MC LYTE, Inspire and Lead: The Root of this Hip Hop Icon’s Legacy
LS: You have been classified as an activist, artist, actress, radio host, author, and philanthropist — Hip Hop Sisters Foundation, HHSF, is the perfect meld of all of these into one personal legacy. Through your activism, participation, and leadership, the Foundation is offering its initial scholarship this year. How many years have you invested in culminating the idea for HHSF?
Lyte: Thank you for the acknowledgment. I launched Hip Hop Sisters Artistry in 2006 and it focuses on the artist, dj, and dancer by giving them a platform to network and discover other artists that love Hip Hop just as much as they do. The Foundation side was launched last year, in 2012. Throughout the years I’ve lent my name and celebrity to many causes and finally, I thought starting my own organization would be a great idea. Not long after sitting with Lynn Richardson; who acts as COO for a foundation Russell Simmons founded, Hip Hop Summit Action Network; we were on our way. Lynn now serves as President of HHSF and is in charge of putting all of our programs together.
LS: HHSF is awarding the scholarship to a University of Wisconsin entering freshman. What drew you to the University of Wisconsin, Madison?
Lyte: The University of Wisconsin, Madison felt like a perfect fit. Lynn, our president, sourced the partnership out with a gentleman who runs a program there at the University called First Wave. The MC Lyte/First Wave $100,000 Scholarship is an opportunity for a high school graduate to attend the University for four years, tuition free.
LS: Will you be able to visit with the scholarship awardees?
Lyte: Absolutely, and I’ve met the two winners who will attend this semester. We announced the winners during the Soul Train Awards festivities. The winners and their families attended the awards ceremony; it was amazing!!
LS: Will the scholar have a chance to experience the music business with you and other HHSF Advisors?
Lyte: The program/curriculum at the University will have the students quite busy throughout the school year. The focus with First Wave is Academics, Activism and the Arts. While majoring in medicine, law or business they also get to develop their craft as Hip Hop artists, poets, actors, writers, etc. They will also travel and perform their craft in many places throughout their four years at Madison.
LS: Does the formation of HHSF aspire to become well-known?
Lyte: Sure! I believe there is still much to be done. Although the students have the opportunity to attend school for free they still require textbooks, food, and travel money to go back and forth to their homes during holidays.
LS: Does HHSF help rid the negative image of females in hip-hop?
Lyte: Our aim is to help young girls define themselves for themselves: to restore self-love and self-respect. They shouldn’t be so easily deterred and convinced that they are less than God’s children. Though several of today’s Hip Hop lyrics say they are less than, it is important that they learn they are so much more.
LS: How can female listeners translate Hip Hop into a positive message?
Lyte: Now that’s difficult! It depends on who you’re listening to. I wouldn’t write the entire genre off, however I would get specific with what I allow to be pumped into my ears on an ongoing basis. Searching for the Hip Hop that speaks to you is golden.
LS: Reaching the youth can be difficult. What outreach, other than the website do you use: local churches, schools, and performance events?
Lyte: Yes, all of the above! We also partner with local organizations that already have a strong presence in the communities we’re looking to make an impact in.
LS: I have learned you are also involved on an international level with outreach; please describe one or more of these efforts. Please let us know more about Sunni Gyrl Global.
Lyte: Most recently HHSF traveled to South Africa to speak to young kids about what it takes to make it in a competitive work field and how education should remain their focus. We are looking to open our next scholarship winning opportunity to the students there in South Africa, as well.
Sunni Gyrl, Inc. is a company I founded in 1997. Together with the newly appointed COO, Lynn Richardson, we are building an empire. We just sold our first show to the BET Network entitled Hip Hop Sisters. Sunni Gyrl represents Lil Mama who just starred as Left Eye in the VH1 TLC biopic. She’s now touring with TLC.
Sunni Gyrl is also a full-service entertainment and management firm that provides executive leadership and customized strategies in the areas of celebrity/artist support; development and management; brand development and management; wealth maintenance; community affairs and outreach; and production/creative services.
I am also part of a nationally syndicated radio show called Cafe Mocha. We’re in roughly 30 cities throughout the US and boast 1.5 million listeners weekly, www.cafemocharadio.com.
LS: You are creative to the max and have thrived in the ever-critical eye of the media — It must have been difficult to remain your own anchor and not be swept by cultural currents?
Lyte: Thank you! I just love creating new ways to get around everything or anyone that tries to stop me. Really it’s not me they may attempt to stop, it’s an idea. On our last conference call, I shared with my staff that we’re working to get me everywhere so that I’m able to act as a conduit: a via for God to inspire generations of people. I want God to use me for good so when we’re working, yes it is MC Lyte that we’re pushing but the overall the goal is much bigger than any MC, including me.
LS: Was there a particular event, age or period that stands out as the most trying?
Lyte: At some junctures in life you outgrow people and sometimes it happens to be the people you work with. I’ve switched management only twice in my 27 year career and each time it was difficult to say goodbye. When faced with the choice of having to let go of people, places or things in order to grow into who you are meant to be, you’ve got to learn how to say goodbye.
LS: With hindsight, how would you advise your younger self to persevere?
Lyte: Ask more questions and don’t allow someone to keep you isolated. You need to know other artists and learn what they know and teach what they don’t.
LS: Would you say good job or have wished you’d taken a different approach?
Lyte: I said NO a few more times than I probably should have but you live and learn. I’m cool with the way things have turned out, ecstatic really!
LS: You are also an author and motivational speaker. Your book Unstoppable-Igniting the Power Within to Achieve Your Greatest Potential, is a guide to living life, based upon your first-hand knowledge. Your passion to share your life story with others and exposing your own vulnerability is brave. Can you please share with us your favorite inspirational quote?
Lyte: “You can’t fail until you quit.” – Russell Simmons. Some of my favorite books are: The Pathway of Roses, The Art of Being, and The Ten Commitments, each full of quotes to live by.
LS: And will you share a location where you feel replenished?
Lyte: Ubud, Bali, in the middle of a rice field, best meditation ever. If I haven’t the time for there, any beach will do!!
LS: Now for the biggest news…the reality show Hip Hop Sisters, on BET, featuring Yo Yo, Monie Love, Lady of Rage, MC Smooth, Lil Mama and you, is to air this fall! It will be great to have a reality show about successful women, not just wives of successful men. I am looking forward to a voyeur perspective of your entertainment-driven lifestyle. Where did the idea germinate?
Lyte: Thank you for that excitement! I wanted to do this type of show years ago (network not to be named), however they weren’t ready. They wanted what I couldn’t and wouldn’t deliver and that was drama without resolution.
LS: How difficult is it living your life with all those cameras?
Lyte: We actually start shooting late September so I’m not sure yet (laughing). I’m sure it will take some getting used to but we’re all ready.
LS: Please share anything you would like about the filming, the cast, ect….
Lyte: The show is a docu-series that follows six great MCs who happen to be women. Yo Yo, Rage, Monie Love, MC Smooth and our special guest Lil Mama are the cast for the show and we are all excited about our premier. We’re recording a record together while going on the road and searching for the next top female MC.
LS: Please let our readers know ways to contribute to Hip Hop Sisters Foundation?
Lyte: Sure! Join the movement and or donate at www.hiphopsisters.org.
LS: What are a couple of your favorite things to do in L.A., when you have spare time that we might not see on the new season of Hip Hop Sisters?
Lyte: I’m pretty simple, yet deeply metaphysical. I like meditating and reiki. You might catch me doing TM or yoga which is totally not TV worthy so look for me at The Golden Bridge, or catch me @mclyte.
LS: Thank you very much for taking the time for this interview. Best of luck on the next phase of your career!
Lyte: I do have a bit of news that’s top secret but will be able to talk about it soon. I’m receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s BET Hip Hop Awards ceremony!