Philander Smith College
MC Lyte’s words of wisdom for aspiring rappers and anyone else with goals: “Good is not enough anymore. You got to be better, great, or excellent.”
Speaking to students and other audience members as part of Philander Smith College’s Bless The Mic Lecture Series, Lyte — one of the pioneer female rappers in the hip-hop culture — discussed the state of hip-hop culture today compared to its beginnings; the difficulty for women to make it in hip-hop; and the steps that can be taken to restore the fabric of hip-hop.
In honor of Women’s History Month, Lyte recognized the women who have made their mark in hip-hop — women such as Sha-Rock (the first woman heard on a rap album); The Sequence; Nikki D; Roxanne; B Angie B; Salt and Pepa; Queen Latifah; JJ Fad (the first top selling female hip-hop group); Eve; Lauryn Hill; Lil Kim; Foxy Brown; and Mary J Blige.
However, Lyte lamented that it’s tough for women to be heard in the music industry today. Female MCs are few and far between — and of those who are visible, too many present themselves no differently than the women who are objectified in the men’s videos.
“I always ask God, ‘What can I do to help others?’ [He] allows me to [motivate] and tell women to keep going. [Women] have to inhale the process and go on,” she said.
Lyte recalled the days when hip-hop lyrics were a reflection of various aspects and vicissitudes of life: love, fun, hate, violence and peace. Hip-hop was, and still is, about being real: “It is you; it is what emanates from you,” she said. Lyte also emphasized that hip-hop is not just music — it’s language, fashion and style.
“Hip-hop is communicating, sharing and being true to yourself,” she said.
Lyte noted that hip-hop now represents big business for the music industry. “The machine controls everything and I am bitter about what it has [done] to hip-hop,” she said. She also expressed her displeasure with modern-day rappers who degrade women and send negative messages with their lyrics and videos.
But hip-hop can be restored if the public takes action, Lyte told the audience. Those who want to stop negative music from coming over the airwaves need only turn the radio dial from the offending stations and stop watching the offending networks. “We got to hit them where it hurts, and that is in the ratings. Once the ratings go down, they lose profit,” and they will have to change their programming, she said.
Lyte added that many young rappers today need to reveal their true selves — and be giving of those selves — to their fans. She praised rappers like Ludicrous and Kanye West who already do so. “It is only us [the public] to hold today’s rappers accountable,” she said.
In the meantime, performance poets have come to constitute today’s new hip-hop genre. As such, Lyte said, they “need to use their talent to reach people.”
— Renarda Williams