On Thursday, March 4, Stockton University’s Africana Studies Program presented a “Women in Hip-Hop” summit with key speaker MC Lyte. The rapper, actress, executive producer, and philanthropist shared her story of growing up in a single-parent home in Brooklyn, New York, to becoming an icon and how she’s leaving her legacy on the world.
“To prepare is the best thing you can do,” Lyte told 175 participants at the Virtual Hip-Hop Summit. Lyte is the first female rapper to be nominated for a Grammy, perform at Carnegie Hall, and earn a gold single. She has performed at the Kennedy Center Honors and for former President Barack Obama. Her charity, the Hip-Hop Sisters, provides more than $1 million scholarships. She is also currently a creator and executive producer on the UMC sitcom Partners in Rhyme.
As a child, Lyte’s mother emphasized the importance of education and the arts. “We went to everything that was offered to children for free–dance class, art class, museums, exhibitions,” she said. Most important to Lyte was watching performances such as Dream Girls, Cats, and 42nd Street on Broadway, which sparked her interests in the entertainment industry.
“I knew I needed to be a part of this experience,” said Lyte. It wasn’t until she heard her first hip-hop song when she realized that this genre could be her ticket into the industry. “I started to prepare–for what, I wasn’t sure. I had a notebook and I took all that creativity and I started to focus on my writing,” Lyte added.
In high school, Lyte caught her big break when her friend, Erick Cole, suggested to meet with a record label. When Lyte arrived, she expressed how easy and smooth the process of the audition was. “They were putting me to the test, but because I was prepared, because I had dreamed big, and practiced, it was very easy to do what came naturally,” said Lyte. Shortly after the audition, Lyte was offered a record deal.
Chasing your dreams all starts with thoughts, words and actions. Anything that Lyte foresaw herself doing, she prepared herself for. “Words by far are the catalyst to where you’re going to end up,” Lyte shared. At times, Lyte said she became a victim of her own words. She explained that in trying to become unrecognizable to others, she became unrecognizable to herself.
“That single though was so powerful, it started an avalanche of mishaps in my career,” she explained. “Liken yourself to water and flow, all you have to be is open and flow with most circumstances and find the good in everything.”
The birthday of hip-hop is considered to be August 11, 1973, based on a party that was held in the Bronx, claimed Program Coordinator Dr. Allison Donnetrice. “Hip-hop and I are like siblings who grew up together. When hip-hop hit–it was like lightning.”
The event also featured powerful poetry spoken by Marjorie Barnes, Loreal “ElleVintge” Chrisp, and Sol Chyld. Before there was hip-hop, there was poetry. Revolutionary poets such as Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, and Audre Lorde spread messages of black power and pride which became the forefathers of what ultimately became hip-hop.