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Lil’ Kim and MC Lyte spoke to the importance of “sisterhood” during the kick-off of Mastercard’s “She Run This” event over Grammy weekend in celebration of Black entrepreneurship in business and hip-hop.
The three-day event, which was held in collaboration with Femme It Forward to spotlight entrepreneurship in business and hip-hop, launched with a three-part panel discussion featuring rap vets Kim, MC Lyte, Salt-N-Pepa and Yo-Yo, alongside emerging artists such as Coi Leray, Baby Tate and Jozzy, and a special appearance by Mastercard ambassador Jennifer Hudson.
During the panel discussion, Lyte explained why she didn’t want to work with other women in the beginning of her career and how her mind-set changed. “All that I’d heard was that working with women wasn’t a good thing because they were so emotional. I adopted this thought, but the truth was, I had to become responsible in the way that I communicated,” she shared with an audience of mostly women at 1010 Wine and Events in Inglewood, Calif., on Thursday (Feb. 2). The Partners in Rhyme star hired a female manager 13 years ago, who has since became her business partner and COO of “everything MC Lyte.”
“There is a way that you can communicate with love and care and kindness and I had not learned that when I [first started out],” she continued. “What I can say now is this business that I’m in is the best for me because I know what sisterhood is.”
Added Kim, “I never knew what it felt like to be unprotected around my sisters. Especially in a male-dominated [industry]. It was hard, but when I was in the comfort of my sisters, I was at my peak. I felt the most powerful.”
“We did everything together,” Kim said of forging a solid sisterhood with MC Lyte, Missy Elliott, Mary J. Blige, Da Brat, Queen Latifah and stylist Misa Hilton early in their careers. Kim has collaborated with fellow female artists on “Ladies Night,” featuring Elliott, Blige, Brat, Left Eye and Angie Martinez; and Christina Aguilera’s “Lady Marmalade” remake with Kim, Pink and Mya.
And after more than 25 years in the rap game, the Queen Bee continues to show support for the new school of female rappers (she recently brought out Lola Brooke during her show at the Apollo Theater).
“Sisterhood and having your sister’s back is important, and Kim always had my back,” said Hilton. “A lot of things started to happen quickly [in her career], so all of a sudden people may try to come between us. People [would] want Kim to do a certain fashion magazine and they’d say, ‘We want to use this stylist,’ but what did she say? ‘Misa has to be there.’ Sticking together and not being afraid to stick up for yourself, not feeling like you’re going to miss out on an opportunity and realizing the power in your voice [is important]. You can demand what you want and you can bring your sisters with you.”
“Everything that I do is everything that I wanted to do when I was 7 years old,” said MC Lyte, whose debut album Lyte as a Rock turns 35 this year. Throughout her career, the Brooklyn native has crossed over from rapping to acting to voice-over work. “I wanted to be on radio, I wanted to use my voice,” she said. “I saw Tootie [played by Kim Fields] on The Facts of Life and I was like, ‘I got to get to Los Angeles because I need to do some acting.’ I wanted to do all those things, but I also realized I had to prepare myself. I couldn’t just show up because [I’m ] MC Lyte; I had to know the skill set. I went to acting school, I went to voice-over coaching classes and workshops. I was just prepared for the moment so as the opportunities lined up, I was able to show up and show out.”
The “She Runs This” campaign includes an immersive “Small Business City” built in Meta Horizon Worlds, a TikTok challenge kicked off by Hudson, an ad campaign furthering Mastercard’s mission to help Black women entrepreneurs thrive, and a Fearless Fund grant contest in partnership with Fearless Fund, a Black-owned venture capital fund aimed at helping women of color. Mastercard and Fearless Fund are providing Black women small business owners with $20,000 grants, plus digital tools and mentorship to help them “build, protect and sustain their business.”
Additionally, Mastercard and Amazon have teamed up for a small business marketplace spotlighting Black women-owned small businesses. The digital marketplace allows owners to share their brand origin stories and connect directly with customers on Amazon Live. Customers can also explore the shoppable social hub of products from exclusively Black women-owned small businesses on Pinterest.
According to Mastercard, 80 percent of U.S. women entrepreneurs, solo-preneurs, small business owners and content creators have endured financial challenges. In recognizing this universal financial obstacle faced by entrepreneurs along with the challenge of battling racism and racial bias, Mastercard is honoring hip-hop’s 50th anniversary by helping equip Black women entrepreneurs with the financial tools, resources and education to successfully accomplish their dreams.