I’m feeling blessed today, because for me, at least personally, the conversation I recently had with MC Lyte was a great personal and professional experience. MC Lyte, a true pioneer in her industry, is a talented women who’s achievements span throughout music and the arts. Among other things she’s a legendary rapper, television personality, actor, philanthropist and mentor.
Being an entrepreneur or a small business owner is a unique challenge of its own, and I truly feel that the people with the courage and tenacity to strike it out on their own have a special kind of strength and courage, and that there is almost always something in which we can each personally take from their experiences, and make use of during our own professional endeavors.
The following are excerpts from a recent conversation I was blessed to have with MC Lyte. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and hope you will as well!
Reuben: What we love most about watching your career is that whether you’re making music, acting, or even hosting the annual BET Hip-Hop Awards, you’ve got a great combination of dignity and strength, and for lack of a better word - funk. We love how you’ve created your own path and how you undoubtedly speak to your specific mantras and sensibilities as an artist. Can we ask what you credit such dedication and integrity?
MC Lyte: An upbringing that wouldn’t settle for anything less. My mom made it clear that it was okay for me to speak the truth, and within it, I’d be great. I think that has everything to do with being able to see an injustice and call it that. And having something to stand for ...makes life all the more worth it.
Reuben: At Fly Media Productions we often work with business owners starting new endeavors, which as I’m sure you know can be overwhelming at times. Are there any stand out moments in your career personally where you may have encountered an opportunity (or blessing!) that at the time may have felt more like a curse, but ultimately proved to be a worthwhile investment? And if so, what did you learn from the experience?
What I have learned is that ‘the amount of time that you put into your business is exactly what you get from it’. You have to grow it.
MC Lyte: Being a creative person sometimes it takes a bit of time and becomes a little difficult to actually take off the creative hat and really get down to business. It can be quite challenging I would say at times, and then there are other times when it just flows.
What I have learned is that ‘the amount of time that you put into your business is exactly what you get from it’. You have to grow it. Along my career I’ve had moments where I had to make sacrifices, and even though I like to work hard - I also like to play hard. And sometimes I might have been ready to play and it wasn’t time just yet, like I hadn’t put the work into a certain area that needed to be there.
So, I think most of all what I’ve taken away from being a business owner is that ‘You get what you put in.’.
Reuben: Is this realization something that you kinda learned organically over time, or did you have a mentor to help guide you through that process?
MC Lyte: My first manager was a great mentor for me, and he helped me to understand what it means to be ‘focused’ and to sorta keep your actions in line with the goals that you’re intending to reach. So yeah, I would say it was having a mentor there, but then also over time becoming more cognizant of the things that I needed to do for myself, was like self-induced; it was a little bit of both.
Reuben: I guess that explains why you’re so passionate about projects like the Hip-hop Sisters network. Are there any other projects similar to that that you’re involved in where you’re kinda giving back in that way, lending your expertise and knowledge to help the generations behind you to be more successful?
MC Lyte: Absolutely. Hip-Hop Sisters Network is comprised of a couple of different sectors, and one that blends a platform for young artists, DJ’s, journalists, photographers, etc. to come online, and to also get a chance to network with other like minded individuals. We have a foundation that gives back, we actually just gave two $100,000 scholarships to the University of Wisconsin Madison last fall. Those two young ladies will be going to school this fall at that particular university. We’ll give another one away this year and another away next year.
And then we have Sunni Girl Inc. which is my company, where we look to lend support and development to artist. We don’t call it management per se, but in essence it’s helping that particular artist to realize their potential and to have all of what it is that they see, you know, their dreams, the best facilitated as it can make them come about.
And as it relates to other organizations, I’m partnered up with other organizations through-out the nation on a constant basis. I just teamed up with Hip-Hop 4 Life in New York; they did a symposium and I came in and talked to the kids there. And I just did a thing for Chili’s camp down in Atlanta.
And for the older women, the COO of the company, Lynn Richardson (also the president of Hip-Hop Sisters and the financial perspective), and I are doing some panels across the nation to help older women to get a hold of their finances, entitled: Women and their wealth, as well.
So, we’re covering the gamut, trying to help in any way that we can.
Reuben: When you mentioned Sunni Girl you mentioned helping, kind of mentoring, guiding along the artists - could you give us an idea as to the biggest recommendation you would give to a new or inexperienced artist to help them to be the best business person they could be?
If you really love music and intend to be here for awhile, it means really learning your craft and learning all of the things that make it run.
MC Lyte: Yeah, I would say there are so many books that go over Publishing and Mechanical rights, and what it really takes to be in for the long haul - for the longevity of it all. And not look to at it as a quick fly-by-night. If you really love music and intend to be here for awhile, it means really learning your craft and learning all of the things that make it run. So, you wanna know the mechanisms by which you operate in front of the camera. You should also know what goes on behind the camera.
And so I would just say, to educate themselves is much more important than anything else. And then also to never be afraid to ask questions, ask questions until you get the answers that get you clear on what it is that you need to understand.
Reuben: The evolution of the internet; how has it played a role if any, in your growth as a professional women, as an artist, and as an entertainer?
MC Lyte: Well, it’s played a huge part in me still being able to touch my fans without a hit record. You know, it puts us right there in the mix, and I think that’s extremely important. So, now we don’t need a middle man to deliver a message to our fans, we can do it ourselves. And so, with the advent of the internet I think it’s leveled the playing field, not just for the music industry, but for all industries.
Reuben: And finally, where can we find you online, hangin’ out or working, so that the people who read this can connect with you, follow what your doing, and if interested get involved with Hip-Hop Sisters and support that in any way that they can?
I also have a free app called MC Lyte for Android’s and iPhone’s. There’s unreleased music there, with a slew of pictures. ...I just like to stay connected to the people.
Reuben: I wholeheartedly agree! ...Thank you so much for your candor and for taking the time to talk with us. We really appreciate it.
MC Lyte: Thank you so much to the both of you, I appreciate the platform. And good luck with all that you do over there!