Thursday, November 24, 2011

November 24: MC Lyte, "Cha Cha Cha"

Artist: MC Lyte
Song: "Cha Cha Cha"
Album: Eyes On This
Year: 1989

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Though many will try and deny the reality of the idea, when one looks all across the entire history of recorded music, there is simply no arguing that regardless of the era or genre in question, every musical form has been dominated by male performers.  This is not to say that no females were present, but the overall numbers are extremely out of balance, and there is no other genre where this is more obvious than within the world of hip-hop music.  For more than three decades, the style has been overpowered by male emcees and DJ's, and a majority of the female performers simply do not receive the same accolades and respect as their male counterparts.  However, along this same time-line, few can argue that the handful of female emcees that have been given their due have been anything less than spectacular, and there are few emcees from any era that can compare to the style and sound of MC Lyte.  In fact, it was MC Lyte that made it a point to quite often show this inequality as well as the rampant misogyny within the world of hip-hop, and here first few solo albums are both lyrically devastating, as well as absolutely flawless in every other element of the music.  Due to this reality, there is no question that MC Lyte stands as one of the most important figures in all of hip-hop history, and she was rarely better than what one can find on her phenomenal 1989 single, "Cha Cha Cha."

While the performance from MC Lyte on "Cha Cha Cha" is certainly something beyond fantastic, one must also give ample credit to the music and beats over which she rhymes, as they themselves are of equal quality and timeless in nature.  Though many may not be aware of the song itself, the combination of samples and beats that comprise the music to "Cha Cha Cha" have become absolutely legendary, and have been reused over the years that followed the release of the song.  Yet it is the choice of sample that sets the track far apart from most other songs in hip-hop, as the core music used on "Cha Cha Cha" is actually taken from Kraftwerk's, "The Man Machine."  It almost goes without saying that pulling from the catalog of a group like this was a rarity within the world of hip-hop, and this shows the wide range of musical knowledge within DJ K-Rock.  It is the way that he is able to take this non-traditional sample and make it work perfectly within a hip-hop sound that shows his exceptional level of talent, as the beats and scratches that he deploys over the sample quickly turn "Cha Cha Cha" into an absolute hip-hop classic.  In fact, one can easily make the argument that it was due to this unexpected musical style that the song was able to cross into other styles, and it quickly rose to the top of the rap charts, almost instantly cementing its place as a classic of hip-hop music.

However, even though this sound was uniquely intriguing, the fact remains that the power and presence of "Cha Cha Cha" comes from the dazzling display of skills and sound that comes from MC Lyte herself.  In almost every aspect, MC Lyte is completely distinctive, and it all begins with the amazing calm control that she brings to her rhyming style.  There is never a moment where her vocals sound the least bit forced, and it is the natural, focused delivery that makes her songs all the more captivating.  The clarity within her rhyming also set her far apart from her peers, as it is clear that each word she brings is as important as any other, and the messages within her songs cannot be missed.  To this end, while MC Lyte often went after issues of misogyny and injustice within her rhymes, on "Cha Cha Cha," she shows that she can bring the ego and battle style as perfectly as any other emcee.  There is a drive and strength within every word she speaks on the track, and there is no question that had they not been impressed by her earlier efforts, "Cha Cha Cha" certainly left any doubters with no choice but to hail her as one of the greatest emcees of her era.  The way that she flips her words and creates such powerful images remains one of the cornerstones of the world of hip-hop, and serves as enduring proof that females are just as capable at bringing devastating lyrical prowess as any of their male counterparts.

As the decades have passed, the name of MC Lyte has become one of the most highly respected in the entire history of hip-hop, as she remains one of the most pivotal figures in the rise of females within the genre, as well as the overall development of the style in general.  The way that she seems to so effortlessly drop her brilliantly complex rhymes is without question as good as one can find anywhere in the history of the genre, and in many ways, the fact that she is a female quickly becomes unimportant.  It is the power within each line she rhymes, as well as the fantastic word-play that she presents which quickly draws in the listener, and the fact that her style is so raw and authentic vaults her far beyond nearly any other performer of her era.  Yet it is also the seamless way that she blends her sound with the music over which she performs and the DJ work of K-Rock that sets songs like "Cha Cha Cha" far beyond the efforts of others, as she avoids the disjointed sound that one can find on many of the other "big hits" from the early years of hip-hop music.  It is this complete package and absolutely perfect deployment of every element that can be seen as one of the trademarks of the sound of MC Lyte, and she rarely sounded as good as what one can experience on her superb 1989 single, "Cha Cha Cha."

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