MC Lyte has long ago expanded her resume beyond the microphone; in addition to acting and being a voiceover artist, the hip-hop legend heads Hip Hop Sisters, a non-profit organization that brings women together from the worlds of entertainment and corporate America, in an effort to focus on financial literacy, mentorship, and education.
At the start of 2016, the organization hosted its inaugural The W.E.A.L.T.H. Experience, a retreat charged with extending the work of Hip Hop Sisters. SoulTrain.com spoke with the rap icon about the retreat, her relationship with Soul Train, and why hip-hop is never far from her heart.
SoulTrain.com: Your organization, Hip Hop Sisters, focuses on entrepreneurship, financial empowerment, health and wellness, and other lifestyle areas. Talk about why you founded the organization—was there something you weren’t seeing out there?
MC Lyte: Hip Hop Sisters first started as an organization online where young ladies who were artists, journalists, choreographers, etc., who loved hip-hop could come onto the site, network, put up their videos and pictures. I got a call from Lynn Richardson, who is the COO of one of Russell Simmons’ many foundations. We had met before on a panel so when I got the call asking me if I wanted to start a foundation, I said, “Absolutely.” We met not too long after that with another friend, Felicia Shaw, and so we co-founded the organization together. And yes, I did feel there was a void. I wanted to be able to provide mentorship to young girls and within it, both Lynn and Felicia wanted to provide education to women in the realm of finances. And so, we decided to create Hip Hop Sisters.
SoulTrain.com: It is really cool how, in some way or another, beyond actually performing and recording, you keep hip-hop integrated into all of your endeavors. Why is that important for you?
MC Lyte: It’s really who I am. Hip-hop was the main factor in getting me to where I am today—it was the door that I opened for me. And although I wanted to be able to help other people and do voiceover and act and speak and all these other things, I am fully aware that it was hip hop that incited the excitement within. It took me where I wanted to go, so I take it everywhere I go.
SoulTrain.com: You’ve had ties to Soul Train for some time now; through Hip Hop Sisters, you’ve given away educational scholarships during the annual Soul Train Awards festivities. Talk about this business relationship.
MC Lyte: It just seemed natural for that time of the year to announce the winners and just the relationship I have with BET and Centric and to now have access to the Soul Train trademark was a huge scenario. I remember doing Lady of Soul in Los Angeles and performing for it and presenting awards, so when it came back around to the Soul Train Awards, it was natural. It wasn’t a forced scenario, not to mention that I love and have always loved Soul Train.
SoulTrain.com: An extension of Hip Hop Sisters is the W.E.A.L.T.H. Experience retreat, where the charge is to demonstrate women building wealth and working together, and ultimately supporting each other, which can sometimes seems like an anomaly. What are your thoughts?
MC Lyte: With the W.E.A.L.T.H. Experience, we’re looking to address so many aspects of life, but the acronym itself sells it: Womanhood, Expansion, Access, Leadership, Transformation and Health. It’s a culmination of all those things. We’re looking to change perspectives holistically and change lives from body, mind and spirit. We have workshops that address this in terms of finances, relationships and entrepreneurship, and just how to expand and be greater and bigger for yourself and your family. I’m excited that we’re producing this event, but I’m also excited to attend.
SoulTrain.com: There will be different panel discussions at the retreat—which ones will be among the highlights?
MC Lyte: One of the panels will deal with the reality shows and that they haven’t shown much of a balance; however, we’re gonna have Nicci Gilbert, who has her new show, From the Bottom Up, on Centric. We’re totally supporting her and her efforts. We understand what the show was before it made it on air, but a lot of us don’t have control when production gets into play and what they feel they have to maneuver in order for things to sell. But we know one thing for sure is that Nicci has integrity—she walked away from R&B Divas for that simple reason, because that was not the show she sold to them. We can count on her to get it straight.
SoulTrain.com: In addition to Gilbert, other celebrity participants include Faith Evans, Kelly Price, Cheryl “Salt” James, and others. Talk about getting these women on board and what they collectively represent.
MC Lyte: The interesting thing is we’re all women, and when you take away all the glitz and the glam, we’re all dealing with the same issues, be it finances, relationships, trying to get our bodies together, self-love—every one [of the celebrity participants] is just like the people coming. We’re all going through the same thing. The strategy we’re going in with is that when people leave, they will have a plan for their 2016. That’s what we’re excited about. As long as you’re present and you come in love, you will leave with what it is you need to make your 2016 what you need it to be.
SoulTrain.com: As this is the inaugural W.E.A.L.T.H. Experience, what do you want attendees to take away? Will they leave having a vision for 2016 and moving forward?
MC Lyte: It’s not just a vision; it’s actually a plan. You can come with your vision, but in the process of this, you’re gonna walk away with paper in hand that’ll be a step-by-step plan as to how you’re gonna get to where you’re trying to go. I want them to learn whatever it is that’s going to propel them to be better. I want everyone to bring their highest self into their consciousness so that they can be all that they can be for themselves, for their families and for their communities. Let’s face it: When a woman is beaten or scorned or not loved, she cannot be all of the things she was meant to be or be able to nurture those in her circumference. So hopefully, a whole lot of healing will take place. People will walk away stronger.
LaShawn Williams is a freelance writer and editor from Chicago, Illinois. She is an arts and entertainment enthusiast who has a serious thing for stand-up comedy, music and dance. Follow her on Twitter: @MsWilliamsWorld.