We all are familiar with MC Lyte and her extensive contribution to hip-hop culture as a woman and an artist, but aside from breaking down barriers for young women in the game, the legendary MC has been building a positive outlet for her fellow sisters. Known for her rawness and aggression in her musical endeavors, it is seldom mentioned that Miss Lyte has always been about her business. Next month thru January 2-5, the first ever W.E.A.L.T.H Experience retreat will be held in Miami, Florida, a conference for women that discusses the need for promoting positivity and progression in the Black community and how to gain wealth on all aspects of its definition.
Keynote speakers in attendance include Lynn Richardson, Faith Evans, Dr. Robin Smith, Miss Diddy, Ledisi, Kelly Price and so many more bold and inspirational women in all facets of the industry.
The W.E.A.L.T.H Experience is an extension of the Hip-Hop Sisters Foundation that brings women of all ages together to discuss issues and the progress that needs to be made in the female community, tailored to the Black experience. The acronym, W.E.A.L.T.H, stands for Womanhood, Expansion, Assets, Leadership, Transformation, and Health. These are all important topics that will be discussed at the conference on the panel of well-versed women in the entertainment and business industries.
In addition to her many musical accolades and being a crusader in hip-hop culture, MC Lyte continues to be a champion in her community by advocating for education, dreams, and forward thinking in our younger generations. While she is seeking to expand W.E.A.L.T.H, she continues to work on the initial premise of the Hip-Hop Sisters Foundation, which is scholarship.
PYNK had the opportunity to meet MC Lyte and discuss her influence on hip-hop culture, the misconceptions of diversity in the industry, and her philanthropic duties as an entrepreneur and businesswoman. Continue reading to learn more about the renowned rapstress and her journey from making music for her community, to making change in her community.
PYNK: Can you tell me about the W.E.A.L.T.H Experience and its initiatives?
MC Lyte: I’ve developed it with Lynn Richardson, who is the president of the foundation and the COO of the for-profit. We were sitting with Kelly Price one afternoon and Lynn began to tell us about a retreat that she threw a few years in a row in Puerto Rico. She explained about being close to the water and how everyone came together at the top of the year with new aspirations, new dreams, wanting to fix things, change things and get rid of things. Kelly and I were in awe and we felt like we needed to do it again. It has then morphed into this, which is a much larger scale than Lynn had originally shared with us. However, we are really excited about what’s going to take place. W.E.A.L.T.H is an acronym: Womanhood, Expansion, Assets, Leadership, Transformation, Health. We are addressing all of those aspects of life with bonifide speakers as well as ambassadors. Some are going to sit on panels, others are going to do their own keynotes. It’s going to be like no other retreat.
PYNK: Is it an extension of hip hop sisters?
MC Lyte: It is. It’s one of our initiatives and all of the funds go to our signature initiative, which is Educate Our Men. Up until now, we’ve given away 5 or 6 $50,000 scholarships to men attending HBCU’s. Our partnership right now is with Dillard University.
PYNK: Would you be bringing this to other cities?
MC Lyte: The annual event will always take place in Florida; however, throughout the year we will host incentives for a much smaller crowd and address one of the topics that is available at the W.E.A.L.T.H Experience.
PYNK: As an extention of hip hop sisters, I just want to discuss some of the issues that are going on in the industry that have gone on in the past and continue to occur today. I know you guys talk about a lot of these issue, so I want to know how HHS (Hip-Hop Sisters) and the W.E.A.L.T.H Experience promote diversity? Also, how important it is to you to see more diversity and equality in the industry?
Oh my goodness! It is majorly important! However, I don’t see all of that in terms of what it is I focus on. With Lynn, who comes from a world of finance as an executive at JP Morgan, she’ll say that in these rooms she doesn’t see white or black, she doesn’t see man or woman, she sees that she does her job with excellence. I think first and foremost, that should be the way that we all look at what it is that we do for a living and as a career. But in terms of diversity in areas where we are likely to see none, to me it should be mandatory that we hear the voices of all and that we have a clear understanding as to where everyone sits, stands, and what they believe in. I think that’s just common courtesy to be allowed that voice.
PYNK: What action would you say, in the industry, that an executive should take in order to take the proper steps of creating more diversity in the industry?
MC Lyte: I think that would have to be just making it a need. I’ve sat on the Grammy board, I’ve sat as a trustee, as a governor, and I’ve also been the president of the LA chapter. Diversity is something that we talk about ALL the time. People have this impression of the way the Grammy’s works behind the scene. They think it’s made up of all old, white men and it’s certainly not true. There’s lots of diversity that exists in the room, but because people are apt to think that’s the way it is, the business is spread. Even with the diversity that exists, I still see it possible to push for more. Someone has to be willing to bring the elephant up.
PYNK: You’re definitely a great representation of women in hip-hop. How do you manage to stay relevant and still be a part of the culture without having to do music?
MC Lyte: You know, that is god’s blessing. Many years ago, my first manager said, “The key to what we do for MC Lyte is to gain the popularity and celebrity without a hit record on the radio.” And once he said that it sort of opened me up to all of the other things that I do now. I took acting classes and I went to voiceover workshops. All of these things have brought me into a space where I feel like I am a well-rounded talent, where I can be called on for many things. I think it’s just about an MC or someone who is in the music business to open their horizons and understand that it could be something more than just music.
PYNK: I wanted to talk about your music and how it’s hard for legendary artists to go out like champs or go out while they are at their peak in their career. I feel like you’ve never had one of those moments when you tried to make a comeback and it was just awkward. How did you know that you wanted to start these entrepreneurial endeavors and begin creating a brand for yourself as opposed to just continuing to make music?
MC Lyte: Well, the truth is I’ve always wanted to be in this business. Back before I even hit the “pinnacle” of my career, I had a modeling agency and I had a management company. I signed a couple of artist to prestigious recording companies. So, I’ve always had an office. And I was always hopeful that I could do business in an impactful way. With music, I’m actually going into another musical project.
“When I meet young people, they’re always like, ‘I want to be in the business. I want to be an artist.’ You don’t have to “want” to be an artist, you’re already an artist. You don’t have to “want” to be in the business, you’re doing the business. But I think the expectancy is what comes into play. I think people assume that in order to be an artist, they need this huge major label deal with several dollars behind them. It is great to do it that way, but it can be done other ways if you are truly in love with the art.”
For me, I can put out an album for free, I can put out an album that doesn’t sell a trillion units because for me it’s about making the music, being in the culture, and still having something to give. The day I realize that I have nothing left, I’m certainly not going to push a record out just because.
PYNK: Do you have any other interests, besides the million and some that you are already doing?
MC Lyte: I know, there’s just so much, right! Well, we’re going into TV production and the development of scripts, so I’m excited about that aspect. Then of course, we’re still continuing to do our scholar search and raise funds for our scholarships. At the end of the day, that’s what the W.E.A.L.T.H Experience is all about. It raises money to send our young men to school.
PYNK: With that said, are there any other charitable initiatives that you’re a part of?
MC Lyte: Absolutely! With HHS, we have three major components. We have Women, Wealth and Relationships, which has spawned into W.E.A.L.T.H. We have our signature initiative to educate men, where we give away a scholarship. And then, we have our partnership with Honey Shine, which is Tracy and Alonzo Mourning’s foundation and mentoring program that they’ve had for about 14 years in Florida. We’ve teamed up with them to open two chapters in the Los Angeles area. They’ve been up and running for about three months now. On Thursday’s, when I’m not working, I usually go over and visit them. They are third and fourth graders. I’ve spent my lifetime doing work with other organizations, so it feels good to actually have my own and have a hand in co-creating the programs.
Get involved by heading over to HipHopsisters.org. Send your resume and whatever it is that you are skilled in and if ever they need you, they have a way to contact you.