Lyte as a Rock

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Lyte as a Rock
Lyte as a Rock MC Lyte.jpeg
Studio album by
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

Lyte as a Rock is the debut studio album by American hip hop recording artist MC Lyte.[1] It was released on 1988, via First Priority and Atlantic Records, and featured production from Audio Two, Prince Paul, King of Chill and his group, Alliance.[2]

In July 1988 the album peaked No. 50 on the then Billboard Top Black Albums, spending 16 weeks on the chart.[3]

Despite not having much commercial success, it has had a very good evaluation by critics since its publication and it has been considered by various media and specialized press as one of the best and most important rap albums, both in the 80s and in history,[4][5][6][7][8][9] mainly due to its influence on the subsequent work of other female rappers.[1][10][11][12][13][14] In January 1998, Lyte as a Rock was included on The Source's "The 100 Best Rap Albums of All Time" list.[15] The album is broken down track-by-track by MC Lyte in Brian Coleman's book Check the Technique.[16]


In 1987, at the age of 16,[17] 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.[18] As she has stated, she was 12 years old at the time of writing.[19]

MC Lyte in 1988 at Firehouse Studios in Brooklyn with his producers Gizmo, Milk D and King of Chill and engineer Yoram Vazan.

In 1988 she published his debut 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 The Sequence had published), it would be the first full album of a female rapper as a solo artist.

Recording and production[edit]

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.[20] During an interview with Jet in 2015, Lyte commented on the production of the songs:

“(...) when I was auditioning for the record label, they said, “Okay let’s hear something.” So I just said the poems and they kind of created the music to go around what I had already written… which is why most of the stuff on Lyte As a Rock is not like three verses per song. It’s sorta like, here’s this short little verse and here’s this 24-bar song. Some of them don’t even have hooks. For instance, “Paper Thin.” So it just came from that book of wanting to be prepared for my moment.”[21]

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),[22] King of Chill and his group Alliance. The track "Mc Lyte Likes Swingin" had Prince Paul of Stetsasonic in production, who later gained much recognition for his work with De La Soul.

Music and lyrics[edit]

In addition to "I Cram to Understand U", three other songs were released as singles: 10% Dis (a diss track to then-Hurby Azor associate Antoinette),[19] Paper Thin (in which she confronts her boyfriend for an infidelity)[23] and the hononym Lyte as a Rock. At the beginning of "I am Woman" Lyte quotes Helen Reddy's hit "I Am Woman" saying "I am woman hear me roar".[24] The last track "Don't Cry, Big Girls" is built around a sample of the The Four Seasons' "Big Girls Don't Cry" (1963).

During the MC Lyte tribute at the 2006 VH1 Hip Hop Honors Da Brat and Remy Ma sang the chorus for the track "Kickin' 4 Brooklyn".[25]

"Paper Thin" and "Lyte as a Rock" had music videos directed by Lionel C. Martin.[26]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[27]
The Philadelphia Inquirer4/4 stars[28]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3.5/5 stars[29]
The Village VoiceB[30]

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." and "Lyte's quotes (not samples) from "I'm in the Mood for Love," "Big Girls Don't Cry," "I Am Woman," and "Hit the Road Jack" aren't loud enough to compensate.",[31] Following the album's release, that year Village Voice would also call Lyte "hip-hop's best female vocalist."[32] For his part, Ken Tucker from The Philadelphia Inquirer would give a rating of 4/4.

Legacy and influence[edit]

In retrospect, 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."[33] PopMatters' Mark Anthony Neal called the album "one of the most underrated debuts in hip-hop history".[18] 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 October 2017 Complex magazine's 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."[5] XXL's Dominique Zonyee considered that with the release of his debut album Lyte "indirectly challenged anyone who said she couldn’t or wouldn’t have success as a rapper." commenting "After that, how could anyone deny women the same opportunities as male rappers. Even with the obvious feminist tone, Lyte did not compromise her lyricism. On so many levels, the rapper's debut has become a pillar of hope for female MCs and has been inspirational in helping other ladies break barriers in the game."[12]

In 2018, on the 30th anniversary of its publication, it was reviewed by Jesse Ducker of Albumism, who commented "Still sounds as good as it did three decades ago. Lyte demonstrates tremendous verbal ability on Lyte as a Rock, using her husky voice and conversational flow to create wicked rhymes to go along with the neck-snapping beats. She remains “herself” throughout the album, as defiant and confident as any other emcee to ever pick up the microphone. And it’s this confidence and sheer skills that carry Lyte as a Rock and makes it as memorable as any album in the formative era of hip-hop."[34] During another review he opined that with the release of "Lyte as a Rock" Lyte "stood shoulder to shoulder with the Golden Era’s best emcees."[35] Simon Pearce of Pitchfork would write in his album review:

“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.”[7]


Publication Country Accolade Year Rank U.S. The Greatest Hip-Hop Albums of all Time[8] 2006 #82
Complex The Greatest Old School Rap Albums of the '80s[5] 2017 #30
Ego Trip Hip Hop's 25 Greatest Albums by Year 1980–98[6] 1999 #13
NME UK 25 Albums That Changed Hip-Hop Forever[4] 2013 #3
Pitchfork U.S. The 200 Best Albums of the 1980s[7] 2018 #157
Soul In Stereo 20 Best Female Rap Albums of All Time[14] 2015 #1
The Source 100 Greatest Rap Albums of All Time[15] 1998 *
Yardbarker 20 great hip-hop albums from female rappers[13] 2018 *
Drop the mic: 20 hip-hop albums that changed the game[9] 2019 *
(*) designates lists which are unordered.

Track listing[edit]

The song writing information is according to the ASCAP website.[36][37]

1."Lyte vs. Vanna Whyte"
2."Lyte as a Rock"
Audio Two4:17
3."I am Woman"Freddie ByrdKing of Chill2:45
4."Mc Lyte Likes Swingin'"Lana MoorerPrince Paul3:17
5."10% Dis"
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
  • Kirk Robinson
Audio Two4:39
9."Kickin' 4 Brooklyn"
  • Lana Moorer
  • Kirk Robinson
Audio Two2:20
10."Don't Cry, Big Girls"
  • Lana Moorer
  • Kirk Robinson
Audio Two3:57
Total length:38:29

Sample credits[edit]

Song title Sample(s)
"Lyte vs. Vanna Whyte"
"Lyte as a Rock"
"I Am Woman"
"Mc Lyte Likes Swingin'"
"10% Dis"
"Paper Thin"
"Lyte thee MC"
"I Cram to Understand U (Sam)"
"Don't Cry, Big Girls"


Information taken from Allmusic.[2]

  • Lead vocalsMC Lyte
  • Producer, Programmed By – Alliance (tracks: 1 and 7), Audio Two (tracks: 2, 5, 8 to 10) King of Chill (3 and 6) and Prince Paul
  • Art Direction – Bob Defrin
  • Design – Carol Bobolts
  • Engineer – Dan Sheehan, Gary Clugston, Mike Dee, Phil DeMartino, Shlom Sonnenfeld, Yoram Vazan
  • Executive-Producer – Nat Robinson
  • Photography By – John Pinderhughes


Chart (1988) Peak
US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Billboard)[38] 50

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Hip-Hop's Greatest Year: Fifteen Albums That Made Rap Explode". Rolling Stone. February 12, 2008. Retrieved November 23, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Lyte as a Rock - MC Lyte · Credits". Allmusic.
  3. ^ "MC Lyte Chart History". Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
  4. ^ a b "25 Albums That Changed Hip-Hop Forever". August 5, 2013. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c "The Best Rap Albums of the '80s". Complex. August 5, 2013. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Hip-Hop's Greatest Albums By Year (Ego Trip Magazine)". Genius (website). Retrieved July 27, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c "The 200 Best Albums of the 1980s". Pitchfork. September 10, 2018. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  8. ^ a b "The 100 Best Rap Albums of All Time". May 24, 2019. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  9. ^ a b "Drop the mic: 20 hip-hop albums that changed the game". Yardbarker (website). July 22, 2019. Retrieved August 18, 2021.
  10. ^ Trent Fitzgerald, "Janet Jackson Breaks Boundaries With 'Velvet Rope': October 7 in Hip-Hop History", The Boombox, retrieved June 17, 2021, MC Lyte is a hip-hop icon who has, arguably, influenced every female rapper in the game. Her 1988 debut album, Lyte as a Rock, is one of the greatest rap albums in hip-hop history.
  11. ^ "Ladies First: 31 Female Rappers Who Changed Hip-Hop". March 31, 2014. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
  12. ^ a b "20 Great Albums From Female Rappers Over the Years". XXL (website). March 18, 2016. Retrieved May 29, 2021.
  13. ^ a b "20 great hip-hop albums from female rappers". Yardbarker (website). August 3, 2018. Retrieved August 18, 2021.
  14. ^ a b "20 BEST FEMALE RAP ALBUMS OF ALL TIME". Soul In Stereo. September 21, 2015. Retrieved August 23, 2021.
  15. ^ a b "The Source: 100 Best Rap Albums". Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  16. ^ Coleman, Brian. Check The Technique: Liner Notes For Hip-Hop Junkies. New York: Villard/Random House, 2007.
  17. ^ "I Cram To Understand U - MC Lyte". Genius (website). Retrieved July 24, 2020.
  18. ^ a b "MC Lyte: The Very Best of MC Lyte". PopMatters. September 3, 2001. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
  19. ^ a b "Full Clip: MC Lyte Breaks Down Her Catalogue, KRS-One, Janet Jackson, Brandy, DJ Premier And More". VIBE (website). January 7, 2011. Retrieved July 22, 2020.
  20. ^ "MC Lyte Speaks on the Legacy of Her Iconic Debut 'Lyte as a Rock' [INTERVIEW]". Okayplayer (website). Retrieved July 24, 2020.
  21. ^ "VIDEO: 1-ON-1 WITH MC LYTE". September 29, 2015. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ Neal, Mark Anthony (2004). That's the Joint !: The Hip Hop Study Reader. ISBN 9780415969192.
  24. ^ "The Number Ones: Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman"". Stereogum. March 15, 2019. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
  25. ^ "LIL' KIM, MC LYTE PUT FEMALE MCS CENTER STAGE AT HIP-HOP HONORS". MTV (website). October 9, 2006. Retrieved May 24, 2021.
  26. ^ "MC Lyte". IMVDb. Retrieved April 16, 2021.
  27. ^ Theakston, Rob. "Lyte as a Rock – MC Lyte". AllMusic. Retrieved January 8, 2018.
  28. ^ Tucker, Ken (May 22, 1988). "Debut album of rapper MC Lyte". The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ Christgau, Robert (July 26, 1988). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  31. ^ "Robert Christgau Review". Robert Christgau (website). Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  32. ^ "BROOKLYN'S M.C. LYTE RAPS IT LIKE IT IS ON THE STREET". The Morning Call. November 26, 1988. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  33. ^ "MC Lyte - Lyte as a Rock". AllMusic. Retrieved July 27, 2020.
  34. ^ "MC Lyte's Debut Album 'Lyte as a Rock' Turns 30 - Anniversary Retrospective". Albumism. September 12, 2018. Retrieved March 25, 2021.
  35. ^ "MC Lyte's 'Eyes On This' Turns 30 - Anniversary Retrospective". Albumism. October 2, 2019. Retrieved March 14, 2021.
  36. ^ "MOORER LANA MICHELE". ASCAP (website). Retrieved July 24, 2021.
  37. ^ "BYRD FREDDIE HARPER". ASCAP (website). Retrieved July 24, 2021.
  38. ^ "MC Lyte Chart History (Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums)". Billboard.