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MC Lyte's Almost September: A Rap Legend's Soulful One-Off

By Stereo Williams

Lana Moorer is a Hip-Hop icon. 'Nuff said.

The rhymer known as MC Lyte is one of the most revered artists in the game, since she debuted in the late 1980s, Lyte has been a bastion for creativity, authenticity and sisterhood. She's been the brash teenage battle rapper, she topical message rapper, the pop-friendly radio rapper and the wise-beyond-her-years elder stateswoman -- it's all Lyte. 

But for all of her reverence and accolades and acclaim; there are still those moments in the L-Y-T-E's career where she was grossly slept on. In 2008, she delivered such a moment. 

Almost September is a trio featuring MC Lyte, Jared Lee Gosselin and Philip "Whitey" White; and they came together in 2008 for an EP rich with soulful sounds and some of Lyte's most effervescent rhymes. The Almost September project is one of Lyte's lesser-recognized moments, but it more than merits a revisit from fans and curios. 

"Soul music was definitely something I listened to," MC Lyte recalls about the project's genesis. "It was so funny that they called it 'neo-soul,' it was just 'soul' for me. But it was really trippy. I wound up in a studio session with Macy Gray and I sat there with her and her producers and really vibed with them. We did one song and then we did another song and before you know it-- we had all these songs!" 

"We said 'What can we name the group?'"

"So it was like 'let's take 'em back to school: Almost September,'" Lyte explains. "The title of the group had a lot to do with retooling and re-schooling heads on how you could mix meaningful lyrics with soulful music. Much like how it was done back in the day with Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Gang Starr and Guru -- that kind of feel."

Gosselin has worked with a who's-who of soul artists; from Gray and India.Arie to Floetry and Corrine Bailey Rae. And on the Hip-Hop side, in addition to Lyte, Gosselin collaborated with stars like Daryll "D.M.C." McDaniels and Chino XL. He was also a producer on Love Jones: The Musical. White has lended his vocals to projects by legends like George Benson and Luther Vandross, while also producing work for Gray and Floetry. 

The lushness of the production of Gosselin and White, the sublime vocalizations (including a Sleepy Brown appearance on "Love") and Lyte's inspired rhymes make Almost September a richly engrossing musical experience. This is a laid-back Lyte, ruminating on relationships, spirituality and community; with guests like the aforementioned Brown, vocalist Mika Lett and rap legend KRS-One adding weight to the proceedings. 

It's been 13 years since Almost September. The EP dropped to little fanfare or buzz, but it's not for any shortage of great music on the project. Sometime the world just needs to catch up to something dope. For Lyte, it remains one of her most rewarding releases -- and there could be more coming down the pipeline at some point. 

"I love that project," Lyte says. "We put out eight songs, but we did like twentysomething. Maybe at a later date, there will be an Almost September II. Maybe. I know the guys are busy doing things and so am I.

"But it would be nice."