MC Lyte originally titled her upcoming album Seven & Seven (Aug. 25) because she planned to have seven songs on each side of the vinyl release.
But then she found herself with so much material, plus three "interludes" between songs, that the album finally ended up with a grand total of 21 tracks. Happy enough that 21 is a multiple of seven, she elected to keep the title as is.
"In addition to seven being the perfect number," Lyte (a.k.a. Lana Moore), 27, explained Tuesday from a film set in suburban Philadelphia, "it's being more introspective. I felt I was really introspective on this album -- just pulling things out of me for the lyrical content."
As a result, the album touches on such topics as losing a loved one ("Better Place"), the devastating effects of drug abuse ("King of Rock") and being in love ("It's All Yours"). It also keeps the party jams coming, as "Give Me What I Want" uses a bassline from Apollonia 6's "Nasty Girl," "Put It On You" incorporates the signature hook from David Bowie's "Fame" and "Oogie Boogie" makes nice use of the popping bass from A Taste of Honey's disco chestnut "Boogie Oogie Oogie."
"I just wanted something that was comfortable, you know, something that you could actually ... if you were having a conversation, you could actually play it in the background," Lyte said. "It wouldn't be something you have to say, 'Oh my God, I have to turn this off! I can't think!' That's not the kind of music I like to listen to."
That may come as a surprise to those who remember when Lyte first exploded onto the scene in 1987 with the Audio Two-produced single "I Cram to Understand U (Sam)."
Her debut album, Lyte as a Rock, spawned three more rough-edged hit singles: "10% Dis," "Paper Thin" and the title track. Making her presence known during a period when the hip-hop world was almost totally male-dominated, Lyte proved herself an equal of any male MC with her tough delivery, intelligent rhymes and fearlessness to do battle through her music by taking to task the sexism of some male rappers. She also has scored hip-hop hits with "Cha Cha Cha" and "Cappuccino" off 1989's Eyez on This, "Ruffneck" from 1993's Ain't No Other and "Keep On, Keepin' On" and "Cold Rock a Party" from 1996's Bad as I Wanna B.
Longtime MC Lyte fan Jessica Stevens, 24, said that she wasn't such a huge fan of Lyte's last two R&B-influenced albums but that she has been encouraged by reports that this album contains a lot more of the battle-ready rap that she loves about MC Lyte. "There's nothing 'girly' about MC Lyte," explained Stevens, an Indianapolis resident, in an e-mail.
Stevens said she liked Lyte's music because of the rapper's strength as an artist and because she doesn't have to resort to using her sexuality to get attention. "I've found her to be very inspiring and I hope to feel the same about Seven & Seven," she added.
Lyte, who said she hasn't used her raps as a means to battle other hip-hop artists in years, said she feels that fans such as Stevens will be happy with songs such as the album's first single, "I Can't Make a Mistake" (RealAudio excerpt), the old-school-sounding "Top Billin" and the gritty, LL Cool J-produced "Playgirls Play." "A person isn't necessarily all that much into hip-hop," she said. "But, still, you know, they may skim the surface of it."
"Playgirls Play" is actually Lyte's second collaboration with rap star LL Cool J; they both co-wrote her contribution to the all-star 1988 hip-hop song "Self Destruction."
Lyte said she enjoyed working with LL and Missy Elliott (who produced three songs on the album) for the same reason: They had vision. "They're both the kind of people who see a project, know what they want to do with it and just do it," Lyte explained. "That's how I like to work."
"Either you play it safe and come out with something that sounds like everyone else's songs or you take the risk and come out with something different," Lyte explained. "I'd rather come out with something different than stick to the realm of what everyone else is doing."