Act Like You Know is MC Lyte’s third studio album. I came upon it a few years ago in the dollar bin at a Pawn America around my way, and picked it up on the strength of a few of the album’s singles that I liked (which we’ll discuss in more detail a little later). And because it’s a frickin’ MC Lyte album.
If you follow my blog with any regularity you already know how I felt about her first two efforts. If not, I’ll give you a short recap: Her big brothers (Audio Two) handled the majority of the production for both albums, which happened to miss more than hit. On Act Like You Know, Audio Two does gets a few chances on the production side but the majority of the album’s production is divided and handled by a handful of other producers (that will discuss a little later).
Upon it’s release Act Like You Know was met with mixed reviews by critics, and the streets felt it was too soft, which resulted in modest record sales, meaning it didn’t even go wood.
When In Love – I believe this was the lead single from Act Like You Know. On her first two releases Lyte seemed determined to fit in with the fellas and spit hard rhymes over hard beats. “When In Love” shows a softer side of Lyte as she discusses the crazy things people do when in love over a generic R&B tinged instrumental brought to you courtesy of the production duo of Richard Wolf & Bret Mazur (who go by the moniker of Wolf & Epic, because Epic gives them more street cred than Mazur?), with vocalist Vanessa Townsell singing the hook. Not what I’m accustom to hearing on a Lyte record.
Eyes Are The Soul – This is probably my favorite song in MC Lyte catalog and one of the singles that prompted me to buy Act Like You Know. Wolf & Epic return and provide a splendidly dark instrumental that Lyte uses to discuss a careless heroin user who contracts HIV, A crackhead turned murderer/stick up kid, and a pregnant teen contemplating an abortion. Heavy shit to hear on a Lyte record (pun intended). She does a pretty good job with it. Very underrated song. Classic in my opinion.
Search For The Lyte – Lyte lightens (no pun intended) up the mood with this nonsensical joint that serves as a lazy excuse to play off of her name in a song title (kind of like I did in the previous sentence). King Of Chill samples a portion of the JB’s “More Peas” record (the same record Cypress Hill used on “The Phuncky Feel One” and that Showbiz & AG would make famous on their underground hit “Soul Clap” a few years later) for the backdrop. Not terrible, but my least favorite out of the three songs mentioned above.
Act Like You Know – The Wolf & Epic produced title song is barely decent. Lyte sounds strong on the mic. Unfortunately the instrumental could have used a little fire underneath it.
Mickey Slipper (Interlude) – Short PSA to warn you about the dangers of leaving your drink unattended. You never know when Darren Sharper or Bill Cosby may show up. Nice instrumental brought to you courtesy of Wolf & Epic.
Poor Georgie – Correction: this is probably my favorite Lyte song of all time. Lyte spins a tale about her love affair with a known ladies man and how swiftly his life would take a turn for the worst. The Dee Jay Doc instrumental makes for the perfect backdrop for Lyte’s story line. Classic.
Take It Off – Lyte gets more
sleazy sensual on this one than anything I can remember from her prior two albums. Our hostess spends three verses confusing love with one night stands as she repeatedly blurs the lines between booty calls and getting wifed. Pal Joey 2 gets the production credit on this one. Lyte’s contradicting lyrics made me leave this one feeling confused.
Beyond The Hype – Lyte sounds decent on this one, but the pretty exterior on this Wolf & Epic instrumental can’t mask the track’s missing heart.
All That – Lyte’s attempt to sound hard comes off as manufactured over this bargain bin Audio Two instrumental.
Big Bad Sister – The 45 King gets his first production credit of the evening as he borrows the bass line from the Whatnauts “Help Is On The Way” record (first made popular on De La Soul’s classic “Ring, Ring, Ring”). Lyte’s on point as she coasts over the infectious bass line and sounds as if she could go toe to toe with any emcee, male or female. This was hot.
Like That Anna (Interlude) – Lyte’s older brothers get their second production credit of the evening, providing a mediocre instrumental for a short mediocre verse from our hostess, which leads into the next track…
Kamikaze – The song title would lead one to believe that the instrumental would be an up tempo hyped monster. Instead 45 King provides a lazy subdued backdrop for Lyte to spit over, which doesn’t match the intensity she’s bringing vocally.
Can You Dig It – No.
Like A Virgin – Our hostess shares her experience of losing her virginity as 15. Don’t get too excited, because it’s really not interesting. 45 King’s boring instrumental almost put me to sleep before she finished. Her verses, that is.
Lola From The Copa – Audio Two hook up a nice instrumental that Lyte uses to share her remixed version of Barry Manilow’s classic record “Copacabana”. Like the original someone ends up dead, but no guns are involved in Lyte’s version.
2 Young 4 What – Lyte shares with the world her freaky fetish for young meat, preferably right around the age 17 (note to reader: Lyte was 21 when Act Like You Know was released). Thanks to gender double standards this song wasn’t met with much controversy, but if a male emcee were to share the same sentiments about the opposite sex, he would have been burned at the stake in the town square, similar to what they tried to do to Luke for being “too lewd”. But I digress. DJ Master Tee borrows a portion of the Isley Brothers’ “Groove With You” for the backdrop as Lyte sounds more perverse than I’ve ever heard her. And it’s kind of sexy, which kind of discredits my whole statement about double standards.
Absolutely Positively…Practical Jokes – If the title doesn’t tip you off to where this song is going the first few lines of the first verse will. Either way, the storyline wasn’t that interesting. Neither was 45 King’s instrumental.
Another Dope Intro (Interlude) – Wolf & Epic get their finally production credit of the evening which sounds nothing like any of the other instrumentals they hooked up on Act Like You Know. Their productions are usually layered, clean and sprinkled with a touch of r&b. This one was empty and generic. Lyte kicks one quick verse and then its over, hence the reason it’s referred to as an interlude.
K-Rock’s The Man (Bonus Track) – Instead of dedicating a song to her deejay or having him cut up a record, Lyte decides to hand over the mic to K-Rock so he can spit on his own song. It’s garbage, but you have to appreciate the sentiment.
The quality of MC Lyte’s voice is undeniable. So undeniable that 25 plus years since she broke on the hip-hop scene she’s still making dollars off of her cords, as she can often be heard on BET doing voiceover work or narrating awards shows and special events. The quality of her voice also shines through in her emceeing, and in all honesty while Lyte’s always been a decent lyricist (even though she hasn’t always written them on her own) her strongest attribute is the strength of her voice. The quality of her voice can be heard throughout Act Like You Know, but unfortunately the majority of the songs don’t work. A large part of the blame can be placed on the production duo Wolf & Epic who handle about a third of the production duties. With the exception of “Eyes Are The Soul” their production is too clean and leans too much on the r&b side. The remaining two-thirds of the production (with a few exceptions) is just weak, leaving Act Like You Know less than impressive and a little Lyte on the entertaining side.