Photo: Daniel Mendoza/Recording Academy
MC Lyte On Curating “Women In Hip-Hop” for ESSENCE, Her New Acting Role & Giving Back
We took a beat with Lyte backstage to hear about the all-star female rap event she put together for the 25th ESSENCE Fest in New Orleans and much more
GRAMMY-nominated rap pioneer MC Lyte is a busy woman. She took a quick minute backstage at the 25th ESSENCE Fest this weekend to talk about her latest projects, including curating “Women In Hip-Hop” for the festival, which featured royalty of rap including Trina, Rapsody, Yo-Yo, and more.
Lyte talked about what ESSENCE means to her, as something that didn't exist when she was growing up. "Being able to celebrate Black culture at this magnitude means everything because we’ve never had anything like this," she said. "ESSENCE Music Festival is truly one of a kind.”
She also talked about her upcoming role on “New York Undercover,” where she plays a detective, and detailed some of her recent philanthropic work supporting students with her international non-profit foundation Hip-Hop Sisters.
Image courtesy of the Recording Academy
Additional Performers Added To "A GRAMMY Salute to 50 Years of Hip-Hop" Live Concert Special: 2 Chainz, T.I., Gunna, Too $hort, Latto, E-40, Big Daddy Kane, GloRilla, Juvenile, Three 6 Mafia & More Confirmed
The star-studded tribute will take place Wednesday, Nov. 8, at YouTube Theater at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, California. Tickets are on sale now. "A GRAMMY Salute to 50 Years of Hip-Hop" will air on Sunday, Dec. 10, on CBS and Paramount+.
Updated Wednesday, Nov. 8, to include information about newly announced performers.
The massive lineup for the "A GRAMMY Salute to 50 Years of Hip-Hop" live concert special just got bigger and more legendary with the addition of rap icons and next-gen hip-hop superstars: 2 Chainz, T.I., Gunna, Too $hort, Latto, E-40, Big Daddy Kane, GloRilla, Juvenile, Three 6 Mafia, Cypress Hill, Jeezy, DJ Quik, MC Lyte, Roxanne Shanté, Warren G, YG, Digable Planets, Arrested Development, Spinderella, Black Sheep, and Luniz have all been added to the lineup.
They join previously announced performers Black Thought, Bun B, Common, De La Soul, Jermaine Dupri, J.J. Fad, Talib Kweli, The Lady Of Rage, LL COOL J, MC Sha-Rock, Monie Love, The Pharcyde, Queen Latifah, Questlove, Rakim, Remy Ma, Uncle Luke, and Yo-Yo, who will perform at a once-in-a-lifetime live concert special celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, which the Recording Academy is honoring all year long across 2023.
Airing Sunday, Dec. 10, at 8:30 – 10:30 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network and streaming live and on demand on Paramount+, "A GRAMMY Salute to 50 Years of Hip-Hop" is a two-hour live concert special that will showcase the profound history of hip-hop and celebrate the genre's monumental cultural impact around the world. The special will feature exclusive performances from hip-hop legends and GRAMMY-winning artists and much more.
The live concert comprising the "A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop" special, which is open to the public, will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 8, at YouTube Theater at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, California. Footage from the concert will then air on Sunday, Dec. 10, as a live concert TV special.
Full concert details are below:
Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023 (tonight)
Doors: 6 p.m. PT
Concert: 7 p.m. PT
1011 Stadium Dr.
Inglewood, CA 90305
Full List Of Confirmed Performers:
BIG DADDY KANE
DE LA SOUL
DJ DIAMOND KUTS
DJ GREG STREET
DJ TRAUMA (HOUSE DJ)
DOUG E. FRESH
KOOL DJ RED ALERT
LL COOL J
THE LADY OF RAGE
THREE 6 MAFIA
WILL SMITH & DJ JAZZY JEFF
^Names in bold indicate newly added artists.
Stay tuned to GRAMMY.com for more news and updates about "A GRAMMY Salute to 50 Years of Hip-Hop."
A GRAMMY Salute to 50 Years of Hip-Hop is produced by Jesse Collins Entertainment. Jesse Collins, Shawn Gee, Dionne Harmon, Claudine Joseph, LL COOL J, Fatima Robinson, Jeannae Rouzan-Clay, and Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson for Two One Five Entertainment serve as executive producers and Marcelo Gama as director of the special.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.
Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.
A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.
This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system.
"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."
He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.
"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.
To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
Photo: Al Pereira/Getty Images/Michael Ochs Archives
9 Teen Girls Who Built Hip-Hop: Roxanne Shante, J.J. Fadd, Angie Martinez & More
Since the birth of hip-hop in 1973, teenage girls have made space for themselves in a world dominated by adult men. Read on for the stories of nine girls who have made an indelible impact on the culture.
More often heralded for their fandom than their artistic contributions, teenage girls have been a driving force in hip-hop since its inception. After all, it was a teen girl, Cindy Campbell, who came up with the idea to host the back-to-school fundraiser that jumpstarted hip-hop in 1973.
Though their names may not be the first to be mentioned in mainstream conversation, young women in hip-hop paved the way for teen artists such as Brandy and Monica, Aaliyah and Destiny’s Child that would shape culture in the late '90s and early aughts. The stories of these groundbreaking young women aren't always fairy tales — some are cautionary and some tragic — but all soar as examples of making space for themselves, sometimes as "the only" in a world dominated by adult men.
The current bloom of new female rappers have learned and taken inspiration from these innovators. Rappers like Latto, who launched via the reality show "The Rap Game" at 16, and even had the foresight to turn down the contract offered to her as a reality show winner and seek a more equitable deal for herself.
As hip-hop celebrates its 50th birthday, take a moment to celebrate these often under unsung, underaged, innovators.
Heralded as "the mother of the mic" Sharon Green a.k.a. MC Sha-Rock spent her childhood exploring slam poetry. She was well-seasoned in the art of rhyming by the time she auditioned for the Funky Four Plus One at age 17.
Born of Latin break and Afro-Caribbean rhythms the dance moves that accompanied these melded beats soon became an essential element of hip-hop. The first female member of the Bronx born Rock Steady Crew, early B-girl Daisy Castro a.k.a. Baby Love was only 14 when she took to breaking, finding her petite teen frame perfect for the complicated moves.
During her three years in the Rock Steady Crew,she saw breakdancing break into the mainstream via films like Flashdance and Beat Street.
Fourteen-year-old Lolita Roxanne Shanté was neighbors with hip-hop luminary DJ Marley Marl, who asked her to lay down a response track while the teen was on her way to do laundry. On the fly she set the blueprint for all diss tracks to follow, laying down a verse on top of "Roxanne, Roxanne" by UTFO.
That freestyle, "Roxanne’s Revenge," brought her fame, but the scene refused to recognize her as a singular talent. In 1985 at 15, she competed head-to-head in an otherwise all-male field in a the infamous "The Battle for World Supremacy." Despite battling and defeating 12 men for the title, Roxanne was told by the judge that the burgeoning art form would not be viewed as legitimate if a 15-year-old girl won and the contest was thrown against her.
"Roxanne’s Revenge" had made its mark, however, and she inspired a generation of young female MCs.
Though she would go on to direct on the big and small screen, Lisa Leone’s career as a hip-hop photographer dates back to her teens, where she majored in photography at the High School of Art and Design. "[People] would ask me to take pictures for them (for) publicity photos," She told Dazed in 2016. "So it was kind of a natural way, being there and photographing what you loved and in front of your face every day, you know just your friends. At the time, I would never have imagined that it (would) become what it was because we were kids."
With their hit single "Supersonic," J.J. Fad's success helped build Eazy E’s Ruthless Records label and fund NWA’s debut record.
Though the group started as a quintet, its incarnation as a trio with Juana Burns (MC J.B.), Dana Birks (Baby-D), and then middle-schooler Michelle Franklin (Sassy C.) they would find their musical footing.
More than a novelty J.J. Fad were serious on the mic, going on long freestyle runs, as evidenced by the live clip below (which is very worth watching till the end).
High Schoolers Bunny D and Lady Tigra provided a more wholesome entry point to the notoriously raunchy Miami bass scene with their 1988 smash "Cars That Go Boom Despite releasing two more records for Altalic, they were never able to replicate the single’s success. The song would go on to be included in Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Hip Hop Songs of All Time.
The duo released three albums for Atlantic Records before disbanding in the early '90s. Lady Tigra would stick with music going on to write jingles, perform on "Yo Gabba Gabba," and become a fixture on both the New York and Miami club scenes.
When a classmate asked a 16-year-old Deidre Muriel Roper if she was interested in joining a female rap duo in Queens, she had already been working the turntables for two years.Inspired by her fathers extensive record collection, Dee Dee as she was then known, had become a noted DJ in Brooklyn and as DJ Spinderella, she joined forces with Salt-n-Pepa to create one of the best selling hip-hop acts of the 1990s.
While female fronted rap acts began to proliferate the mainstream, Spinderella remains one of the most prominent femme DJs in the game. She also produced several Salt-n-Pepa tracks and is, of course, is an MC in her own right.
Now considered one of hip-hop's most prominent radio hosts and interviewers, Angie Martinez got her start as a teen answering call-in lines for New York station Hot 97.
Under the mentorship of Funk Master Flex, Martinez rose to radio prominence earning the moniker "The Voice of New York." She has also dabbled in acting and flirted with MCing, joining the all-star cast of Lil Kim’s "Not Tonight" Remix.
Misa Hylton was a 17-year-old intern at Uptown Records when she, went toe-to-toe with label President Andre Herrell. She insisted that group who would go on to be known as "The Bad Boys of R&B" or Jodeci should break with R&B convention, ditch the suited-up attire of their predecessors, and adopt street wear as their signature look.
She would change the course of hip-hop fashion, again, collaborating with Lil' Kim on her "Crush on You" video and iconic purple playsuit (and pastie) VMA’s look. Still impacting Hip Hop style, Hylton is responsible for looks like Beyonce and Jay-Z’s infamous, his and hers, pastel suits in the video for "Apes—."
Essential Hip-Hop Releases From The 1980s: Slick Rick, RUN-D.M.C., De La Soul & More
Releases from the 1980s are some of the genre's most consequential, paving the way for rap to be where it is now. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, revisit 10 releases from a decade that expanded the culture's framework.
The handful of rap songs released in the 1970s opened doors for the onslaught of creative variation that marked rap albums of the 1980s. Diss tracks, party anthems, socially minded material and gangsta rap all had a place in this era, defined by groups and solo efforts that strove to differentiate themselves from one another. Debuts from the likes of MC Lyte, De La Soul, Slick Rick and others kickstarted not only legendary careers, but a wave of innovations that undeniably led to rap’s commercial takeover in the ‘90s.
Hip-hop’s four elements (rap, DJjing, breakdancing and graffiti) grew independently and exponentially in form and acknowledgment in the ‘80s. Seldom was it deemed legitimate in the ‘70s but the ‘80s came with it a realization: that big business and big money could be squeezed from the culture. For better or worse, hip-hop began to lodge itself into the mainstream during this decade.
MTV placements, such as RUN-D.M.C.’s bloated collab with Aerosmith, brought posters into teenagers’ bedrooms and cross promotional ideas to the forefront. Films like as Breakin’ and Beat Street used hip-hop as a dramatic vehicle. And while there was a sense of underlying exploitation, it catapulted hip-hop culture nationally and worldwide. Graffiti was once viewed as vandalism was now on walls and podiums at art galleries, praised as “street art.” Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" seemed light years ago, and there was a palpable sense of maturation and explosion of ideas in the music.
A colorful cast of new artists pushed boundaries of the time. For one, Marley Marl, of the Juice Crew, was an innovator who preceded Wu-Tang as a super producer who surrounded himself with a motley crew of MCs, each with distinct approaches and personalities. He pioneered methods of drum programming and sampling, all of which began as early as 1983 when he was slowly piecing together the collective. Artists at his helm include Biz Markie, Roxanne Shanté, Kool G Rap, and Big Daddy Kane — all of which were innovators in their own right.
We’d be remiss not to cite just a handful of the many adventurous artists whose careers began in the '80s: EPMD, LL Cool J, Ultramagnetic MCs, Ice-T, Jungle Brothers and more. Their work and that of many others ushered in the beginning of hip-hop's golden age, as seen by numerous breakthrough albums in the later part of the decade; 1988 in particular, was a historically fruitful year.
This late ‘80s era encapsulates the genre's most consequential releases, ones that paved the way for rap to be where it is now. The following albums took the genre into warp speed, pushing its creative limitations to where it is today.
RUN-D.M.C - Raising Hell (1986)
RUN D.M.C.’s third studio album, produced by Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin, is arguably their greatest — not only in terms of commercial success, but also influence. Their distinct fashion and sound catapulted hip-hop culture (which was still foreign to many at the time) into the commercial realm.
In addition to juggernaut singles "My Adidas," "It’s Tricky," and "You Be Illin," this album featured "Walk This Way," a wildly ambitious crossover single in collaboration with none other than Aerosmith. It was rap’s first leap into another genre, garnering MTV plays and placing the album all over various music charts. It also was the first rap album to go platinum. Their popularity propelled rap albums that followed later in the decade, and also helped hip-hop gain unprecedented attention in the mainstream.
Boogie Down Productions - Criminal Minded (1987)
KRS-One’s solo career had many highpoints but his early era with BDP is what cements his legacy. While one of the first albums to have true elements of street edge, its approach vastly differed from that of Schoolly D or NWA. KRS lectured more than rap, he was spiritual and scholarly, weaving more stray observations and warnings of street life rather than glamorizing the violence.
Scott LA Rock and Ced Gee’s production was also progressive, opening up the sample palette to rock and obscure soul even further. This was not only their first album but also the only one that featured LA Rock, who was murdered about six months after the album’s release. "9mm Goes Bang" and "The Bridge Is Over" are classics that gave the country a peek into the worldview of New York natives.
Eric B & Rakim - Paid In Full (1987)
It's hard to think of a greater gamechanger in the art of rap than Rakim, a phenom who rightly went as Kid Wizard on tapes before releasing 1986's "My Melody" with Eric B. At a time when MCs were innocently basic, both structurally and lyrically, Rakim added internal rhymes schemes and multi-syllabic rhymes into his sentences. His voice was a calm monotone. His rhymes were writerly, filled with metaphors and a complexity unseen prior. His many one-liners would be referenced and repeated by generations of rappers including Wu-Tang and Jay-Z.
Paid In Full was a debut brimming with bonafide classics, "I Ain't No Joke," "Eric B. Is President," and "I Know You Got Soul." On Paid In Full, Rakim moved the needle miles forward for lyricism, altering every rapper that followed.
Beastie Boys - Licensed To Ill (1987)
Just behind RUN-D.M.C.’s Raising Hell, this rap debut from the brothers Beastie was the second to go platinum in the genre. It was also the only rap album by a Jewish hip-hop group to receive the coveted "5 Mic" rating from The Source, a magazine that was the hip-hop bible of its time.
The album was unquestionably hip-hop but was also multi-faceted. The track "No Sleep Til Brooklyn" featured a guitar solo from Slayer’s Kerry King, a call-back to the Beasties original rock roots. Songs like "Brass Monkey," "Paul Revere," "Girls," and "Fight For Your Right" were party anthems that kept his-hop’s positive party ethos afloat during a time when the music was shifting towards more serious directions.
The Beasties were fun, earnest, and distinct — beloved by both purveyors of the culture and fans of it, proving that hip-hop, if done right, is such an inclusionary artform.
Public Enemy - It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back (1988)
Public Enemy's second album saw the group vastly mature from their debut, Yo! Bumrush The Show. The Bomb Squad's surgical studio techniques raised the bar for production and what was possible in terms of sample layering.
Chuck D, whose voice is one of the most powerful in all of recorded music, deepened his lyrical content even further, speaking on race, politics, class, power structures, and overall, more socially focused material. Songs like "Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos," "Don't Believe The Hype" and "Rebel Without A Pause" were a gut punch, a jolt of seriousness and bombast unheard prior and unmatched in its era. It Takes A Nation... charted for 47 straight weeks on the Billboard 200 and many of its profound themes arguably are still relevant today.
NWA - Straight Outta Compton (1988)
Eazy-E and company were having a breakthrough moment when this song furthered their ascent into stardom and public infamy. A cacophonous origin story, it gave listeners a worldview most hadn’t heard and a taste of individual talent that was to come. Ice Cube and Dr. Dre soon became huge solo artists thereafter once the group disbanded. As posterboys of the gangsta rap, they had politicians, police, and the FBI all shook.
By 2015, when N.W.A.’s biopic film cemented their place in popular culture, they had long made history as one of the most consequential groups ever, both musically and culturally. Straight Outta Compton was their unflinching first step that had suburbia clutching its pearls en masse.
Slick Rick - The Greatest Adventures of Slick Rick (1988)
The ability to tell a succinct story with engaging detail is what makes an MC truly well rounded. Masters of this, Ghostface, Nas, and Black Thought, all have all cited Slick Rick as highly influential.
This was Rick's solo debut with production from RUN-D.M.C.'s Jam Master Jay as well as the Bomb Squad (of Public Enemy). Greatest Adventures... is forever colorful, anchored by Rick's charisma and ability to spin visual tales. Strikingly imaginative, he raps in different voices and cadences, able to be hilarious and vulgar, making his songs feel like comic strips. "Children's Story" remains a watershed moment of which all future storytelling raps would be measured by.
MC Lyte - Lyte As A Rock (1988)
The involvement of women in hip-hop culture cannot be overstated, despite being historically marginalized. Case in point: MC Lyte’s debut was commercially overlooked but its ripples are still felt today.
With production from Prince Paul, Audio Two and other innovative giants of the time, Lyte’s lyrics addressed drug use, racism, and womanhood. The album’s lead single, "10% Dis," is not only one of the greatest did tracks ever, but was also subsequently sampled and referenced years after, notably by the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, Common, Mobb Deep, and Biggie. Here, at prodigious 18 years old, Lyte solidified herself as not just a formidable female artist, but one the all-time greatest MCs.
Too Short - Life Is Too Short (1989)
In 1989, the West Coast certainly didn’t see the same attention or action as the East Coast, but one Todd Shaw a.k.a. Short Dogg a.k.a. Too Short had been around since 1983, selling homemade cassettes from the trunk of his car in Oakland. Life Is was his fifth album, independently released in 1988 but officially re-released on a major label, Jive, with major distribution a year later.
Short's presentation was uniquely his own — part street stories, part party music, part pimp fiction. The production eschewed samples for more keyboard and drum machines. It utilized replayed funk riffs and Short’s lyrics were almost cartoonishly misogynistic and obscene. This album in particular exposed him to a national audience, placing Oakland— and the West Coast — on the map as a new region for rap music.
De La Soul - 3 Feet High & Rising (1989)
Prince Paul opened up a new galaxy of innovations on De La Soul's debut. His sampling of kids' records, doo-wop, and left-field sounds coupled with unconventional son structure made 3 Feet High & Rising kaleidoscopic and sunny.
Paul’s use and insertion of skits became his trademark, adding a movie-like feel to this children’s book of an album. Singles like "Plug Tunin'," "Potholes In My Lawn," and "Me Myself and I" lampooned the gangsta image, making De La's flowery reputation as hip-hop’s hippies even more pronounced.
Their attempt to shed this persona is why their follow-up was called De La Soul Is Dead. The foundational creativity that informs their brilliant career not only forever altered hip-hop, but it started here.