year marks the 27th anniversary of her first release Lyte as a Rock. We were able to speak with Lyte and discuss her contribution to hip-hop, her most recent release, Legend and the Wealth Experience retreat.

Let’s get this out of the way. You are no stranger to battles, so here we go …  Drake or Meek Mill?

I thought they called a truce. I don’t have to pick. That’s the problem with todays hip-hop, everybody thinks they have to choose. Why can’t we just enjoy everybody?

Sean Price, may he rest in peace, said on Vlad TV that Lyte as a Rock was the last album from a female rapper he was into. It’s 27 years later, why do you think that album has stood the test of time and what does it mean to your legacy?

First off, God bless and rest the soul of Mr. Sean Price. I’m happy that that particular project was so impactful for him and many others. Lyte as a Rock was the first out the gate and many of the rhymes that were incorporated had been with me years before and had been studied and extremely meaningful to me. It wasn’t like, “Oh, we got an album to do, let’s start writing.” It was material that came from me that had been a part of my life for a very long time, toted around with me in a rhyme book for at least three to four years prior to going into the studio.

You must have known your rhymes backward and forward by the time you got into the studio; did you even have your rhyme book?

I brought my book, ’cause they were not written as rhymes, they were written as poems. This is why a song like “Paper Thin” can have an eight or 12-bar first verse and the second verse is like 24 to 26 bars. There are only two verses in that song. “I cram to understand you” is the same way; they are so long because they were written to be poems and not fit a 16-bar scenario. I think with [the album]] being very personal and there were only two sets of producers on that record, so it was very cohesive. It was also a debut. There was a lot of space to be had. There really was not another female MC with a full album out at that time. Salt-N-Pepa were a group, but as it related to a solo female artist, I was the first on the map.

Did you initially start off as a poet?

I wasn’t actively [reciting] poetry at poetry lounges or anything, but I think I was much more of a story[teller]. Having to write stories at school and my mother putting the pressure on me to write allowed me to have those rhymes in my arsenal.

Speaking of your legacy, how did it feel dropping Legend on Record Store Day this year? How do you feel about this project? How do you feel it adds to your body of work?

I think it’s very timely in terms of the production. I was able to add a new and true style. New because we have songs like “Check” and “We Here Now,” that sort of encompass the sound that is so popular today. We were also able to capture what I call the true sound, which is organic instrumentation, things that people are accustomed to hearing Mc Lyte on songs like “Dear John” and “Last Time.” Those are the songs that are able to capture that sound. It’s just true to Mc Lyte’s style, I may not be addressing a specific topic song by song, but I am telling you who I am. I am standing for what it is I believe, and hopefully, I’m able to talk to my fans and also to the newcomers to hip-hop and show them a glimpse of who Mc Lyte is.

To learn more about Lyte, click the link to her website

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