Lyte as a Rock

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Lyte as a Rock
MC Lyte - Lyte as a rock.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 13, 1988 (1988-09-13)
GenreGolden age hip hop
LabelFirst Priority Music/Atlantic Records
ProducerAlliance, Audio Two, King of Chill, Prince Paul
MC Lyte chronology
Lyte as a Rock
Eyes on This
Singles from Lyte as a Rock
  1. "I Cram To Understand U (Sam)"
    Released: 1987
  2. "10% Dis"
    Released: 1988
  3. "Paper Thin"
    Released: 1988
  4. "Lyte As A Rock"
    Released: 1988
Music video
"Paper Thin" on YouTube
Music video
"Lyte as a Rock" on YouTube

Lyte as a Rock is the debut album of American rapper MC Lyte, released on September 13, 1988[1] by First Priority Music.

It did not have much commercial success, reaching No. 50 on the Billboard Top Black Albums chart. Despite that, it has had a very good evaluation by critics since its publication and it is considered one of the best and most important rap albums, both in the 1980s and in history.[2][3][4][5]

In 1998, the album was listed in The Source's 100 Best Rap Albums. The album is broken down track-by-track by MC Lyte in Brian Coleman's book Check the Technique.[6]


In 1987, at the age of 16,[7] Lyte released her debut single, "I Cram to Understand U (Sam)", about drug addiction and its impact on relationships, being one of the first songs written for the crack era.[8] As she has stated, she was 12 years old at the time of writing.[9]

My mother used to work at North General Hospital in Harlem. Whenever I would go there would be a slew of heroin and crack addicts. (...) I would never want that for myself or any other young person that I knew so I was going to make it my responsibility to tell people about drugs so that they could avoid them at all costs."[10]

In September 1988, a couple of weeks before she turned 18, released his first album, Lyte as a Rock. In addition to being one of the first female rap LPs (previously only some groups like Salt-N-Pepa and J. J. Fad had published), it would be the first full album of a female rapper as a solo artist. As stated in an interview for Okayplayer, all the lyrics on the album are from a rhyming book that she has written over the course of several years.[11]

Most of the songs had the contribution in the composition and production of the rap duo Audio Two (who were also very close to Lyte since childhood)[12] and King of Chill. The track "Mc Lyte Likes Swingin" had Prince Paul of Stetsasonic in production, who later gained much recognition for his work in De La Soul's debut album 3 Feet High and Rising.

Reception and influence[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[13]
The Philadelphia Inquirer4/4 stars[14]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3.5/5 stars[15]
The Village VoiceB[16]

At the time of publication, The New York Times rated an "I Cram to Understand U (Sam)" as one of the best 12-inch singles of the year, noting "Unlike the dozens of raps that are simply comic put-downs, Ms Lyte's plaintive tone and her self-deprecating story add up to a complex emotional statement."[17]

Regarding the album "Lyte as a Rock", Robert Christgau from Village Voice has commented "Unlike so many of her femme-metal counterparts, she knows how to talk tough without yielding to the stupid temptations of macho." but also criticized the producers as "chill too close to the max as she attempts to carry the music with her rap.",[18] and following the album's release, that year Village Voice would also call Lyte "hip-hop's best female vocalist."[19] For his part, Ken Tucker from The Philadelphia Inquirer would give a rating of 4/4.


Rob Theakston of AllMusic reviews "(...) Lyte as a Rock has aged better than most records that came out during hip-hop's formative years, although at certain moments it has become dated since its release. But what has aged is more than compensated by the classic tunes and the disc's potent historical impact on a generation of women MCs. A classic."[20]

PopMatters' Mark Anthony Neal called the album "one of the most underrated debuts in hip-hop history".[8]

In December 2016 Gino Sorcinelli from Medium would comment:

Only 17 and still unable to vote when Lyte as a Rock dropped, she demonstrated a keen storytelling ability on her first album that many older rappers couldn’t rival. The perfect combination of fierce lyricism and gritty, hard-hitting beats, Lyte as a Rock is a brief, powerful listen loaded with classics like “Lyte as a Rock”, “Paper Thin”, and “10% Dis”. Even though all of these songs sound great 28 years later, “I Cram to Understand U (Sam)” may still be the best song on the album.[9]


In 1998, "Lyte as a Rock" would be listed in The Source's "100 Greatest Albums of All Time" list.[5]

In 1999 hip hop magazine Ego Trip ranked the album 12th on their list "Greatest Hip-Hop Albums of 1988".[21] This year they also released "Hip-Hop’s Greatest Singles By Year", in which "I Cram to Understand U (Sam)" was on the 1987 list while "10% Dis" and Paper Thin on the 1988 list.[22]

In February 2008, Rolling Stone included "Lyte as a Rock" along with other albums such as N.W.A's debut album Straight Outta Compton and Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back on their list of the best albums of 1988, which considered "Rap's greatest year".[1]

In August 2013 was included 3rd on NME's "25 Albums That Changed Hip-Hop Forever" list.[2]

In October 2017 the album was ranked 30th on Complex magazine's "Best Rap Albums of the 80s" list, which Michael Gonzales commented "MC Lyte emerged from the depths of Brooklyn caring more about her rhyme skills than her make-up.(...) Homegirl might've been Lyte as a Rock, but her debut album was heavy as a boulder."[3]

In September 2018 Pitchfork included "Lyte as a Rock" in their list "The 200 Best Albums of the 1980s".

Groundbreaking and unconfined, the album has a take-on-all-comers bravado buoyed by Lyte’s aerodynamic style. She is unflappable—as cool as Big Daddy Kane, as cerebral as Kool Moe Dee, harder than Salt-N-Pepa but just as cheeky. (...)That monumental chip on her shoulder was a byproduct of all the naysayers claiming women couldn’t rap, and it drove her to outdo everyone: "If a rap can paint a thousand words, then I can paint a million," she proclaims proudly on the title track. This is a record about being a woman in a boys’ club and blowing up the spot with uncompromising attitude. She wasn’t in it to pander to the male gaze, or to play affirmative action girl. She was in it to win. – Sheldon Pearce[4]

Track listing[edit]

1."Lyte vs. Vanna Whyte"
2."Lyte as a Rock"Audio Two4:17
3."I am Woman"
  • Lana Moorer
  • Freddie Byrd
King of Chill2:45
4."Mc Lyte Likes Swingin'"Lana MoorerPrince Paul3:17
5."10% Dis"
  • Lana Moorer
  • Nat Robinson
  • Kirk Robinson
Audio Two5:00
6."Paper Thin"
  • Lana Moorer
  • Freddie Byrd
King of Chill5:14
7."Lyte thee MC"
  • Lana Moorer
  • Freddie Byrd
8."I Cram to Understand U (Sam)"
  • Lana Moorer
  • Nat Robinson
  • Kirk Robinson
Audio Two4:39
9."Kickin' 4 Brooklyn"
  • Lana Moorer
  • Nat Robinson
  • Kirk Robinson
Audio Two2:20
10."Don't Cry, Big Girls"
  • Lana Moorer
  • Nat Robinson
  • Kirk Robinson
Audio Two3:57
Total length:38:29



Chart (1988) Peak
US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Billboard)[23] 50

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Hip-Hop's Greatest Year: Fifteen Albums That Made Rap Explode". Rolling Stone. February 12, 2008. Retrieved November 23, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "25 Albums That Changed Hip-Hop Forever". August 5, 2013. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "The Best Rap Albums of the '80s". Complex. August 5, 2013. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  4. ^ a b "The 200 Best Albums of the 1980s". Pitchfork. September 10, 2018. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  5. ^ a b "The Source: 100 Best Rap Albums". Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  6. ^ Coleman, Brian. Check The Technique: Liner Notes For Hip-Hop Junkies. New York: Villard/Random House, 2007.
  7. ^ "I Cram To Understand U - MC Lyte". Genius (website). Retrieved July 24, 2020.
  8. ^ a b "MC Lyte: The Very Best of MC Lyte". PopMatters. September 3, 2001. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
  9. ^ a b "MC Lyte Was 12 When She Wrote "I Cram To Understand U"". January 7, 2011. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  10. ^ "Full Clip: MC Lyte Breaks Down Her Entire Catalogue". Vibe. September 3, 2001. Archived from the original on July 15, 2014. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
  11. ^ "MC Lyte Speaks on the Legacy of Her Iconic Debut 'Lyte as a Rock' [INTERVIEW]". Okayplayer (website). Retrieved July 24, 2020.
  12. ^ MC Lyte. "MC Lyte". (Interview). Retrieved September 2, 2016. Actually Milk and Giz are totally like my brothers but they are not my blood brothers but I was basically raised within that family.
  13. ^ Theakston, Rob. "Lyte as a Rock – MC Lyte". AllMusic. Retrieved January 8, 2018.
  14. ^ Tucker, Ken (May 22, 1988). "Debut album of rapper MC Lyte". The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  15. ^ Harris, Keith (2004). "MC Lyte". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 526. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  16. ^ Christgau, Robert (July 26, 1988). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  17. ^ "RECORDINGS; RAPPERS KEEP THEIR MUSIC'S CONTENT FRESH". The New York Times (website). January 10, 1988. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  18. ^ "Robert Christgau Review". Robert Christgau (website). Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  19. ^ "BROOKLYN'S M.C. LYTE RAPS IT LIKE IT IS ON THE STREET". The Morning Call. November 26, 1988. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  20. ^ "MC Lyte - Lyte as a Rock". AllMusic. Retrieved July 27, 2020.
  21. ^ "Hip-Hop's Greatest Albums By Year (Ego Trip Magazine)". Genius (website). Retrieved July 27, 2020.
  22. ^ "Hip-Hop's Greatest Singles By Year (Ego Trip Magazine)". Genius (website). Retrieved July 27, 2020.
  23. ^ "MC Lyte Chart History (Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums)". Billboard.