From the studio, to the stage, microphone to silver screen, celebrated, multifaceted and pioneering hip-hop artist MC Lyte has spent decades sharing her shining talents with the world, all the while empowering others along the way. As Black Music Month kicks off and this year marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, MC Lyte is bringing the second annual “I am Woman” concert to the Kennedy Center in Northwest D.C. on June 4, to not only celebrate women, but uplift, inspire and empower the masses to view the world in a positive light.
“For me, what matters is really trying to be an inspiration for others so that if they see someone eating and living, right, they then can say, ‘Oh, you know what, I’m gonna stop smoking cigarettes,’ or, it could be anything that leads someone else to make a change in their life,” MC Lyte told The Informer in a WIN-TV interview. “It doesn’t have to be the identical thing that someone has changed, but just the idea that they were able to change the trajectory of their lives by simply changing one element of it.
“I’m interested in things that matter,” the artist emphasized.
Celebrating women in hip-hop certainly matters to MC Lyte.
“I think celebration means to hold someone high, right? It also means to enjoy oneself,” Lyte said. “Especially when it comes to women in hip-hop, we get such the wrong end of the stick and a lot of times we’re pushing, pushing, pushing. And it’s not until others join in that push that we’re able to break through these glass ceilings and achieve things that have never been achieved before and blaze new trails. And so this in itself, this celebration allows people to come and celebrate with us.”
In curating this fȇte, learning from last year’s packed show, MC Lyte said she wanted to ensure that this year audiences witness full sets of the featured artists. The dynamite lineup includes Rapsody, Kash Doll, Bahamadia, Mama Sol and the concert curator herself.
“Last year was fantastic. We had everybody from the rafters representing all corners of the United States of America. And everybody had a sliver of time because there were just so many of us. As a matter of fact, I was scheduled to perform and it didn’t happen because time was running short,” she explained. “This year, we decided to scale back on the number of women so that all of us really have a chance to thoroughly get the crowd engaged, and to have a good time with everyone, and have it be a little bit more focused and streamlined.”
Finding Inspiration in Stories and Artists
As a pioneering artist in hip-hop, Lyte has broken barriers, opened doors and offered opportunities for others. She’s also been inspired by others.
Just days after the passing of Tina Turner, Lyte said the “Queen of Rock’s” music and learning about her life, particularly after the 1993 film “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” was certainly an inspiration to her career.
“I remember, ‘Private Dancer,’ that it was a little sad. The story that she was telling with those words, it really touched on the sadness of what someone else was going through, which to me, I’m all about the story,” MC Lyte said before adding other icons who she’s loved. “You know, I’m all about Carole King, when she’s creating a story. Sheila E ‘The Glamorous Life,’ like she wants to live ‘the glamorous life,’ and she finds out that it’s not all that she thought it would be.’”
And Lyte didn’t forget to add the emcees who were instrumental in getting her interested in the game.
“Salt-N-Pepa, Sha-Rock. Roxanne Shanté, The Sequence. Sweet Tee, Spark D, everybody that was doing it, that I could hear. And then of course, the guys Run DMC, LL Cool J, Rakim and on,” she said.
With hip-hop’s 50th anniversary underway, MC Lyte is gearing up for other celebrations.
“It’s just a lot and I’m very, very grateful for it all, and grateful to have a team of folks that can really strategize it out,” Lyte said. “So I’m gonna be showing up all over the place.”
In addition, she’s part of a Netflix documentary examining women in music.
The multitalented artist emphasized that now is an ideal time for people to tap into their ambitions.
“This is a really great time for those who are ready to live in their purpose,” MC Lyte said. “And don’t delay whatever it is that you have in your heart to do. Get out there and make it happen.”