Lana Michele Moorer (born October 11, 1970), better known by her stage name MC Lyte, is an American rapper, DJ, actress and entrepreneur. Considered one of the pioneers of female rap,[2][3][4] Lyte first gained fame in the late 1980s, becoming the first solo female rapper to release a full album with 1988's critically acclaimed Lyte as a Rock.[5][6] She released a total of eight solo studio albums (2015's Legend being her latest) and an EP with Almost September.[7]

MC Lyte
Lyte in October 2019
Lyte in October 2019
Background information
Birth nameLana Michele Moorer
Born (1970-10-11) October 11, 1970 (age 51)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
GenresHip hop
Occupation(s)Emcee-songwriter, model, actress, motivational speaker, dj, voiceover talent, narrator, mentor
Years active1987–present
LabelsOmnivore Recordings
DuBose Music Group[1]
First Priority Music/Atlantic Records
East West America/Elektra Records
Associated actsAudio Two, Xscape
Websitemclyte.com

With songs like "Cha Cha Cha", "Paper Thin", "10% Dis", "Ruffneck" (with which she became the first female solo rapper to achieve a gold certification)[8] and "Poor Georgie", MC Lyte has influenced the work of later female rap figures such as Queen Latifah, Lil' Kim, Da Brat, Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill and Eve, among others.[9][10][11][12][13] She has also had collaborations with mainstream artists such as Sinéad O'Connor, Janet Jackson, Brandy, Boyz II Men, Xscape, Mary J. Blige, Moby, Beyoncé and will.i.am. In addition to her career as a rapper, she has worked in parallel as a writer, DJ, has done various voice-over work and has more than a dozen credits as an actress in film and television. Lyte also has her own foundation, Hip Hop Sisters, and has worked with several other charities.[14]

MC Lyte was recognized for her career with the "I Am Hip Hop" Icon Lifetime Achievement from the BET Hip Hop Awards and was honored at the VH-1 Hip Hop Honors. Also About.com was ranked No. 26 on their list of the 50 Greatest MCs of Our Time (1987–2007)[15] and No. 6 in the Greatest Rappers Ever survey organized by NME.[16]

Early lifeEdit

Lana Michele Moorer was raised in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York City. She began rapping at the age of 12.[17] MC Lyte's original stage name was Sparkle.[18] She began recording her first track at age 14, although it took two years before it was able to be released.[19]: 1 

She regards Milk Dee and DJ Giz, the hip hop duo Audio Two, as "totally like [her] brothers", because the three grew up together. Audio Two's father, Nat Robinson, started a label for them called First Priority.[18] After making the label, Robinson cut a deal with Atlantic with one condition, that Lyte would get a record contract with Atlantic as well.[20]

Musical careerEdit

Beginnings: Lyte as a Rock and Eyes on This (1987-1990)Edit

In 1987, at the age of 16,[21] Lyte released her debut single, I Cram to Understand U (Sam), being one of the first songs written about the crack era.[22] She was 12 years old at the time she wrote the song.[23] Lyte was also featured in the remix and music video of "I Want Your (Hands on Me)" by Irish singer Sinéad O'Connor, which debuted in May 1988 on MTV.

 
MC Lyte in 1988 at Firehouse Studios in Brooklyn with her producers Gizmo, Milk D and King of Chill and engineer Yoram Vazan.

In 1988, she released her first album, Lyte as a Rock, with which she became the first female solo rapper to release a full album.[19] In addition to "I Cram to Understand U (Sam)", the album featured songs like Paper Thin, the song that gives the album its name, and the diss track 10% Dis a response to then-Hurby Azor associate Antoinette.[19] Despite not having a great commercial performance, it is considered one of the best and most important rap albums, both in the 80s and in history.[24][25][26][27] From the publication of the album The Village Voice magazine would rate Lyte as "the best female vocalist in hip-hop".[28]

Less than a year and a half later, Lyte followed her debut album with the 1989's album Eyes on This. This album, like its predecessor, received a great critical reception and is recognized as a hip hop classic.[29] This album featured the hit single "Cha Cha Cha"[30] (which spent 18 weeks on the Billboard Hot Rap Singles, peaking at # 1), the socially conscious "Capuccino," and a new diss track to her rival Antoniette, "Shut the Eff Up! (Hoe)." At the beginning of that same year, Lyte joined Stop the Violence Movement with Boogie Down Productions, Public Enemy and Heavy D, among others. Together they released the single "Self Destruction" in response to violence in the hip hop and African American communities. The song debuted at No. 1 on the first week of Billboard's Hot Rap Songs existence[31] and the proceeds were donated to the National Urban League.[32]

In 1990 she became the first rap artist to perform at Carnegie Hall.[33]

MC Lyte's DJ since the start of her career, DJ K-Rock, is a cousin, Kennith Moorer; aside from a break in 1992, the two have toured consistently to the present.[34][35][36] During that time she also had her own dancers, Leg One and Leg Two, who performed with her both in shows and in music videos.[37]

1991–1995: Act Like You Know and Ain't No OtherEdit

On May 1, 1991, Lyte performed on "Yo! Unplugged Rap", the first MTV Unplugged to feature rap artists, alongside A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and LL Cool J.[38] Her performance was praised by Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker, who commented "MC Lyte performed her song 'Cappucino' like a rapping Aretha Franklin: Lyte brought out the soul in her lyrics."[39] In September 1991 Lyte released her third album, Act Like You Know, featuring a new jack swing sound. Even though singles "Poor Georgie" and "When in Love" peaked at # 1 and # 3 on the Hot Rap Singles respectively, the album fell in the charts, only peaking at #102 on the Billboard 200 and #14 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and reviews were generally mixed. That year she also participated in the socially conscious single "Heal Yourself" by the collective "HEAL Human Education Against Lies", which also included Big Daddy Kane, Boogie Down Productions, Run-DMC, Queen Latifah and LL Cool J.

Between 1991 and 1992 Lyte participated in the show called "The Greatest Rap Show Ever" at Madison Square Garden with Public Enemy, Naughty by Nature, Queen Latifah, Geto Boys and DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, among others.[40][41] In the fall of 1991, she also performed in the hip-hop special Sisters In The Name of Rap alongside Salt-N-Pepa, Yo-Yo, Queen Latifah and Roxanne Shanté, among many others. it was recorded at the Ritz in NYC as Pay-per-view TV concert and released as VHS the following year.[42]

For 1992 she began work on her next album, titled Ain't No Other, released on June 22, 1993. On this album she returned to a more hardcore sound and had better critical and commercial performance. Following the single "Ruffneck,"[19] (her third song # 1 on the rap list, # 10 on the Hot R & B / Hip-Hop Songs and # 35 on the Billboard Hot 100), which sold half a million copies, she became the first female rapper to achieve gold certification as a solo artist, in addition to earning a Grammy Award nomination in the Best Rap Solo Performance category.

Lyte collaborated on pop star hits like Janet Jackson's You Want This and Brandy's I Wanna Be Down alongside Queen Latifah and Yo-Yo.[19][43] She also participated in the rap version of "Freedom" on the soundtrack for the movie Panther, alongside Meshell Ndegeocello, Patra, Yo-Yo, Latifah, Salt-N-Pepa and Left Eye Lopes of TLC.[44]

During the summer of '94 participated in Janet Jackson's Janet World Tour.[45] In 1994 she also participated in a huge performance on the finale of The Arsenio Hall Show, alongside the likes of KRS-One, Wu-Tang Clan, Naughty by Nature, Guru of Gang Starr, Yo-Yo, Das EFX, CL Smooth, and A Tribe Called Quest, among others.[46][47]

1996–1998: Bad as I Wanna B and Seven & SevenEdit

In August 1996, after signing with Elektra Records affiliate East West, Lyte released her fifth album, Bad as I Wanna B. With a sound more oriented to R&B and dance music, it became one of her most commercially successful albums. On this album she had the two most commercially successful singles of her career: "Keep On Keepin' On" featuring the R&B group Xscape (# 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and # 3 on Hot R & B / Hip-Hop Songs and # 27 on the UK Singles Chart) and the Puff Daddy remix of his song "Cold Rock a Party", (# 11 on the Billboard Hot 100, her fourth # 1 on the Hot Rap Songs chart and # 14 in the UK between other charts in Europe), featuring Missy Elliott.[19]: 8  With both she achieved gold certifications in the US market, and for "Keep On Keepin 'On" she also won a Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards in the category of best R&B, Soul or Rap video. In 1997, she collaborated with R&B singer Billy Lawrence on the single "Come On".

 
MC Lyte in Hamburg, Germany in 1998

Her 1998 follow-up album, Seven & Seven was a critical success but received lackluster commercial reception, which resulted in Lyte leaving East West Records.

1999–2013: Collaborations and releases independentlyEdit

 
Lyte at the October 14, 2007 BET Hip Hop Awards

In March 2003, Lyte released the independently produced record The Undaground Heat, featuring Jamie Foxx. The album has little commercial impact and mixed reviews, but does earn a Grammy nomination in the "Best Female Rap Vocal Performance" category for the single "Ride Wit Me". She was also nominated for Best Female Hip-Hop Artist at the BET Awards.[citation needed]

MC Lyte's song "My Main Aim" was the title song of the basketball video game NBA Live 2005 by EA Sports. In 2005, she released two songs produced by Richard "Wolfie" Wolf called "Can I Get It Now" and "Don't Walk Away" (with Meechie).

During October 2006, MC Lyte was one of the honored artists on VH1's annual award show Hip Hop Honors. She was joined by fellow female MC's Da Brat, Remy Ma, and Lil' Kim as they performed some of her tracks, such as "Cha Cha Cha", "Lyte as a Rock", "Paper-Thin", and "Ruffneck". She became the first female emcee to be inducted into the VH1 Hip-Hop Honors.[48]

In 2007, she released a song called "Mad at Me" and, in 2008, two songs called "Juke Joint" and "Get Lyte". In 2009, a song titled "Brooklyn" was released, as well as "Craven".

2013–present: Legend and following projectsEdit

In 2013, MC Lyte received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 Hip Hop Inaugural Ball. She was the first female solo hip hop artist to receive BET's "I Am Hip Hop" Icon Lifetime Achievement Award.[49]

"Dear John" (featuring Common & 10Beats) was released on September 9, 2014 and peaked on the Billboard Twitter Trending 140 chart at number three.[50] After twelve years without an album, MC Lyte's eighth album, Legend, came out on April 18, 2015. "Ball" (featuring Lil Mama & AV)[51] and "Check" are also singles from the album.[52] During 2018, she continued to release a strand of singles, one of which was 'Easy', in response to her British audience claiming that artists who recorded new jack swing were sexually explicit.

In January 2019 received The Trail Blazer Award at the Trumpet Awards in Atlanta with rappers Yo Yo, Lil Mama, Da Brat, Big Tigger, and Dj K-Rock helping to celebrate with a performance.

ArtistryEdit

Influences, style and rapping techniqueEdit

MC Lyte has considered artists such as Salt-N-Pepa,[53] Rakim,[54] Roxanne Shanté,[55] Doug E. Fresh,[56] Boogie Down Productions,[57] Kool Moe Dee,[54] Sha-Rock from Funky 4 + 1,[58][59] Run-DMC[54] and Big Daddy Kane[60] as her inspirations early in her musical career. In an interview with XXL in 2013, Lyte talks about the influence in his early days of Melle Mel and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (specifically the song "The Message"). She also claimed to know "all the words" on the Kurtis Blow records.[54] Throughout her career has also paid tribute to other artists such as Spoonie Gee (who she covered on Act Like You Know), Slick Rick,[61] The Rock Steady Crew,[62] LL Cool J[63] and Queen Latifah.[64] In an interview with The Source in 2015, when asked about her motivation to record her latest album Legend, Lyte said she was inspired by Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West and Drake among other rappers.[65]

Her style of Rap has been described in the book Listen to Rap! Exploring a Musical Genre as "mid-tempo but aggressive (lots of plosives) and carefully articulated, with emphasis on end rhymes."[66]

Other venturesEdit

ActingEdit

 
MC Lyte's diary displayed in National Museum of American History.

Her first acting role was in 1991, an off-Broadway theater play titled Club Twelve, a hip-hop twist on Twelfth Night alongside Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, and Lisa Nicole Carson. After she made her film debut in the 1993 movie titled Fly by Night [fr], starring alongside Jeffrey Sams, Ron Brice, and Steve Gomer, she also starred other films, such as A Luv Tale (1999), Train Ride (2000), Civil Brand (2002) and Playa's Ball (2003). In 2011, she guest starred in the Regular Show episode "Rap It Up", portraying a member of a hip-hop group also including characters voiced by Tyler, the Creator and Childish Gambino. Lyte signed with the production unit, Duc Tha Moon, for three years and eventually made a deal with Sirius Satellite Radio.[30] Lyte also made appearances on the following television shows: Lyric Cafe, Hip Hop Honors, and Black in the 80's.[30]

In June 2006, MC Lyte was interviewed for the documentary The Rap Report, Part 2. MC Lyte talked about her career in rap music and what it was like during the beginnings of hip hop. She also performs a concert of her most famous hits. The program is produced by Rex Barnett.

In 2007, Lyte joined the cast of MTV's Celebrity Rap Superstar[67] and coached Shar Jackson to a hip hop emcee victory in a mere eight weeks.

In 2017 Lyte played Detective Makena Daniels in the drama series Tales. Immediately following she played DEA Special Agent Katrina 'K.C.' Walsh in the Police drama S.W.A.T. and Tiffany in TV ONE production Loved to Death. Lyte has been featured on television as herself on such shows as In Living Color, Moesha, Cousin Skeeter, New York Undercover, My Wife and Kids, and Sisters in the Name of Rap. She also acted on TV in such shows as In the House, Get Real, Half & Half, Queen of the South, and The District.

In 2020, Lyte starred in Bad Hair directed by Justin Simien,[68] and Sylvie's Love, a period piece set in the 1960s opposite Tessa Thompson.[69]

Business and commerceEdit

MC Lyte opened Shaitel, a Los Angeles boutique that specialized in accessories from belts to sunglasses. "We sell a mixture of new and vintage [items]," she explained. "We also have a few signature pieces that are done just for the store. We boast to bring a little New York flavor out here to California."[70]

In 1997, MC Lyte launched Sunni Gyrl Inc., a global entertainment firm that specializes in artist management and development, production, and creative services and consulting.

VoiceoverEdit

In 1996, MC Lyte began doing voiceovers, working on a short-lived BET show called The Boot and doing some branding for the Starz network, Tide, AT&T, the National Urban League, and many others. She did the voice of Tia for the Mattel toy line Diva Starz from 2000 to 2002.

DJ MC LyteEdit

DJ MC Lyte served as the DJ of choice at Michael Jordan's 50th Birthday Celebration, at his 2013 wedding reception, and at Jay Leno's farewell party. Lyte has gone on to provide music for The Image Awards, Nissan, Google, Black Enterprise, and many others.

SpeakerEdit

MC Lyte has spoken at colleges and universities, for organizations around the globe, and with notable people like Iyanla Vanzant, Russell Simmons, and Soledad O'Brien bringing a message of empowerment from her book Unstoppable: Igniting the Power Within to Achieve Your Greatest Potential. She also partnered with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund on the iLEAD international tour[71] in South Africa to empower the continent's youth and up-and-coming leaders.

Leadership and philanthropyEdit

In 1991 MC Lyte was featured in TV informercial promoting pro-abortion rights political action "The Most Exciting Women in Music" alongside Corina, Juliet Cuming, Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth), Lady Miss Kier (Deee-Lite), Kate Pierson (The B-52's), Crystal Waters, Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club).[72][73][74]

In February 2006, her diary, as well as a turntable, records, and other assorted ephemera from the early days of hip hop, were donated to the Smithsonian Institution.[75] This collection, entitled "Hip-Hop Won't Stop: The Beat, the Rhymes, the Life" is a program to assemble objects of historical relevance to the hip hop genre from its inception.[76] MC Lyte served as the President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Recording Academy (the Grammy organization) from 2011 to 2013.[77] She was the first African American woman to serve in this role.[77]

She is the founder of Hip Hop Sisters Foundation,[14] which presented two $100,000 scholarships to college students each of the first two years of its inception and three $50,000 scholarships as a part of its #EducateOurMen initiative during its third year during the Soul Train Music Awards Red Carpet Preshow.[78]

Personal lifeEdit

In the early 90s, Lyte was in a relationship with the then producer of Yo! MTV Raps Todd "Todd 1" Brown (1970-2019)[79] and at that time she would also make public in an interview that they were engaged. Todd 1 later said that the latter was part of a joke started by one of the hosts of the show Tyrone "T Money" Kelsie "he came up with the marriage idea and then mayhem ensued. After the initial show, the story got so big that an interviewer actually asked Lyte about her "marriage"... and instead of her shooting down the rumor, she went along with it."[80] Later it was speculated in the media that for a few years she had a relationship with actress Tichina Arnold. Later these rumors were denied by Arnold.[81] In May 2015 some media speculated that Lyte had dated R&B singer Janelle Monae, these rumors have not been confirmed by any of them.[82][83] In 2016, producer and rapper Q-Tip revealed on his Apple Music 1 show "Abstract Radio" that he used to date Lyte in his days before landing a record deal with A Tribe Called Quest.

In early 2016, she started dating Marine Corps veteran and entrepreneur John Wyche, after meeting him on Match.com. They announced their engagement in May 2017 "What can I say, except thank you Lord!!!… It’s been a long time, this single life, and I thank you all for your prayers and kind words of hope," she wrote in the post dated January 21. "God has sent me true love. For all of you waiting on LOVE- don’t give up – keep God first and he will see that you meet your match." In August they exchanged their vows during a musical wedding in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Reggae Congo bands played as Lyte walked down the aisle, and the couple's friend Kelly Price serenaded them during the ceremony. Afterward, an intimate gathering with only close friends and family members was held.[84][85] In August 2020 she has filed for a divorce after three years of marriage[86]

DiscographyEdit

Studio albums
Collaboration albums

FilmographyEdit

Cine
Year Title Role Notes
1992 Fly by Night [fr] Akusa
1997 An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn Sista Tu Lumumba
1999 A Luv Tale Alia
2000 Train Ride Katrina Daniels
2002 Civil Brand Sgt. Cervantes
2003 Playas Ball Laquita
2013 The Dempsey Sisters Taylor Powell
2017 Patti Cake$ DJ French Tips
2017 Girls Trip MC Lyte
2019 Loved to Death Tiffany
2020 Bad Hair Coral
2020 Sylvie's Love Mikki
TBA Lost Girls: Angie's Story Pastor Kim Post-production


Television
Year Title Role
1995 New York Undercover Female Rapper
1996 Moesha Self
1998 In the House Lu Lu
1998 Cousin Skeeter Self
1999 Get Real Beth Hunter
2002 The District Karla
1998–2002 For Your Love Lana
2003 Platinum Camille FaReal
2003 Strong Medicine Nikki
2004 My Wife & Kids Self
2004–2006 Half & Half Kai Owens
2017 Tales Makena Daniels
2018 S.W.A.T. DEA Special Agent Katrina 'KC' Walsh
2017–2018 Queen of the South The Professor
2018 Power Jelani Otombre
2019 New York Undercover LT. April Freeman

Awards and nominationsEdit

Grammy AwardsEdit

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1994 "Ruffneck" Best Rap Solo Performance[87] Nominated
2004 "Ride Wit Me" Best Female Rap Vocal Performance Nominated

Soul Train Lady of Soul AwardsEdit

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1995 "You Want This" with Janet Jackson Music Video of the Year Nominated
1996 "Keep On Keepin' On" with Xscape Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video Won

MTV Video Music AwardEdit

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1995 "I Wanna Be Down" featuring Brandy, Yo-Yo, and Queen Latifah Best Rap Video Nominated

Billboard Music AwardsEdit

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1997 Herself Top Rap Artist Nominated
"Cold Rock a Party" Top Rap Song Nominated

BET AwardsEdit

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2004 Herself Best Female Hip-Hop Artist Nominated

Other accoladesEdit

  • 2006 – VH1 Hip Hop HonorsHonoree[48]
  • 2013 – Hip Hop Inaugural Ball – Honored with the Lifetime Achievement
  • 2013 – BET Hip Hop Awards – Honored with the Icon Lifetime Achievement I Am Hip Hop Award for his contributions to hip-hop culture[49]
  • 2019 – Trumpet Awards – Trail Blazer Award

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit