MC Lyte’s Lyte As A Rock vs. Just-Ice’s Back To The Old School. Which is Better?
One year ago, Ambrosia For Heads launched a debate among its readers seeking to answer one of Hip-Hop’s most hotly-contested questions: who is the greatest MC of all time? “Finding The GOAT MC” lasted between September 2014 and May 2015, engaging millions of readers and ultimately producing its winner, as determined by hundreds of thousands of voters. Now, “Finding The GOAT” returns to ask a new question: what is the greatest of all time Hip-Hop album?
“Finding The GOAT Album” will consider 120 albums from three individual eras (40 in each), with options for wild card and write-in candidates. You and your vote will decide which album goes forward, and which one leaves the conversation. While there will no doubt be conversation between family and friends (virtual and real), only votes cast in the voting tool below will be counted, so use the power of your click.
Part of the charm of 1980s Hip-Hop is how distinct debut albums had to be. In an era when music videos were not universally available, an artist had to be diligent about standing out. MC Lyte and Just-Ice are two great examples of this. For Lyte, the Brooklyn native offered a female perspective on Lyte As A Rock, still rapping with a brute force. She spoke of relationships with men, and still waged war on wackness. Uptown, Just-Ice’s Back To The Old School also challenged suitors, as the guttural, Dancehall-informed MC thumped his chest. This LP fought to hold the line of making the microphone hard to earn, while finding a new avenue for Hip-Hop’s sound. Which is better, though? Voting decides the winner (click one then click vote).
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Lyte As A Rock by MC Lyte
MC Lyte dropped one heavyweight debut care of 1988’s Lyte As Rock. The Brooklyn, New Yorker initially introduced as an Audio Two affiliate was quickly “top billin'” in a class of her own. With a rich, melodic vocal tone, and the perfect balance of hard microphone skills and feminine perspectives, Lana Michelle Moorer carved her own lane in a debut that resonates more than 25 years later. In a year that saw Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, and KRS-One aim to sever heads with hard Rap deliveries, “Paper Thin” stood as tall as the competition. The record attacked double-standard relationships, and stood up for women with elite lyrics and delivery. “10% Diss” entered Lyte into the battle ring upon her debut as well. The verbal jabs would become historic, referenced later by both Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown, as Lyte chased Antoinette (and seemingly her career) beyond the ropes.
Lyte As A Rock used the album format effectively. A battle MC in some places, Lyte was a feminist at times (“I Am Woman”), and simply a dazzling rapper in others (“Lyte Thee MC”). On the title track and “MC Lyte Likes Swingin’,” the showmanship was clear, as Lyte’s smooth flow waxed words like conversation.The LP spoke to young women, but was also respected to the utmost in the hardcore Rap circles. Audio Two, King Of Chill, and a newly-freelancing Prince Paul supplied Lyte with heavy drum tracks that have aged the 27 years (this month) gracefully. Although the Lyte one’s greatest commercial hits would appear on later, major label albums, her debut is her most complete, most competitive work. Beyond simply women, this LP that could seamlessly switch from romantic gripes to Rap supremacy paved a way for Ghostface Killah and Drake just as much as Rah Digga and Nicki Minaj.
Album Number: 1
Released: September 13, 1988
Label: First Priority/Atlantic Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): N/A
Song Guests: N/A
Song Producers: Audio Two, King Of Chill, Prince Paul, Alliance
Back To The Old School by Just-Ice
In 1986, as many MCs were forecasting the next wave of Hip-Hop, Just-Ice was upholding the standards of “dope.” Back To The Old School is hardly a fitting title, musically, for an album backed by one of Rap/Electro’s most groundbreaking producers in Kurtis Mantronik. However, on the mic, Joseph Williams, Jr. brought the burning “boogie down” Bronx grit and attitude to the album format. “Cold Gettin’ Dumb” applied the Busy Bee and Kool Moe Dee brand of microphone showmanship to a harder edge beat, and Punk Rock propaganda. “Latoya” was storytelling at its 1986 finest, as Just-Ice spun a tale (with beat-boxing by Human DMX) that DJs loved playing under the needle.
As an MC, Just-Ice was (and is) physical. The gold-toothed rapper treated the mic like a victim, and attacked the instrument with a bully’s prowess. Mantronik was able to match that with booming bass and drum hits that felt like strategic jabs and upper-cut blows. If ever an album was designed for the boombox, Back To The Old School was surely what Radio Raheem would have slid in the JVC before P.E. was on cassette. Few albums by the mid-’80s were as complementary vocally and musically as this Fresh Records LP with the Craftwork Kingz graffiti cover. Almost 30 years later, Just-Ice remains a shadowy figure within Hip-Hop. The Bronx bad boy was a pioneering gangsta rapper (see: “That Girl Is A Slut” and “Gangster Of Hip-Hop”), who simply spit his rawness about the tenets of the culture. In an era where MCs were finding pathways to radio and video, Just-Ice reminded the world that Rap music is an unsettling voice of the streets.
Album Number: 1
Label: Fresh/Sleeping Bag Records
Highest Charting Position (Top 200): N/A
Song Guests: Human DMX
Song Producers: (self), Kurtis Mantronik
So what’s the better album? Make sure you vote above.