1988 is regarded as one of Hip-Hop's greatest years for full album releases. Ice-T, Public Enemy, Eric B. & Rakim, NWA, Slick Rick and many others released some of their best work in this pivotal year. In addition to great albums and new acts, '88 also saw the rise and continuation of many independent Hip-Hop labels, one being First Priority Records. First Priority was home to The Audio Two, Positive K and one of Brooklyn's finest, MC Lyte. The success of the Audio Two's smash hit "Top Billin'" not only catapulted the Audio Two to stardom, but it created interest in the burgeoning label.
"I came on the heels of their [The Audio Two] record, so we had records out at the same time and anything that anybody wanted them for, they had to take me," she told Jalen Rose earlier this year on his Renaissance Man podcast.
Lyte As A Rock Lyte's debut album marks the first full-length album by a female MC.
Lyte's debut single, 1987's Audio Two-produced "I Cram To Understand You"/"Take It Lyte" was an instant hit with its hard stripped down drums, and its metaphoric tale of her boyfriend Sam who was in love with "Ms. C," who it was revealed at the end of the song as crack. The drug in many ways changed Hip-Hop, and started to ravage the streets of urban America three years prior to Lyte's debut. Acts such as Masters of Ceremony, Boogie Down Productions and Public Enemy had started to discuss crack in their recordings, but Lyte's was one of the more creative approaches that both educated and warned about the new drug.
"Take It Lyte" with its slowed down loop of Eddie Kendricks' "Keep On Truckin'" was a perfect intro to Lyte and her DJ K-Rock. Lyte was official, and the anticipation for more material from her was high.
1988's "Paper Thin" was a pivotal single for Lyte. It was her first video, and the first time that many of her fans, especially those outside of New York's boroughs, saw what she looked like. The King of Chill produced "Paper Thin" with its sample of Prince's '17 Days" portrays Lyte as a no nonsense woman who can see through the game that men attempt to run on women. She starts the song confidently:
"When you say you love me it doesn't matter it goes in my head as just chit chatter/ you may think its egotistical or just worry free but, what you say I take none of it seriously and /even if I did I wouldn't tell you so, I'd let you know/I'd let you pretend to read me and then you'd know."
The success of "Paper Thin" and it's video, which received heavy airplay on the newly created Yo! MTV Raps, solidified Lyte as one to watch, and all but guaranteed a successful album which was on its way.
Lyte As A Rock was extremely well received upon its release. "10% Diss," her war of words with Antionette, "Lyte As A Rock," the title track, "MC Lyte Likes Swingin'," and "Lyte Thee MC" were all standouts on the album, and established her as a great MC, not a great female MC.
Lyte As A Rock remains one of Lyte's strongest releases, which perfectly represents the time that it was released in, Hip-Hop's "Golden Era," but it also transcends that period, and sounds as fresh today as it did 35 years ago.