MC Lyte made history back in 1988 when she became the first female rapper to release a full-length album, Lyte as a Rock. Since then, she has remained a solid fixture within the hip hop community. In close to two decades, we have seen her career take her from a mainstream rapper, to our TV screens in hit shows such as Moesha, In The House, and Half & Half, as well as onto the silver screen. Her longevity is a testament to her multiple talents and the reason MC Lyte has earned living legend status. In 2006 MC Lyte founded Hip Hop Sisters, which was set up to promote positive images of women of ethnic diversity. The organization boasts Melanie Fiona, Russell Simmons and Jada Pinkett Smith as a few of its Celebrity Advisory Board members. Now just a few years on, MC Lyte’s Hip Hop Sisters will be giving away a full scholarship to the tune of $100k to one student every year for the next three years. The first round of applications is open and will close October 1st. The lucky student announced November 8th, so if you’re interested, you need to submit pronto.
Soultrain.com: What made you want to set up this scholarship fund?
MC Lyte: Yeah. Well, I have an organisation called Hip Hop Sisters. We have an artistry side and then we also have the foundation side. We’ve been blessed with the opportunity to be able to gift a $100k scholarship to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for 2013, 2014 and 2015. We’ll be giving that scholarship away to three different individuals for an all paid for, four year tuition which will result in an academic degree.
Soultrain.com: What made you want to set up the Hip Hop Sisters organisation?
MC Lyte: It’s education. Empowerment. Inspiration and just thinking about the next generation that could perhaps spawn our great leaders of tomorrow. I just thought that it was necessary to give them everything that we’ve got. This generation that I’m part of, it’s very important that we prepare and do whatever we can in preparation for the next generation to take a stand.
Soultrain.com: How many applications have you had in so far?
MC Lyte: Oh goodness. I have no concept. *laughs* We did a press release and it’s hit all over. We have some folks who would like to apply from other countries. It’s reached pretty far now. So, as long as they meet the pre-requisites of the University of Wisconsin-Madison academically then they will go before MC Lyte and the first wave program and we’ll get to review all of their artistry. Their music. Their videos. Whatever it is that they do that encompasses hip hop culture, because that’s what the program is all about.
Soultrain.com: During the selection process, what are you looking for?
MC Lyte: They have to meet the academic requirements first. That’s their first step. And then the second step is someone who is definitely versed with hip hop culture and understands that the culture is nothing without a sense of community. So they have to bring to the table, their works. Whether it’s poetry, rhyming, dancing… Any of the elements of hip hop. Also they have to prove where they have been participatory in community type events or organisations within their neighbourhoods.
Soultrain.com: Do you feel as though there’s a shortage of giving back/community spirit within the hip hop industry or do you feel that there is quite a bit but it just get’s overshadowed by other things?
MC Lyte: I do think that there’s quite a bit of giving back. People of course; choose the particular causes that are near and dear to them. Some of them do it in different ways. Some people feed the homeless. Some people clothe the homeless. Some people collect toys for kids, for orphans. Everybody has their own cause that means something very special to them. I do think there’s a lot of giving back on a humanitarian and philanthropic frontier. That doesn’t always result on the lyrical content but I certainly think hip hop does give back.
Soultrain.com: You have already accomplished so much. Music, acting, everything… is there anything you haven’t done that you’d still like to do?
MC Lyte: Oh goodness. I would want to do TV production. I want to possibly have an artist management company because I don’t feel that too many people do it properly. I feel that there’s a certain amount of care that needs to go into the management and development of an artists’ career. There’s quite a few things that I’d like to do. But right now I’m just enjoying being able to do the things that I love which is still performing. So, it’s much to do for sure.
Soultrain.com: How do you feel artist development differs now from back when it was when you were coming up?
MC Lyte: Well, I think that much of the artist development is upon the artist at this point. Before there were a slew of people who were helping that artist to sort of refine and define who they are. Their look, their sound. And now I think to a large degree the new artists pretty much do their own artist development. With the older artists who have been in the game for some time, they understand how important it is to have an A&R collecting music for them and just needing all of the help to pull the project in and make it the best that it can be.
Soultrain.com: Are there any new female rappers that you are a fan of?
MC Lyte: Absolutely. There’s a young lady named Mae Day out of Detroit who is really, really dope. She is certainly skilled. She’s got mad flow. She writes all her own material and she’s a force to be reckoned with. I feel her right now. We got Chocolate Thai out of New York. She’s definitely hot. Imani out of Chicago is woooh! I have a platform where all of these female emcees are. It’s called www.hiphopsisters.com . There’s 2200 members on the site. There they put their pictures, their videos and a lot of great talented can be sighted there. Lyrical content that’s relative to the social ills of today. I usually pick all of my female emcees from there.
Soultrain.com: If you ever get some free time, how do you relax?
MC Lyte: Oh my goodness. I do just that. I don’t need anything. Just a good book and I’ll read a couple of chapters and then I’m out for the count. Relaxation is a bit easy for me because when I’m not working, that’s exactly what I like to do. It just comes natural. I like to sit still whenever I can.
Soultrain.com: How can people support and get involved with the organisation?
MC Lyte: Oh, definitely go to www.hiphopsisters.org and join the movement. Give us your information so that we’re able to reach you with updates. We do newsletters. But more importantly, numbers count. So if we have a lot of feedback from particular territories, we can then sight making our efforts to affect that particular territory.
Soultrain.com: What’s coming next?
MC Lyte: Next I have a couple of books including a memoir. I have a TV show coming. A bunch of things that I’m working on right now. I really like for those things to kind of just happen and then everyone take witness. But I do presently have a radio show called Cafe Mocha. That’s on weekly and it’s in about 26 markets weekly here in the United States. New York, Chicago, North Carolina, Texas… All over. Also, we appear on Sirius Satellite three times a week. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays on channel 141. So I’m keeping busy. It’s a lot to do. I’m very excited about presenting this $100k scholarship to this lucky student. Right now my brain is fixed on that.
Ayara Pommells is Owner of UK website Rawroots.com and a music writer for Soultrain.com, stupidDOPE.com, Badperm,com & Earmilk.com. Ayara also handles PR for several artists. A woman of many hats. Follow her on Twitter @iAmaButtafly.