MC Lyte’s “Eyes On This” LP Turns 34

As far as pioneering female rappers go, MC Lyte is beyond untouchable. She was the first woman in rap to release a studio album, paving the way for everyone else after her. Breaking onto the scene at 16, her talent was undeniable from her debut album. However, she kept the ball rolling with her sophomore project, Eyes on This.

Since Hip Hop was birthed 50 years ago, several exceptional artists have come and gone. Nonetheless, MC Lyte is etched in the genre’s history permanently.  She has significantly contributed to the untouchable legacy of Hip Hop with her impressive discography. Eyes on This is now a 34-year-old album worthy of all the praise it has received over the years. After the success of her debut album, MC Lyte proved that she was no one-hit wonder.

The Road To Sophomore Success

In 1988, at 17, MC Lyte released her debut album Lyte as a Rock. It was a critical and commercial success, featuring hit tracks like “Paper Thin” and “10% Dis.” The album established Lyte as a prominent voice in the male-dominated Hip Hop scene. Due to the success of her debut album, there was a lot at stake for the rapper. Understandably, she had something to prove with her follow-up. This was especially important because it was set to arrive at a time when Hip Hop was beginning to gain significant mainstream attention. 

Additionally, the genre diversified in styles and voices; she was already a unique figure. All things considered, MC Lyte had to put out an album good enough to arrest people’s attention. She took on the challenge, releasing Eyes on This on October 3, 1989, just a year after her debut. The project accomplished its main goal, further solidifying MC Lyte’s position as one of the leading voices in Hip Hop.

MC Lyte’s Artistic Evolution

Eyes on This represented a maturing of MC Lyte’s style. Her lyricism became sharper, and she tackled more topics than she had in her previous album. On songs like “Cappuccino,” “Not With a Dealer,” and “Please Understand,” she addressed issues like sexism, gun violence and empowerment. Furthermore, the album displayed her growing versatility as a rapper. It especially demonstrated her ability to balance party anthems like “Slave to the Rhythm” with socially conscious tracks.

The Innovative Approach To Eyes on This

Eyes on This was created when sampling was prevalent in Hip Hop production. The album’s production was handled by a handful of prominent producers, including Audio Two, Marley Marl, and PMD among others. They utilized samples from various genres, creating a diverse musical backdrop for MC Lyte to express her creativity. All 13 tracks on Eyes on This contain samples, some more than others. “Shut the Eff Up! (Hoe),” however, has the most samples on the album. The track borrows from eight different songs, and three of them were songs by MC Lyte herself.

A Second Win For MC Lyte

Upon its release, Eyes on This was lauded for its lyrical content, delivery, and production. Critics praised MC Lyte’s confidence and the album’s ability to address societal issues with intelligence and wit. The album also had a relatively successful commercial run. However, most notably, it was the first solo album by a female rapper to appear on the Billboard 200 chart, peaking at number 86. Its three singles, “Cha Cha Cha,” “Stop, Look, Listen,” and “Cappucino,” also performed moderately on the charts. All three songs peaked within the top 10 of the Hot Rap Songs chart. However, only “Cha Cha Cha” managed to reach the top spot on that chart. 

The Album’s Legacy

Eyes on This is one of MC Lyte’s primary works that influenced subsequent generations of female rappers, including Lil’ Kim, Missy Elliot, and Eve. It showed that women could excel in a male-dominated industry, particularly the second time. In summary, Eyes on This continues to be celebrated as a classic album in the Hip Hop industry. The rapper had grown in confidence, skill, and tenacity in just one year. 


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