MC Lyte – Lyte As A Rock (September 17, 1988)

In the past few months I’ve noticed I can’t turn on the radio, or watch BET, MTV. or VH1, without hearing or seeing the barbie doll gimmick known as Nicki Minaj.  Seemingly overnight she has become the female equivalent of Busta Rhymes, making cameos on everybody’s song, which probably has more to do with who she rolls with opposed to talent.  Don’t get me wrong, the girl has mad energy (and personalities), but no substance. I guess they don’t make em’ like MC Lyte anymore.

MC Lyte begin rapping at the age of 12, and under the tutelage of her brother, Milk of Audio Two (remember “Top Billin”?), she honed her skills and eventually got the attention of First Priority Records (it probably helped that her big brothers were already signed to the label).  She signed with First Priority, and in 88′, at the tender age of 17, released her debut Lyte As A Rock, becoming the first female rapper to release a full length album.

Lyte kept things in the family as Audio Two would be responsible for the bulk of the production on Lyte As A Rock (Prince Paul has one production credit on the album as well).  With her brothers on the boards, DJ K-Rock on the wheels of steel, and microphone in her hand, Lyte was ready to show the world how a lady emcees. Let’s listen and see how well her blueprint holds up.

Lyte Vs. Vanna Whyte – Over a go-go-ish track, DJ K-Rock cuts vocal samples from Wheel Of Fortune’s Pat Sajack.  This was nothing more than a useless album intro…next.  

Lyte As A Rock – Over a simple Audio Two produced track Lyte explains the simile that makes up her emcee name and album title.  Lyte’s rhymes are solid but her delivery sounds a bit rushed.  This was okay, I guess.

I Am Woman – Don’t let the title fool you.  No, this is not a feminist-slash-Maya Angelou “Phenomenal Women” song.  It’s just Lyte talking shit over a bassy King Of Chill beat.  Lyte does a pretty good job of mastering the ceremony. This was cool.  

MC Lyte Likes Swingin’ – Over this Prince Paul produced track MC Lyte expresses how much she loves to swing (this is a metaphor for “swingin’ on emcees” as oppose to the other meaning of the term…get your mind out the gutter, freaks!).  I love the sample Paul uses on the intro, too bad he didn’t incorporate it throughout the song. Lyte is a solid emcee but so far the production is a bit uneven. 

10% Dis – MC Lyte, as the kids say nowadays, goes hard on this dis (10%, that is) record aimed at her arch nemesis Antoinette. Audio Two produced the track, which makes sense since the song uses the same beat from their classic “Top Billin”.  But on the other hand it makes Lyte sound like a hypocrite since her biggest beef with Antoinette was her stealing a beat. Inspite of the recycled beat this is still the strongest song of the evening up to this point.  

Paper Thin – King Of Chill gets another stab at a production credit, and this time he doesn’t disappoint.  Over a track that sounds similar to Eric B & Rakim’s “Mahogany”, Lyte discusses her philosophy and rules for dating (no kiss until the 5 or 6 date huh? Lytes sounds like a nun compared to Lil’ Kim ). Lyte’s last verse is over at about the two-minute mark, but the instrumental unnecessarily plays on for another 2 minutes.  Other than that minor mishap, this was pretty dope.

Lyte Thee MC – Over this Alliance produced track, Lyte displays why she is considered one of the best female emcees of all-time.  Alliance’s simple but effective drum beat works well underneath Lyte trash talking. 

I Cram To Understand U – Lyte uses this Audio Two track to tell a story about her man, whom she turns a blind eye to his infidelity, illegal business (street pharmacist), and deadly habits, rather than confront him on it.  Lyte stays true to her claim on “Paper Thin”, as she doesn’t get intimate with Sam until a month of dating (way to dot those I’s and cross those T’s, Lyte).  Audio two’s beat gets lost in the shuffle (I just listened to it and can’t remember anything about it), but Lyte’s rhymes are brilliant.

Kickin’ 4 Brooklyn – Lyte reps her borough over this bouncy and bassy Audio Two beat.  As usual, Lyte is in full emcee mode, telling stories of different parties and blocks she’s rep in Brooklyn.  Solid lyrics, decent beat, this was an enjoyable listen.

Don’t Cry Big Girls – No, this isn’t a Lady of Rage solo joint (although you have to admit that would have been a clever song title from the afro-puffed one).  Instead Lyte uses this Audio Two track to talk more shit.  This was not great by any means, but it’s short enough to make it tolerable.  And with that were done.

Lyte As A Rock is a decent start to what would turn out to be a solid career for MC Lyte.  Lyte, who was very much a lady, wasn’t afraid to express her sexuality without sounding sleazy (well at least early on, some of the stuff she released later on when signed to So-So Def was suspect), and could grab her balls and mix it up with the fellas as well.  Lyte was still rough around the edges, which is pretty much expected from a 17-year-old, but she shows potential, and even shows signs of greatness (specifically on “I Cram To Understand”).  My biggest issue with Lyte As A Rock is the inconsistent production, as there really isn’t one great beat, just a few good ones and the rest average to meh (I wonder what the songs would sound like with Marley Marl’s beats behind them).  The fact there are only 10 songs (9 if you exclude the useless intro) softens the blow, making Lyte As A Rock a fairly decent listen.


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