President George W. Bush had a lot of screw-ups during his eight-year term, but he did do a couple things right. One of them was proclaiming June as Black Music Month on May 31, 2002. June is here,* and to celebrate Black Music Month, I'll be featuring one of my favorite artists each day, sharing my first or most personal memory of them, and explain what their accomplishments are and why I felt they should make the Black Music Month Top 30 list. There will be some oldies, some newbies and some artists you may not know of yet.
Black Music Month Heat Factor "Why's this artist hot?": When rapper Trina was on a March 2010 episode of "The Mo'Nique Show," she said, "It's rare that females in this industry can put out five albums" and said, "I am the only female to put out a fifth album." While she was correct about the first part, somebody should've told her she was dead wrong about the second part. This goes back to my Rakim entry about new(er) artists not respecting or being knowledgeable about the pioneers who kicked in the doors and did all the hard work so they could step through. MC Lyte put out six albums before going independent in 1998. The albums were 1989's "Eyes on This," 1990's "Lyte as a Rock," 1991's "Act Like You Know," 1993's "Ain't No Other," 1996's "Bad As I Wanna Be" and 1998's "Seven & Seven." The albums were released by East/West Records and Warner-Elektra-Atlantic (WEA).
After MC Lyte (real name Lana Michele Moorer) went independent in 1998, she still kept the albums rolling with 2003's "Da Undaground Heat, Vol. 1," 2005's "Rhyme Masters," 2008's "Almost September" and the upcoming tentatively titled "Second Coming" CD. She also has a new single out called "Rockin With the Best."
First Memory, Most Personal Memory of the Artist: I grew up during a time when female hip-hop artists were coming as hard as the guys. Women like Queen Latifah and Salt n' Pepa could outshine the fellas in a club. But my favorite female emcee has always been and probably will always be MC Lyte (although the other three women are close seconds). I did a whole dance routine in daycamp when I was about eight years old to "Stop Look Listen" and re-enacted the words to the entire song. I didn't win the competition, but I did the Running Man until my heart was content.
Fast forward to 2009 while working for a Chicago-based newspaper where I reached out to her for an interview. Sometimes I just throw out messages to celebs I like just to see if they'll respond. Most of the time they do. Sometimes they don't. But I did not expect her to contact me personally with her e-mail address and phone number for the interview. It was the wildest moment to call her up and she answered the phone. She was friendly, and after awhile, I felt like I was talking to a buddy of mine instead of to one of the hip-hop pioneers. I cracked jokes about her first rapper name, Sparkle, and her then-partner Dazzle, and she laughed right along with me. I have no idea who I'll interview in the future, but interviewing someone with such a great reputation and skill level is one of the highlights of my journalism career.
Accomplishments from the Artist: As stated in my Chicago Defender interview with her, MC Lyte was the first rap artist to perform at New York City's Carnegie Hall, the first female rapper to get a gold single, "Ruffneck" (earning her a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Single) and she was honored as the first female solo rapper in 2006's VH1 Hip Hop Honors. She also had a Grammy nomination for her 2003 CD "Undaground Heat, Volume 1." Outside of rhyming, spinning and radio hosting, you may know her for her motivational speaking tours, voiceovers and acting roles. She recorded campaigns for AT&T, Wherehouse Music, Coca Cola, McDonald's and Nike. MC Lyte was also a regular on UPN's (now CW) TV shows "Half & Half" and "For Your Love." She promoted President Barack H. Obama's presidential election and blogs on OkaySister.com.
* This entry was originally published on Associated Content in June of 2010. It has been republished with permission from Shamontiel. To find out who the other 29 artists were who were selected in 2010, visit this Pinterest board.
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