Although I generally could give a shit about whether or not the readers are upset about a particular choice when it comes to these goofy-ass reviews, I admit that Missy Elliott most likely wasn't what you two were thinking about when it comes to female emcees. Well, I'm still not writing about Iggy Azalea and am now going to rub it into your collective faces, apparently, as I've chosen to go back to an artist who is still highly regarded as an inspiration and as a role model for a lot of these acts on the radio, even though they all sound nothing like her: Lana "MC Lyte" Moorer.
Wasting no time after releasing her debut, Lyte As A Rock, in 1988, MC Lyte quickly dropped the follow-up, Eyes On This, on First Priority Music in 1989, barely less than a year later. However, that's not to say that this was a rush job: Lyte used her sophomore album to build upon the foundation she established prior, tightening up her storytelling and shit-talking while expanding her audio horizons beyond those responsible for the sound on her debut. While King Of Chill and rap duo Audio Two remained on the roster and still handled a good chunk of the production, MC Lyte reached out to a few others outside of her circle to help her even out the musical backing for her furious flow, whose names I will reveal later in a blatant and ultimately failed attempt to surprise you, the reader, as though you don't have access to Google right fucking now, since you're only reading this sentence on the Internet and all.
Eyes On This is a bit longer than Lyte As A Rock because MC Lyte had a lot more to say, most likely because she felt she lad a lot less to prove as a rapper at this point. Our host wasn't above getting down and dirty, however: she rolled up her sleeves and recorded "Shut The Eff Up! (Hoe)", after all, and that song is only barely about gardening equipment. The album was well-received by critics and hip hop heads alike, earning her many more fans while adding some more hit singles under her belt.
Well, let's get to it then.
1. CHA CHA CHA
Over a sample of Kraftwerk's “The Man-Machine” that will sound familiar to anyone who has ever listened to The Furious Five's “Rockin' It” or maybe Jay-Z's “(Always Be My) Sunshine”, MC Lyte feels no need to reintroduce herself, because she never really left. Instead, she launches into a playfully brutal verbal assault, demolishing her competition the best way she can with that simplistic King Of Chill beat running underneath her. “Cha Cha Cha” alternates between hype and annoying, sometimes within a single bar, all depending on how much the music is failing our host. Lyte sounds fine, even as a few of her lines are delivered awkwardly, but this really doesn't hold up very well in 2014. I know, I'm surprised, too.
2. SLAVE 2 THE RHYTHM
Conversely, “Slave 2 The Rhythm” manages to sound even better now than it did back in 1989. The instrumental, credited to “Pee MD” (you would know him best as PMD, or maybe Parrish Smith) is dope as fuck, sounding like a foot chase through the back alleys of an indescribable city, and Lyte relishes the opportunity to simply kill shit. With the confidence she exudes, you'll believe that she's left a trail of bodies in her wake, and you'll also wonder just what the fuck happened to her that caused her to all but vanish from our chosen genre. Hip hop heads who just can't bring themselves to like female rappers (and you know who you are) would do well to spin this shit: it may be the butterfly flapping its wings in China that ultimately turns you around.
This off-the-wall storytelling rap begins and ends at a coffee shop, just like many tales of burgeoning authors trying to write The Great American Novel before succumbing to their talentless-ness and ordering an old-fashioned donut instead (substitute “authors” with “screenwriters” and you've just described half of the population of Los Angeles), but is actually a mediation on death in between. Never let it be said that MC Lyte can't write a good twist and turn: hell, she [SPOILER ALERT FOR A TWENTY-FIVE-YEAR OLD SONG] dies before the first fucking verse ends. The Marley Marl instrumental keeps things jaunty and light while, um, Lyte runs into all of her deceased friends in the afterlife, all before bringing it all back home with an outright endorsement of the titular beverage. If you have never listened to this song before, you owe it to yourself to check it out. Hip hop heads who are otherwise already familiar with the misspelled-but-let's-go-with-it “Cappucino” should know that it holds up shockingly well today.
4. STOP, LOOK, LISTEN
King Of Chill's beat is more basic that that of the previous two tracks, but in this case, less is more, as the music merely provides the framework while MC Lyte fills in the empty space. Although not quite on the same level as “Slave 2 The Rhythm”, this shit was still pretty fucking good, and Lyte's boasts clash beautifully with the beat. Also features the origin of the vocal sample the Kidz In The Hall borrowed for their own “Jukebox”, in case anyone reading keeps track of those things.
5. THROWIN' WORDS AT U
As much as I like hearing rappers rhyming about rapping (you have to, or else there's no way I would have been able to sustain this blog for as long as I have), “Throwin' Words At U”, whose very title defines how rapping works in a nearly literal manner, is boring as shit. Audio Two's instrumental is bland, which is disappointing, as the listener essentially gets to hear him construct it almost from scratch during the track's intro, and Lyte's bars are less than inspired. Oh well, no winning streak can last forever.
6. NOT WIT' A DEALER
7. SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST (REMIX)
Almost anything would be welcomed after the terrible storytelling attempt that was “Not Wit' A Dealer”, whose titular phrase exists only to give that particular track a title because it damn sure made no sense otherwise. But this Audio Two-handled remix to a King Of Chill-produced song that first appeared on a First Priority label compilation entitled Basement Flavor (credited to The First Priority Music Family, which is adorable) isn't “almost anything”. The new beat is okay, but that title demanded a darker sound, one that our host wouldn't sound completely comfortable with anyway. I appreciated the fact that her verses kind of rambled on, though: obviously, she can rap, and if nothing else, this track is a showcase of that skill, even if the rhymes aren't very memorable.
8. SHUT THE EFF UP! (HOE)
The song that The Lox paid homage to on Money, Power, & Respect's “Goin' Be Some Shit”. Over the course of a nearly six-minute runtime (which includes an unnecessary outro), MC Lyte lyrically dismantles her adversaries, swinging the album back to the right side of entertaining. Honestly, some of the bars are goofy, but that doesn't even matter when they're delivered with such contempt. Our host easily asserts herself as one of the finest female rappers of all time: hell, with her swagger, she would give many male rappers a run for their money.
9. I AM THE LYTE
Brand Nubian's Grand Puba lends a dope-as-fuck beat, but our host's lyrics go against everything I wrote in my previous sentence: her bars sound amateurish at best. It's frustrating when an artist isn't as consistent as you know they're fully capable of being. However, I'm willing to admit that the very title of this song probably limited how much progress Lyte could have made even if she wanted to, as it is, admittedly, pretty fucking stupid. Wouldn't mind hearing a mixtape rapper swipe that beat today, though, as the music holds up incredibly well. (I'm just assuming at this point that if I request that a mixtape rapper swipe a certain beat, eventually someone will actually do it, and I'll feel vindicated, so stop worrying about why you keep seeing this sentence throughout so many of my posts.)
10. RHYME HANGOVER
Running just over two minutes. “Rhyme Hangover”, which, yes, samples from Diana Ross's “Love Hangover”, how did you guess?, doesn't stick around long enough to be truly objectionable, but I'm going to try to be critical anyway: this shit was boring. MC Lyte sounds capable enough, but the music fails her by not sounding engaging, and her energy tanks as a result. Fuck it, at least it was short?
11. FUNKY SONG
Grand Puba's beat is indeed funky, but Lyte keeps the audience at arm's length, and there really isn't anything to sink your teeth into on here. Groan.
12. PLEASE UNDERSTAND
Lyte slows things down significantly to insult the various men who have been in and out of her life. Audio Two's beat is minimal and interesting, but Lyte's verses make her sound angry without the benefit of context, without any of the humor she tends to inject into the proceedings. This left me cold, and not just because of the reference to the World Trade Center that caught me off guard (it's been a while since I paid any attention to “Please Understand”).
13. K-ROCKS HOUSIN'
Eyes On This ends with a deejay cut-slash-house track that hardly features a host. The music itself is fine, but it is a questionable way to close out a project (except for, you know, the fact that hip hop was all about house music around the time of Eyes On This's release). Oh well.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Eyes On This is leaps and bounds above Lyte As A Rock when it comes to MC Lyte's risk-taking: she doesn't always land on her feet, but the chances she takes are at least consistently interesting, even if the actual end result is merely alright. Her debut album bangs, so it would have been extremely simple for Lyte to record the exact same shit, record after record, so I appreciate the fact that she tried to branch out a bit, and when she hits upon a winning formula, it fucking works. Eyes On This may not have as many hot tracks as its predecessor, but the ones that click (for example, those listed below) are so much fucking better than anything on Lyte As A Rock (aside from maybe "10% Dis" because, well, come on). And for that alone, MC Lyte deserves at least a listen, if not your respect.
BUY OR BURN? Buy this one. The hits greatly outweigh the misses, and MC Lyte doesn't get the recognition she deserves for some reason. Unless you want rappers such as Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea to continue to represent the female perspective in our chosen genre unopposed, of course.
BEST TRACKS: “Slave 2 The Rhythm”; “Shut The Eff Up! (Hoe)”; “Cappucino”; “Stop, Look, Listen”
MC Lyte - Lyte As A Rock
MC Lyte - Lyte As A Rock