Entering the music industry in the early 1980s, Grammy nominated female rap artist MC Lyte quickly gained notice thanks to her critically acclaimed albums “Lyte as a Rock” (1988) and “Eyes on This” (1989), which produced the chart topping rap singles “Paper Thin” and “Cha Cha Cha.” After enjoying another hit with “Poor Georgie” from the 1991 album “Act Like You Know,” Lyte experienced a big breakthrough with the Grammy nominated track “Ruffneck” (1993), which made her the first female hip hop artist to receive a gold record. She had her next gold single three years later with the Soul Train Award winning “Keep On, Keepin' On” (1996), a duet she sang with Xscape. She also had a rap hit with “Cold Rock a Party” (1996), featuring Missy Elliott. “Da Undaground Heat, Vol. 1” (2003), a comeback album after “Seven & Seven” (1998) and “The Very Best of MC Lyte” (2001) that spawned the U.K. hit single “Ride Wit Me,” which brought Lyte her second Grammy nomination. In addition to releasing albums, Lyte has also recorded soundtracks for several films, including “Mo'Money” (1992), “Sunset Park” (1996) and “The Fighting Temptations” (2003).
Also a television and movie actress, Lyte appeared in such movies as “Fly by Night” (1993), “An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn” (1998, as Sista Tu Lumumba), “Train Ride” (2000), “Civil Brand” (2002) and “Playas Ball” (2003). She also had a regular role in the sitcom “Half & Half” (2004-2006) and guest starred in such shows as “In the House,“ “Get Real,” “The District,” “For Your Love” and “Strong Medicine.”
Childhood and Family:
Lana M. Moorer, professionally known as MC Lyte, was born on October 11, 1971, in Queens, New York. She was raised in Brooklyn, New York. Her older brothers are Kirk “Milk Dee” Robinson and DJ Nat “Gizmo” Robinson, who recorded under the name of Audio Two and are probably best known for their first hit, the classic “Top Billin'.”
Ride Wit Me
The younger sister of Milk Dee and Gizmo, MC Lyte began rapping when she was 12 years old and with the help of her brothers, released her first single “I Cram to Understand U (Sam),” which led to a recording deal with First Priority Music. By the time she was 17, Lyte had released a full length album called “Lyte as a Rock” (1988). A critically acclaimed album that has also frequently been regarded as a hip hop classic, “Lyte as a Rock” debuted at No. 50 on the U.S. Top R&B/Hip Hop album chart and consisted of 10 tracks, including her debut single “I Cram to Understand U (Sam),” “10% Dis,” which featured additional vocals from her brothers, and “Paper Thin,” was a No. 1 hit on the U.S. Rap charts.
Lyte released her second album, “Eyes on This,” in 1989. The album produced the No. 1 rap tracks single “Cha Cha Cha” and the Top 10 hit “Cappuccino,” whose video was directed by Ric Menello. For her next release, “Act Like You Know,” Lyte collaborated with Wolf & Epic, which also produced Bell Biv DeVoe. Launched in 1991, the album spawned the rapper's subsequent No. 1 rap hit “Poor Georgie,” which rose to No. 11 on the R&B/Hip-Hop track charts, and a hit single titled “When in Love.” Other singles released from the album were the minor hit “Eyes are the Soul” and the uncharted track “All That. “
The New Yorker resurfaced two years later with the album “Ain't No Other.” Thanks to the successful single “Ruffneck,” which landed at number 1 on the rap chart, she received a 1993 Grammy nomination in the category of Best Rap Performance-Solo and became the first female rapper to achieve gold status. Other singles released from the album included “I Go On” and “Ice Cream Dream,” which was included in the soundtrack of the motion picture “Mo'Money” (1992), starring Damon Wayans, Marlon Wayans and Stacey Dash.
In 1994, Lyte joined other artist like Aaliyah, Mary J. Blige, En Vogue, SWV, TLC, and Monica to record the song “Freedom,” which was used as the official theme for the film “Panther” (1995), directed by Mario Van Peebles. The song was originally performed by underground R&B singer Joi and included in his 1994 album “Pendulum Vibe.” Also that year, she was featured on Janet Jackson's single “You Want This,” whose music video earned a 1995 Soul Train Lady of Soul Music nomination of Music Video of the Year, and Brandy's No. 1 R&B/Hip-Hop hit “I Wanna Be Down,” which also featured Queen Latifah and YoYo and was nominated for a MTV Music Video for Best Rap Video. It was Lyte's collaboration with Atlanta's Xscape on the single “Keep On, Keepin' On” that won the popular female rapper a 1996 Soul Train Lady of Soul Music for Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video. “Keep On, Keepin' On” also appeared on the 1996 “Sunset Park” soundtrack and marked Lyte's second gold single.
Lyte did not release a new studio album until she joined Elektra/Asylum. The fifth album, “Bad As I Wanna B,” was launched in 1996 and featured the track “Cold Rock a Party,” a duet sung with Missy Elliott that became a rap track hit. The song also peaked at No. 5 on the R&B/Hip Hop chart, No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 15 on the U.K. singles chart. Lyte followed the album with “Seven & Seven,” which spawned two minor U.K. hits with the songs “I Can't Make A Mistake” and “It's All Yours” (featuring Gina Thompson) in 1998 and “The Very Best of MC Lyte” in 2001 (released by Rhino Records). In between the projects, she kept busy working on other artists' tracks, including Will Smith's “Who Am I,” Common's “A Film Called (Pimp)” and Bob Marley's “Jammin'.”
After several years away from the recording studio, Lyte made a comeback with the 2003 album “Da Undaground Heat, Vol. 1,” a venture with the Maad Funk production team. Although the single “Ride Wit Me” only became a Top 40 hit on the U.K. chart, it earned Lyte her second Grammy nomination for Best Rap Solo Performance - Female (2003). Still in 2003, she also recorded a song called “Fighting Temptation” with Beyonce Knowles, Missy Elliott and Free and it was used for the soundtrack of the 2003 motion picture of the same name that was directed by Jonathan Lynn.
In addition to her career as a singer, Lyte tried her hand at acting. She made her big screen debut as Akusa in the 1993 film “Fly by Night,” opposite Jeffrey Sams, Ron Brice and Steve Gomer, and appeared in such movies as “An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn” (1998), “A Luv Tale” (1999), “Train Ride” (2000, as Katrina Daniels), “Civil Brand” (2002) and “Playas Ball” (2003, as La Quinta). She also made guest appearances in the TV series “In the House“ (1998), “Get Real” (1999), “The District” (2002), “For Your Love” (4 episodes, 1998-2002), “Platinum” and “Strong Medicine” (2003) and appeared in such shows as “MTV Unplugged” (1991), “In Living Color” (1992), “New York Undercover” (1995-1996), “Moesha” (1996) and “My Wife and Kids” (2004).
A year after the release of her 2003 album, Lyte joined the cast of the comedy series “Half & Half,” starring Rachel True and Essence Atkins, in the regular role of Kai Owens. She played the part until the show's end in 2006. In 2007, Lyte appeared in “Celebrity Rap Superstar,” which was directed by Paul Miller and written by Josh Greenberg. The same year, she also appeared in the talk show “Parallel Paths.”
Soul Train: Lady of Soul Music, Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video, “Keep On, Keepin' On” (with Xscape), 1996