Wednesday, 10 April 2013

MC Lyte “Eyes on This” Re-Release Review

Hip Hop has always been a male led genre and it seems now more than ever.  However that has not always been the way.  Over the years numerous talented female emcees have reserved places in our memories; of course Roxanne Shante, on the more commercial side Salt N Pepa, Latifah, Monie Love, Jean Grae and maybe even Yo Yo for those Left Coast fans but one name that cannot go without a mention is of course MC Lyte.  MC Lyte (Lana Michelle Moorer) burst onto the Hip-Hop scene at the tender age of eighteen in 1988 with the classic album “Lyte as a Rock”. This album featured the instant classic, “Paper Thin” and was mostly produced by her brothers Audio Two.  Although it also features an early prince Paul production credit on “Mc Lyte Likes Swingin’”
Lyte followed up her debut almost a year to the day with “Eyes on This” which like her first album was released on First Priority Music and distributed by Atlantic Records.  Also like her first album this too featured production from her brothers, Audio Two, as well as The King of Chill and Nat Robinson.  The album reached a low position in the mainstream charts but in the Hip-Hop album chart it managed a respectable number 6, which was a first for a female emcee.  Thirteen songs strong the album brought us three singles, all of which could be considered hits and each of which made it in the top 10 on the Hot Rap Singles chart.

The album start of with the superb “Cha Cha Cha” which samples Kraftwerk’s “The Man-Machine” to create an upbeat track which allows Lyte to display her witty and strong lyrics perfectly.  The track has nice crisp drums and a nice electric loop alongside some horns.  Scratching typical of the time makes for a nice chorus and along with the other elements of the track create a perfect late eighties Hip-Hop classic that could comfortably sit alongside the likes of Special Ed’s “I Git it Made” and Rakim’s “Microphone Fiend”.

The second track “Slave 2 the Rhythm” starts off with an electric bass line and some nice 808s.  A more up tempo track than the first has Lyte striking a little harder lyrically dropping swear words that give it that harder edge than her singles.  The third track is “Cappuchino” which was the second single off the album and was actually quite dark for a single.  The track tells a tale of Lyte getting involved in a shooting on the way to getting a Cappuchino.  The songs treads into the realm of social responsibility by discussing death and drugs but does it as well as can be expected for a track aimed at the charts.  The track itself samples  ”Spaced Out” by The Blackbyrds a favorite of mine.

The fourth track was the third single from the album is a lovely joint featuring a stripped down simplistic beat that allows you to concentrate on Lyte’s lyrics.  The beat is reminiscent of a style that Rza would use years from then with Cappadonna’a first solo joint.  Of course the lyrics are up to par with her previous tracks but the almost experimental nature of the track itself is incredibly refreshing considering the year it was released.  The fifth track “Throwin’ Words at You” has a real nice beat with crunchy drums and subliminal guitar loop in the back.  Her lyrics are again strong with snappy witty lines and a nice hook for the loop.

The sixth track on the album is called “Not wit a dealer” and although the beat is nothing amazing it is a standard beat for that time.  Again Lyte visits the subject of drugs although this time it is about ladies who choose drug dealers and the dangers of taking that path.  The seventh song on this album is called “Survival of the fittest Remix” which features drums that Hip-Hop heads will know from the Jungle Brother’s classic “Jim Brownski” it also samples Led Zepplin’s “When the Levee Breaks”.   Alongside the tasty drums is a nice electric guitar loop hanging around in the background.  Again Lyte’s voice and lyrics finish off the track nicely.

The next track up is substantially slower than the rest of the album and also has Lyte taking an even harder stand, lyrically challenging other emcees.  Lyte earned her lyrical stripes on her first album and again with tracks like “Shut the Eff Up! (Hoe)” she showed how much she deserved the props her got.  She even takes a subliminal jab at EPMD with the line “I’m MC Lyte a/k/a MC Payback,  Payback is a bitch, and I’m givin you no slack, Unfinished Business, that shit was wack, So Lyte made no attempt to strike back”.  Clearly making reference to EPMD’s 1989 classic album “Unfinished Business”.

The ninth track “I am the Lyte” samples Bobby Byrd’s 1972 classic “Never Get Enough” as would Diamond D three years later on his classic “Best kept Secret”.  It’s a great song and in my mind would have made a great single.  The beat is great and Lyte is on point with her lyrics as she is for the majority of the album.  After “Cha Cha Cha” its one of my favorites on this album.  “Rhyme Hangover” is the tenth song on the album and it features a double bass and drum led beat.  This is shortest song on the album coming in at just over two minutes.  To be honest it’s a not a bad track its just not as strong as the rest of the album.  The tenth track on the album is a funky little joint called “Funky Song” and features some tight drums, horns and a James brown vocal sample.

The penultimate track is the slower more mellow jam called “Please understand” where Lyte gives us a narrative on a various relationships.  Unfortunately like a lot of Hip-Hop romance songs none of them end well.  The album finishes off on the upbeat “K-Rocks Housin” which is a typical late eighties mainstay of most Hip-Hop albums, a DJ track.  Its good enough for when it came out and provides some fairly decent scratching.

In summary this is strong album that deserves a place in any decent Hip-Hop collection if not for the 6-7 strong standout out tracks but Lyte’s lyricism.  Alongside her debut album this is easily one of the most important female emcee albums.  The biggest joints on it are obviously “Cha Cha Cha” followed by “I am the Lyte” and “Cappuchino”.  This rerelease gives anyone who missed it the first time round and has a taste for great golden era Hip-Hop a chance to pick it up and I would advise you to do so.

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