GlobalGrind’s hip-hop sister MC Lyte is known for continuously coming up with innovative ways to keep the conversation about the roots of hip-hop alive.
In her latest installment of greatness, MC Lyte sat down for a historic conversation with Cheryl “Salt” James of the legendary hip-hop female act Salt-N-Pepa to chat about fame, family and faith.
GlobalGrind got a first hand account of how the conversation between the two female legends went.
In an age of hip-hop beefs and the battles of the female emcees, it truly is refreshing to see two very, very talented women, from the same era of music, have an undying respect for the art of one another.
Check out excerpts from the exclusive interview between the two heavy hitters below.
MC Lyte: As you were growing up I was growing up at the same time and I was listening to you ladies, and I wondered, were there any female emcees that you ladies got a chance to listen to on the come up and use them for inspiration?
Salt: Well, Roxanne Shante was really our inspiration almost totally and completely, because we kind of followed her example. She did the “Answer” record with UTFO. She did the Roxanne record, “Roxanne’s Revenge.” And that’s the way we got our foot in the door, and so we definitely thought about how she got in and we just followed that same route. It was planned that way. We definitely owe our beginnings to her as an example. And what I loved about Roxanne was her gutsiness. She was so bold and so in your face and so confident and I really, really admired that about her and you, too. And your voice, of course, is unmatched.
Can I tell you, I’ve modeled much of who I am and what I personified, in terms of my vocals, from Salt-N-Pepa. No doubt. Like I practiced—It’s so funny because she comes from that whole opposite camp right? She was with Juice Crew and she dissed UTFO, which was Full Force, and Full Force’s father, George Lucien, is the one that helped me hone my skills and had me practice and I would deliver my Salt-N-Pepa rhymes. What do you say to those female emcees that are hungry and still want to give something to the game, but the game is very different at this point? What do you say to boost their morale?
It definitely is difficult and it always has been, because it’s such a misogynistic, male dominated field of music as we know, and it still is. I think it’s just difficult for a woman to push her way in. I know there’s a lot of talent out there. I know there’s some amazing female artists out there that if they got half a chance, they would be very well received. But [the] only thing I can say really is, my advice always to any artist, male [or] female, is to stay true to yourself. I think that’s what always worked for you, always worked for Salt-N-Pepa and a lot of the pioneers that lasted over a long period of time. It wasn’t about a gimmick for us. It wasn’t about being like anyone else. We were totally being ourselves. Even though we admired other rappers, we were true to who we were and what we had to say and what we wanted to wear and look like and contribute to the music. I think that resonated with our audience and that’s why we still have people who identify with us, especially females, ‘til this day. So as an artist, just remain true to who you are.
Let’s flip it around. I know you have a daughter. So with all that’s going on in hip-hop today, how is it that you’re able to help her define who she is as a woman outside of hip-hop?
I took the approach, raising my daughter, not to keep her away from music. As we know, a lot of the images and the words concerning females can be very damaging and girls who haven’t developed yet and haven’t fully come into themselves, and women, when they listen to music the message could be that your worth and your values and your body and what you can do for a man sexually … it can be very damaging. I allowed my daughter to listen to certain music. I would listen to it with her and we literally sat down and broke down the lyrics and I would ask her “How does that make you feel about yourself” and “How does that make you feel about that artist” and “Is this what you want to support by listening [or] as a consumer”? [I] just made her think about it on her own. Beyond that, just being a parent who taught her her own value and her own worth apart from anybody’s opinion of her, [including the] media… apart from anything. It’s the relationship that I have with her that… she’s an amazing kid because I spend a lot of time with her and I talked to her and taught her [about] self worth.
It seems as though it’s not just the kids or teens that we should be addressing but also the parents; and how it is that they just keep that open dialogue with their kids about music today. I think what you just brought up is so very vital, and that is really breaking down the lyrics, because once you do it, it sort of blows a hole straight through anything that can be said that’s derogatory and basically meaningless. I think that’s wonderful that you took the time with her to do that.
Yeah, and I’ve always encouraged her to listen to all kinds of music. My daughter listens to R&B, she knows old school, [and] she listens to classical. She has an appreciation for music period. And I think that’s important for young people when it comes to the media, to not allow them to pigeonhole to one genre of music… to appreciate all kinds of music.
I’m a wife and a mom first, and that holds its own challenges and that’s a job within itself. So big up to all the women who are career moms. I take it very seriously. My home life, the way I raise my children, when they go out into the world, I want them to be balanced and I want them to be functional. So that’s my priority. Being married is a challenge. It’s not all a bed of roses, you have to work to stay married and that’s also my priority. And then I’m a community activist. I do a lot of work in the community. I work with a lot of grassroots organizations. I try my best to use my celebrity for good. So I’m wanted and I’m needed in a lot of places at a lot of times. It’s not just about a paid speaking engagement. I volunteer my time in the community. As well as Salt-N-Pepa and doing all of the things that Salt-N-Pepa are either trying to accomplish or just being on the road. I wear many hats. So it gets to be a challenge. I need to be encouraged. So I try to surround myself with positive people, with matriarchs, with women that are older than me that can deposit into me. Because I’m always depositing into other people . . . and so yeah, I get confused sometimes, I’m like, OK… am I a rock star today or am I gonna wear my rapper chick outfit, what does that look like? (Laughing)
Or I’m going to speak at a church, I gotta get my suit on. Or I’m going to the PTA meeting… I’m doing so many different things that it can get a little hectic.
You truly are every woman and you know, I tip my hat to women like you. Like you just said, taking care of so many aspects in life in terms of being a wife, being a mother and having a career and then giving back to church and all your humanitarian and philanthropic efforts. It’s a lot. So definitely, hats off. I’m inviting everyone who hasn’t had a chance to visit the site hiphopsisters.org, and letting them know that you were my first invitation sent out to join our advisory board for Hip Hop Sisters Foundation and I thank you very much for accepting that task. But I’m definitely looking forward to all of what it is that we’ll be able to make happen with that organization.
I appreciate you making me a part of it. And I don’t want to get all gushy, but I really admire you Lyte. I think you’re an amazing person. I think I’ve told you this maybe 2 or 3 or 4 times. I look at you and the way that you keep grinding and you’re so consistent and you’re so steady and you’re so positive and I always look at you as your name. You are a “Lyte” (light) for females and I appreciate that about you. Because it can seem like that’s getting to be a more and more rare commodity these days in this business, so kudos to you love.
I thank you very much for those kind words, especially since we’re on record right now. (Laughs) So thank you. Where can we find you? How can the people find you?
Special thanks to Hip Hip Sisters Network for sharing this amazing interview.