Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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MC Lyte

  • Lyte as a Rock [First Priority, 1988] B
  • Eyes on This [First Priority, 1989] B+
  • Act Like You Know [Atlantic, 1991] **
  • Ain't No Other [First Priority, 1993] A-
  • Bad as I Wanna B [EastWest, 1996] **
  • Seven & Seven [EastWest, 1998] ***

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Lyte as a Rock [First Priority, 1988]
Unlike so many of her femme-metal counterparts, she knows how to talk tough without yielding to the stupid temptations of macho. But as nobody's girl, she spreads 10 tracks among four producer-DJs, who chill too close to the max as she attempts to carry the music with her bare rap. Even their weirdest hooks are understated by half, 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. Minimal isn't the only way she can go, as Sinead O'Connor fans know. Are they in for an unpleasant surprise. B

Eyes on This [First Priority, 1989]
No longer a minimalist, she layers samples ("Rockin' It"! Millie Jackson!) and backtalk like a pro, sometimes like an original--the rhythmic obscenities on the spectacularly unsisterly "Shut the Eff Up! (Hoe)" are mind-boggling. Her tales of the drug wars are tough and prowoman, and the narrative tone of "Cappucino"--part fable, part metaphor, part confessional revery, part dumb it-was-only-a-dream--is avant-garde. Elsewhere she's a pro. B+

Act Like You Know [Atlantic, 1991]
knows what she knows ("When in Love," "All That") **

Ain't No Other [First Priority, 1993]
An around-the-way girl who's always dissed the gangsta life from a street perspective, her greatest charm is the ordinariness that's also her biggest liability. In 1991, with Latifah and Monie Love passing her by, she failed to go pop with Act Like You Know; in 1993, with Latifah and Monie Love falling off, she's acting like she knew: "Never ever have I ever said I was good-lookin'/Just one bad-ass bitch from Brooklyn." But finally she's hitting her self-conceived rhymes and beats with some regularity--on the turf-proud "Brooklyn," the jilted-and-glad "Lil Paul," the bloodied-and-unbowed "I Go On," the jovial "F--k That M-----f--kin' Bulls--t." And on the boy-loving "Ruffneck," over a male chorus cheering like the studio was a football terrace, Lyte raps the praises of her hardcore boyfriend. "Fiddling with his dickhead" or sneaking away from the cops, he's always rude and not always what he pretends to be, but when she's got a problem: "He'll be there/Right by my side with his ruffneck tactics." I hope so. Because they're going to need each other. A-

Bad as I Wanna B [EastWest, 1996]
as sane as Chuck D, plus she likes to have her toes sucked ("TRG [The Rap Game]," "Everyday") **

Seven & Seven [EastWest, 1998]
Missy-of-the-Year jump start, '70s-funk cruise control ("In My Business," "Top Billin' "). ***

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