Missy Elliott, Remy Ma, and Lil' Kim
In celebration of women's history month, we're spotlighting 31 great female MCs over 31 days. (left to right) Getty Images for BE, WireImage/Getty Images (2)


Day 1: MC Lyte

Since she was moved to rap by the soundscapes of Salt-N-Pepa blasting through her boombox, MC Lyte has inspired both men and women to rap at their fullest potential through her sharp lyricism and accomplishments, such as being the first solo female rapper to drop a major label album with 1988's "Lyte As A Rock."

Good Ol' Days
"I remember the days of the New Music Seminar, who were the best, where you had a bunch of talented people in love with this new art form. We'd all gather for the DJs and we'd visit hip-hop clubs once or twice a week to see the latest act, be it Rakim, KRS-One. I remember seeing Public Enemy for the first time at Latin Quarter. There were 15 on this small stage, performing 'Welcome to the Terrordome.' It was fantastic."

Being A Woman In the Industry
"There may have been times when promoters didn't want to pay me what I deserved. In a line-up they didn't want to put me where my songs warranted me going. But none of it affected me to a degree to where it mattered. There may have been set-backs but I never let get to me."

"Labels were signing MCs who were women, and it was all based on skill. It had nothing to do with anything else. I was Sylvia Rhone's first signing as an executive at Atlantic Records, and she still went on to sign a plethora of female MCs. We were one of the only labels who had three [female MCs] signed at the same time: Yo-Yo, Champ MC [and] J.J. Fad. That was pretty much unheard of, because it felt like every label had [just] one.

"Truth be told, I don't think many labels understood the difference between each female MC. They thought one female MC should cover the gamut of all female MCs. Sylvia and her team clearly saw the difference between each of us.

"Labels didn't steer me any kind of way. They just wanted me to be me. All of us, in the late 80s/early 90s, were given the opportunity to express ourselves – lyrically and esthetically – in ways that we chose to. I don't think it was 'til much later that it became important to others to get in the middle."

Sisterhood in Hip-Hop
"The conversations between [Queen] Latifah and myself during that time… we are growing up in New York. She was from New Jersey but she spent a lot of time in New York. The overall discussion, which included De La Soul and Tribe Called Quest, was on how we were raised by reggae music, because so many Caribbean families had moved to the New York. We spent a lot of time listening to reggae music and talking about the latest dance trend, latest hip-hop song and just music overall. We are drenched in music and understanding it because we were it.

"It wasn't until the video shoot for the remix to Brandy's 'I Wanna Be Down' when YoYo and I were really able to come together because she was on the West coast and I was on the East coast. We wound up doing a song for YoYo's album ("One For the Cuties"), and ever since then YoYo is my sister. All of the hip-hop sisters, in any given day, I can speak to: Yo-Yo, Missy [Elliott], Lil' Mama [and] Latifah. It is a sisterhood that exists; now it's just that we all got our lives that we're living, so it's pretty cool when we're able to get together.

"Closeness exists with those who feel it's necessary to keep those bridges of communication open, and those who feel good on an island stay on it."

"10% Dis" and Beef Amongst Female Rappers
"To me it's all a part of hip-hop. Back then, I had only met Antoinette once, and never seen her again except at the World but nonetheless it ['10 % Dis'] was done in the spirit of hip-hop. I was the baddest MC. If you don't think you're the baddest MC then you might as well just sit down cause that's what hip-hop is all about. It's braggadocio. You can come up and win a different type of way, but you stand the chance of your ground being shaken. You have to put your stakes in and say, 'I have to come at you some point.'

"That was then. Now there are MCs who can go at one another lyrically, and it's respected as just that. But then when it comes out of the record, it's when it becomes an issue. Even then, it feels as though, that with a little time they're able to work things out. I just saw most recently Rick Ross and Young Jeezy have worked out their differences, which is a big deal. I'm sure there were other guys around who pushed and promoted that to happen. I hope the same for the ladies, if given a space where there's an altercation that's able to be worked out."

Advice To One's Younger Self
"I'd tell myself, 'Don't be afraid to ask questions. You're young, you're just going with the flow, and by the time some of us decide to ask questions, it's too late. When you ask yourself those questions, you have to be ready for the answers that may cause a certain chain of events to take place. When I finally did ask the questions I also had to make the decisions to leave management. Also, I don't think anyone understands to be in the present moment until we're older."

What's Next?
"I've been carving out time from A&Ring and Sunni Gyrl.I'm recording my new album. It's a merge of what's happening now, and what was happening then. Strong bass lines really work well with my delivery. The crew of people that I'm working with, called the Natives, have been able to tap into a sound that's great for me. There are eight musicians that are varied in age, so it lends itself puling in everything that's happening that's going in music today.

"Lyrically, a lot of it has to do with love: be it looking for it, being misguided, being disappointed, being hopeful... The music speaks to me, and this is the story that should be told with this particular body of music."