MC Lyte (born Lana Michelle Moorer; October 11, 1970) is an American rapper who 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. She has long been considered one of hip-hop's pioneer feminists.
Lyte was born Lana Michelle Moorer in 1970. Raised in Brooklyn, Lyte began rhyming at the age of 12. One long-standing misconception is that Lyte is the younger sister of Milk D and DJ Giz, Audio Two.
In 1987, when she was 17, Lyte began schooling other MCs in the art of rhyme; since that time, she has improved upon her musical prowess, with a total of ten albums released to her credit. In September of the following year, she released her first album, Lyte as a Rock, noted for such hits as "Paper Thin" and the battle rap "10% Dis", a response from then-Hurby Azor associate, Antoinette. Both rappers released battle records against each other. Lyte followed her debut with 1989's Eyes on This, which spawned the hits "Cha Cha Cha" and "Cappucino". Both albums were notable for Lyte's uncensored lyrical matter. She sweetened up a little on 1991's Act Like You Know, noted for its new jack swing sound and the hit single "Poor Georgie". Lyte's fourth album, 1993's Ain't No Other, became her first to reach gold status and was notable for her first top 40 pop hit, "Ruffneck". An inspiring 1993 classic anthem, "Ruffneck", was eventually nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Single, and in fact, made MC Lyte the first female solo rapper ever nominated for a Grammy. She later went on to become a featured artist on hits by Janet Jackson and Brandy.
Two years afterward, Lyte's fifth album, Bad As I Wanna B, featured production from Jermaine Dupri and Sean Combs, and featured the hits "Keep on, Keepin' On" and "Cold Rock a Party", which featured then up-and-coming rapper, songwriter and producer Missy Elliott. This album was her first with East West Records America and became successful after the aforementioned singles became big hits with "Keep on, Keepin' On" peaking at the top ten and "Cold Rock a Party" peaking at number eleven. It was her second gold album. Her 1998 follow-up, Seven & Seven, however, wasn't as successful and she left East West America by the end of the decade. Lyte released the independently produced record The Undaground Heat, featuring Jamie Foxx, in 2003, which was notable for the song "Ride Wit Me". The single was nominated for both a Grammy and a BET award.
MC Lyte's song "My Main Aim" was the title song of the 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). 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".
"Dear John" (featuring Common & 10Beats) was released on September 9, 2014 as the lead single from MC Lyte's eighth album and it peaked on the Billboard Twitter Trending 140 chart at number three. After a twelve-year absence in releasing albums, she released her eighth album, Legend on April 18, 2015. "Ball" (featuring Lil Mama & AV) and "Check" are also singles from the album.
Lyte has been featured on television as herself on such shows as MTV Unplugged, 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, and The District.
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, 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.
In June 2006, MC Lyte was interviewed for the documentary The Rap Report, Part 2, also featuring Chuck D of Public Enemy. MC Lyte talked about her career in rap music and she also discusses 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 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. 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. In 2007, Lyte joined the cast of MTV's Celebrity Rap Superstar and coached Shar Jackson to a hip hop emcee victory in a mere eight weeks. During that same time, Lyte hit the road in between shooting and joined the Roots for a nationwide VH1 House of Blues Tour.
Business and commerce:
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."
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.
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.
DJ MC Lyte:
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.
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 in South Africa to empower the continent's youth and up and coming leaders.
Leadership and philanthropy:
MC Lyte served as the President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Recording Academy (the Grammy organization) from 2011 to 2013. She is the first African American to serve in this role and she is also the CEO of Sunni Gyrl Inc., an entertainment and production firm, and is the founder of Hip Hop Sisters Foundation, 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, and she is an honorary member of Sigma Gamma Rho sorority.
In 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".
In 2013, MC Lyte received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 Hip Hop Inaugural Ball, and she also received the BET "I Am Hip Hop" Icon Lifetime Achievement Award, making her the first female solo hip hop artist to receive the honor from the network.