Edited by Azizi Powell
This post showcases MC Lyte's 1989 record "Cha Cha Cha" as a stellar example of female rappers' braggadocio and lyrical flow.
The content of this post is presented for historical, cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.
This post is part of a continuing pancocojams series that presents information about and examples of bragging in songs, chants, and children's cheers.
I'm also particularly interested in documenting the meanings of certain African American Vernacular (Hip Hop) slang terms that are found in this song and/or in the selected viewer comments from the featured video's discussion thread that are quoted in this post.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks to Mc Lyte for her musical legacy. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publisher of this video on YouTube.
INFORMATION ABOUT MC LYTE
"Rapper MC Lyte forged the way for other female MCs to find their way in the often-sexist, male-dominated world of hip hop. Lyte became the first female rap artist to achieve gold certification for her single “Ruffneck.” In six albums, she produced four Number One rap singles.
Lyte was born Lana Moorer, in Queens and raised in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York. She began rapping when she was 12, learning from her brothers Milk and Gizmo of the rap group Audio Two. Her father, Nat Robinson, started the First Priority record label in 1987, and her brothers appeared on her first three albums. Her first single, “I Cram to Understand U (Sam),” became an instant cult classic. The song is about a woman who has to compete for her man’s attentions, but her competition isn’t another woman, it’s crack cocaine. The single, released when Lyte was still a teen, set a standard for adult, hard-core rap that has rarely been equaled since. Her first album, Lyte as a Rock, was released on First Priority in 1988 and produced by her brothers. The album contained samples from Ray Charles, Helen Reddy, and the Four Seasons. It’s notable for its narrative songs, like “10% Dis” and “Paper Thin,” that tell fleshed-out stories featuring doomed but interesting characters. Despite the assertive, in-your-face persona Lyte shows in her music and onstage, the artist is known for her soft-spoken demeanor behind the scenes.
Lyte’s follow up to Lyte as a Rock, Eyes on This, was released a year after her debut, when she was just 19. The album “maintained her reputation as an insult-hurling tough talker who rapped to hard, simple beats,” People critic Michael Small wrote. It featured production by Grand Puba and the hit single “Cha Cha Cha,” which reached number one on the rap charts.
LYRICS - CHA CHA CHA
(as rapped by MC Lyte)
(Kick this one here for me and my DJ)
You can cha-cha-cha to this Mardis Gras
I'm the dopest female that you've heard thus far
And I do get better, the voice gets wetter
Nobody gets hurt (as long as you let her)
Do my thing with an '89 swing
The dopeness I write, I guarantee delight
To the hip-hop maniac, the Uptown brainiac
In full effect, MC Lyte is back
And better than before as if that was possible
My competition, you'll find them in the hospital
Visiting time, I think it's on a Sunday
But notice they only get one day to shine
The rest of the week is mine
And I'll blind you with the science that the others have yet to find
So come along and I'll lead you the right way
Just clap your hands to the words I say, come on...
(Kick this one here for me and my DJ)
I've got the power to spread out and devour
At the same time I'll eat you up with a rhyme
But I'll let you slide cuz you accidently hopped on the wrong side
Now come on, that's suicide
Ok, let's say you didn't know what you were doing
You're new in town, and you're looking around
For another name to ruin, and it's me that you're pursuing?
Well well well, I'll be damned
I might as well tell you who I am
I am the capital L-Y-T-E
And it's shocking I'm the one you're mocking
Oh yes, I've been watching you watching me
And like the fat on your back it's plain to see
That you're a wannabe, but you can't be what you're not
So you better start living with what you got
(Kick this one here for me and my DJ)
Yeah, DJ K-Rock when you hear a scratch
Now it's time to kick a rhyme out the batch
And you're the receiver eager as a beaver
Time to convert the non-believer
That I'm a roadrunner leaving you in the dust
I can adjust to the times and at times I might just get quicker
Than the ticker of your pacemaker
More tender than a roni but harder than a jawbreaker
So don't ever second guess me
And if you're wondering who could the best be
Think a second and recollect the worst whipping you ever had yet
And I'll bet that I did it
My fingerprints are still on you
How many times I gotta warn you
About the light? It'll blind your sight
But the rhythm will still guide you through the night
(Kick this tip...
Kick this one here for me and my DJ)
SHOWCASE VIDEO - MC Lyte - Cha Cha Cha | *Best Quality* (1989)
Hip Hop At It's Best !! , Uploaded on Dec 20, 2009
As You Can See Real Hip Hop Is Not On The Radio.
EXPLANATIONS OF CERTAIN AFRICAN AMERICAN VERNACULAR ENGLISH WORDS IN THIS RAP AND/OR IN THE SELECTED COMMENTS THAT ARE FOUND BELOW
These are my understanding and my ideas about the meanings of these vernacular terms. Additions and corrections are welcome.
"MC" = rapper (from "master of ceremonies")
a beast (a monster) = someone who does something very very well; someone who powerfully demolishes her or his competitors
"cha cha cha" = dance, move to the beat
"dj" - (in Hip Hop/Rap) the person who spins the records, the person who mixes the tunes
"dope,", "ill" (sick), "bad" = very good [adding "est" at the end of the word increases the value, meaning very very good, the absolute best]
[Saying someone is "dope", "ill" or bad" is a compliment.]
"hard" (also "hardcore"), "rough" = something done or said without embellishment (without sugar coating it); being for real, talking about and being comfortable with topics and situations that are real (in the 'hood, meaning in lower income, working class Black urban neighborhoods); "tellin it like it is"
[Saying someone is hard or rough is a compliment.]
"joint", jam", tune, track" = a record, a song
"Kick this one here for me and my dj = push this (record a lot)
"Kick this tip" - "tip" here means "this thing that I'm talking about", i.e. -this record. "Kick this tip" means "move this record" (by buying it and otherwise supporting it)
In the mid 198os I remember one girl saying "Kick it" to signal to that the foot stomping cheer that they were going to do was about to begin. In that context, "kick it" meant "Let's start moving"./ Let's begin our foot stomping steps"."
Perhaps "kick this for me and my dj" and "kick this tip" mean "help this record be a hit by pushing it, supporting it."
This vernacular meaning may have come from the action of "kicking a ball down the field".
Another slang meanings of "kick it" and "kicking it" which I don't think apply to this usage:
"just kicking it" means "relaxing, enjoying myself".
"killin" it, "murdered", "slayed", "murking" it, "serving" = doing something very well, demolishing the competition, badly defeat someone
old school- something from the past (usually complimentary)
"real" ("for real" - authentic, natural, not fake
[Saying someone is real is a compliment.]
"rep", represents - serves as a good example of some place or group
"spit" = rap with great lyrical flow
swag - being very self-confident, presenting yourself in a very self-confident, even arrogant manner
[Saying that someone has "swag" is a compliment.]
"wannabe" - (want to be) = a person who is fake, a person who pretends to be someone or something that he or she isn't
"word", "word up" - a now retired, 1980s, 1990s African American Vernacular English term that means "I definitely agree with what you just said. "I feel you' was another now retired African American slang term that indicted that you approved of something that was just said. "Co-sign" is a current American internet way of saying that you agree with something someone has just written.
SELECTED COMMENTS FROM THIS VIDEO'S DISCUSSION THREAD
These comments are given in chronological order based on their publishing date on YouTube with the oldest comments given first, except for responses. I've assigned numbers for referencing purposes only.
"classic joint, very rare video here! 5!"
“5” -five stars- the highest number given on YouTube’s now retired rating system.
2. Asriel Dreemurr
"MC lyte is like a rhyming machine"
"@mzgemini0006 Real hip-hop is still here, the only thing that are dead is the masses ears, MC Lyte just launched a song about old school 2 weeks ago"
"@Arto572 And thats the issue hip hop was in the masses back then you had Public Enemy, KRS-One, and Rakim who were very well known back then..... Now those same artist wouldn't have a chance with all this ignorant music out here now. I love all hip hop but this type is wow.. man.... long gone.. Artist like Talib and Common or The Roots are on the back burner now... #imjustsayin "
5. Will Smith
"MC Lyte rep brooklyn all day.."
6. cc bs
"What ever happened to the days when female MC's didn't need silcone breasts, nose jobs, multicolored wigs and ass injections to sell records. Back when they didn't need gimmicks to get everyone's attention, their raw talent was enough to make people want to go out and support them. I guess we won't ever see those days again."
"now this is a real mc this is hip hop none of these female rappers 2day touchin mc lyte"
"Damn! I almost forgot that there was a time in history when hip hop was not misogynistic."
"Aw snap ladies wore clothes back then and talked about things that made sense. Please lead me to more content like this."
"I had this tune on tape the year was 1989 then the cassette chewed up I was so pi**ed..but I can still remember the words as if it was yesterday. Long live real rhyming skills Masters of Ceremonies (MC's)"
The asterisks were written in the original comment
"BEST RAP VIDEO OF ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL TIME!!!!EVER!!!!! OVER ANY BEAT OR RAP SONG OR VIDEO!!! WOMEN POWER LYTE!! THAT'S MY HOME GIRL! IRIE* ONE LOVE* VIBING*"
"Yes....1988 - 1994; the Golden Era. This is STILL the jam, 21 years later.
"Do my thing with an '89 swing""
13. Jasmine Lumpkins
"There is NO female in the Game that can deliver a rap like her! Its perfect. She was feminine yet tough as a nail, but still sexy!"
"This song still goes hard!! I luv MC Lyte!!"
15. DOMINIQUE SETH
"THATS REAL HIP HOP MC LYTE IS BAD"
16. Charlie Robinson
"Love MC Lyte! Her swag was on a million in the 80's!"
17. JOHN MACK
"The Absolute Dopest female ever to grace the Hip Hop stage. Absolutely imperialistic! "EYES ON THiS"... Had all the classic joints on it. 10% dis, Cappuccino, stop look listen ect. I had this joint on VINYL. My man Jamal jacked me for it. I wonder what K ROCK is doin now. That was her dj...."
"MC Lyte had "SWAGG" before alot of these MC's (male OR female) even knew what that WAS!!!! LOL. Word bond, Lyte The MC is the best female MC to pick up a mic...period."
19. Blakk Johnson
"A REAL FEMALE MC!!!
"LYTE AZ A ROCK""
"THIS is my FAV Lyte song! EVERYONE should know the lyrics to this CLASSIC!! Lyte was murking alot of male MC's back in the day! lol"
"PAY ATTENTION.........have you noticed how she DOESN'T take off her clothes or shakes her ass every five seconds? THIS IS REAL HIP HOP.....REAL MC!!!!"
22. bobby boyd
"yo mc lyte one of the dopest female mc's no question, i mean the first lines are killin em.."
"I agree hip hop is dead b/c its commercialized now and i love mc lyte and nicki minaj is not the queen of hip hop!"
24. Fatimah Nichols
"MC LYTE OMG!!! I'm 15years old & I’m sitting here listening to this with my mom…Nikki Minaj who???? My mom told me she had music that was better than Nikki, and I hate to admit this but my mom is right. In my mom’s old school lingo “LYTE stands to be the COLDEST!” MOM more “REAL” hip-hop lessons please!!!!! so far i've heard da-la-soul,Eric B and Rakim, I love this music I wish I could turn on the Radio and hear this.Thank goodness for YOUTUBE, and the people like my mom introduing this to me"
25. Tam Jonez
"Lyte was a BEAST on this one!!!!"
"The drop Porsches and Town Car stretch, black and white film, the dichotomy of them bein so clean in a dusty environment all helped Lyte come across extra gangsta in this video...add to that the fact that she's a lyrical beast, and you have the classic was hot then and still is 20+ years later"
"Forget Nicky Minaj. This is one of the original queens of rap!!!"
So true! Lyte, Latifah, Monie Love. Nikki can't compare. She can't even come close to lil' Kim or Foxy Brown.
29. Jesus Banuelos
"sample from Kraftwerk's The Man-Machine"
"yo she still the best female to touch a mic"
"Wow her flow sounds as natural as her normal speech"
""You can't be whatcha not,
So ya betta start livin with what ya got.""
"notice how the old school beats have simplicity and creativity heavily infused? you can never do better than the fundamentals. a loop, breakdown, scratchin' and lyrics. LYRICS, RHYMES... don't like to go in reverse but sometimes you have to in order to proceed."
"Now a days its cuss cuss then it was about real things bring the old school back"
35. SAMI ALICIC
"MC LYTE FOR EVER"
36. montrisha BETHEA
"WORD UP,,, I TOTALLY AGREE!!!!!"
"MC Lyte is so bright that she could shoot a thousand rays at these wannabe MC's today."
38. Victor Jennings
""My competition? You'll find them in the hospital" Wooo that woman can spit"
"MC Lyte would eat Nicki Minaj for breakfast."
40. Kevin Foster
"Without a doubt!!"
41. Meera S
"+Nomis2779 Then she will spit her out!!!"
43.Pierre Black 
"lunch and DINNER"
44.Chloe Combs 
45. Faith Holcomb 
"and for a afternoon snack"
46. Laura Hicks
"You cannot put Nicki and Lyte in the same sentence! It's a crime."
"+Laura Hicks Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU"
49. Geno M
"+Laura Hicks I don't blame you. It's a better style. This is the dark ages for both R&B and Hip-hop. Late 80's and 90's were the renaissance periods. I think the real tragedy here is, looking at all the classics, and the comments, Nicki's name comes up everywhere. Either in mockery or defense. What I mean by that is, she is the gold standard of today. She is the means of comparison. What that tells me is the state of hip-hop is absolutely in the shitter. The fact these kids actually think she is talented and the best of her generation, and have the audacity to compare her to the greats, when her tired act has been done before, is a laughable."
50. Laura Hicks 
"Idk...I grew up in the 80's, in Newark, there was a certain hardness female rappers had then. They had kind of an androgynous air about them, I guess I'm just loyal to that style."
51. cross7387 
"nikki is not a female mc she does what she does but a rapper she is not u put her in the ring with real spitters she would get burned badly.lyte shante heather b lin que kim rage yoyo remy fox theses are true female mc's"
52. Laura Hicks 
"I don't think I have been clear...I don't want to take away from or put down someone that someone else likes. I just think Nicky is more sensationalized and commercial. When you hear lyte you KNOW it's lyte. I've heard songs from Nicky and honestly could not tell the difference between her and any of the other manufactured artists...so I mean no harm, just my opinion..all peace and love!"
53."Does anyone know where this bass line is sampled from?"
"Fearless Four-Rockin it"
55. Charmisa Glover
"This was one of the hardest songs by a female at that time I love Mc.Lyte"
56. Mr. A-Wax
"Hip-hop was more original back then!! Peep the dance moves.."
"peep" - look at"
57. Jarriece Divers
"She Serving MC's !"
This slang meaning of "serving" (demolishing) may have come from doing something so well you're killing it and eating it up.
58. Rosalind Wyatt
""...more tender than a 'roni but harder than a jawbreaker". Classic!"
'a roni"= a piece of macaroni (noodle)
a jawbreaker - a type of hard rock candy
59. Eric Matterson
"Back when beats were hard, and lyrics were creative, instead of the slop they come out with in '16"
60. Chloe Combs
"Nobody can touch Lyte when it comes to her delivery. She's straight up gifted. No disrespect to any other artist out there but that's just a fact. PERIOD. Thank U."
"straight up" - absolutely, without any question or equivocation (without any wiggling around the point)
61. Old Turntables
"SCRATCHIN AT THE BREAK. Man I miss that. No T pain or some weak azz R&B group singing the hook or the freakin rapper singing it with auto tune. Just a DJ scratching a hip hop sample during the break.Yeah im biased because im a DJ but still. Gotta love it."
62. Michael Patton
""You can Cha-Cha-Cha to this Mardis Gras
I'm the dopest female that you've heard thus far"
One of the best opening lines in the history of hip hop, and one of the tightest songs ever too."
63. Jay Belafonte
"Back when hip hop was still funky. MC Lyte hands down has one the illest flows"
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