Born Lana Michelle Moorer on October 11, 1970 in Brooklyn, New York, MC Lyte is one of the more influential females in the history of hip-hop, with plenty of accolades and dues paid to her name. Discovering her love for kicking rhymes at the age 12, Lyte would eventually become a flagship artist on First Priority and release her debut single, “I Cram To Understand U” and she followed it with classics “10% Dis” and “Paper Thin”–which would all appear on Lyte’s 1988 debut album, Lyte As A Rock.
MC Lyte would close the 80s with Eyes on This, which spawned iconic rap records like “Cha Cha Cha” and “Cappucino,” but she opened the ’90s with an entirely different approach. Produced by Wolf & Epic (who were fresh off their success with Bell Biv DeVoe’s Poison), 1991s Act Like You Know was the glossiest, most R&B-influenced album Lyte had produced up to that point, and some fans balked at the former battle rapper dabbling in New Jack Swing and poppier hooks. Lyte responded to the criticism with 1993s Ain’t No Other, which became her first LP to earn gold certification, thanks largely to the grittier-than-thou anthem “Ruffneck.” That hit single seemed to suggest that Lyte was going uber-gangsta to counter the backlash from songs like “When In Love” and “Ice Cream Dream.”
But despite the success of “Ruffneck” and Ain’t No Other, on the follow-up, Lyte would unapologetically return to catchy, R&B-leaning singles–and would chart higher than ever before.
Teaming with hitmaking producer Jermaine Dupri, MC Lyte returned in 1996 with her fifth studio album, Bad As I Wanna B, which would prove to be her most commercially successful LP. Ever since Act Like You Know, Lyte had been balancing her more pop-friendly, hook driven music with hardcore street fare. So while “Ruffneck” had become her first mainstream hit in 1993/early 94; 1996 was a much glossier time in rap music. Lyte responded with her slickest album to date–and sounded more comfortable than she had rapping about blunts and rocking bulletproof vests three years prior.
Released on August 27, 1996, Bad As I Wanna B would peak at No. 11 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and would attain gold certification, becoming her second and last album to do so. Bad As I Wanna B helped introduce MC Lyte to a new wave of mainstream rap fans. In celebration of its 20 year anniversary, we’ve highlighted the best 5 songs from the album.
MC Lyte spins a cautionary tale of the fast-life, titled “Druglord Superstar,” which see Lyte dissecting the pitfalls of being intimate with someone in the drug game. Produced by Rashad Smith and featuring ad-libs from Da Brat, “Druglord Superstar” gives listeners a glimpse of the illegal lifestyle from the perspective of the women that tolerate it in the name of love.
“Have U Ever”
“Have U Ever” is one of the superior offerings on Bad As I Wanna B and instantly grabs your attention the second it hits your earholes. Asking “Have you ever ever in your long living life seen a woman rock the mic like the one called The Lyte,” the Brookyn bred legend drops crafty bars atop a backdrop concocted by Jermaine Dupri. Reminding listeners of her mettle as a rhyme slayer, MC Lyte shows and proves on “Have U Ever,”
The third and final single released from Bad As I Wanna B, “Everyday” pairs MC Lyte with Kandi Burress of Xscape, and ranks among the album’s most addictive selections. Produced by Jermaine Dupri, the track is a mid-tempo tune powered by digitized drums, keys, and synths, making for a funky, albeit smooth, number. While “Everyday” didn’t fare as well as the other singles released from Bad As I Wanna B, it’s still remembered by die-hard Lyte fans as one of her most slept-on tracks.
“Keep On, Keepin’ On” Featuring Xscape
Released as the first single from Bad As I Wanna B, “Keep On, Keepin’ On,” would get the mainstream acquainted with MC Lyte. Peaking at No. 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, “Keep On, Keepin’ On” would be MC Lyte’s highest charting single and her second to be certified gold by the RIAA. Featuring Xscape and produced by Jermaine Dupri, “Keep On, Keepin’ On” is one of MC Lyte’s most notable records and helped her cross over to pop audiences.
“Cold Rock A Party”
MC Lyte took things to the dance-floor with “Cold Rock A Party,” the second single released from Bad As I Wanna B. Produced by Rashad Smith, the track saw the Brooklyn fly girl rocking out alongside Missy Elliott and the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy, resulting in one of the more memorable hip-hop moments of 1996/1997. “Cold Rock A Party” would land just outside of the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at the No. 11 spot, and would be MC Lyte’s last single to appear on the Hot 100 or attain gold certification.