MC Lyte offers a stern warning from the get-go of her new album, Seven and Seven: "Y'all better not f--- with me, cuz I'm having a bad day." After more than a decade in the hip-hop game, we wouldn't dare. Her rapping style may ride the fence between hardcore and girl-next-door core, and she may prefer bowling to gang bangin', but getting caught on the blunt end of an MC Lyte bad day couldn't be a good thing. Seven and Seven, her sixth studio album, is like a melodic freight train -- slammin' at one point, breezy the next -- keeping in tune with the way Lyte has run her career from the start.
In a nutshell, her latest effort is the hardest, smartest, funniest female rap album of 1998; it's full of memorable anecdotes, graceful beats and tasteful samples (David Bowie's "Fame," the Commodores' "Night Shift"). Lyte took a break from the Philadelphia set of the film Train Ride, where she plays a college student who is date-raped by fellow students, to shoot the shiznet about bowling, working with L.L. Cool J and Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliot, and the meanest thing she's ever done to anyone.
So, tell me about Train Ride...
We can't talk about it that much, but it takes place on a college campus and I'm playing a female by the name of Katrina. There are just some die-hard issues that come up during the course of the movie that college students have been forced to deal with in the past and will continue to have to deal with in the future. It's a beautiful project and I'm just happy that I made it.
Speaking of acting, what actor would you most like to do a love scene with?
Oh my goodness! I'd probably have to say [actor] Lawrenz Tate. But it's much better to want for it to happen, than actually have it happen.
This record really moves along smoothly ... how did you keep yourself sane in the studio?
I lived my normal life. I went bowling and to the movies - I just did things that made me happy, so I didn't feel like I was held captive recording an album.
You're a big bowler?
Yeah, big time. Got my own ball, my own shoes. I used to be on the bowling team in high school.
Oh boy, I don't want you to print that! About a 180-something. If a bowler saw that score, they'd say, 'What is she talking about she bowls?'
How often do you bowl?
About two times a week. I actually have two balls - don't tell anybody. My ten-pounder is purple and [reads] "Striker" and my blue one is twelve-pounds and "Lyte" is on there.
So what was it like working with L.L. Cool J. on "Play Girls Play?"
It was cool. L.L. wrote about ninety percent of that song -- I didn't become involved until the last verse, and he kind of envisioned what he wanted from me. It's not often that you work with producers who know what they want from start to finish. But then, on the same token, it was a little difficult - especially when you're dealing with someone that is a rapper. When they write something, they want you to say it exactly like them -- the same breaths have to be taken and the same pronunciation. That's sometimes hard when you are dealing with another rapper, because I'm a rapper too! So we'd come to different forks in the road and, before you know it, the roads would merge together and we'd be back on the same track again.
What's Seven and Seven a reference to?
Well, seven is a perfect number, and I'm giving it to you twice. It's also an introspective number, which means I looked inside for this album. I didn't feel pressured by the hip-hop world to do a particular kind of album. I just let the music speak to me and talked about what came naturally. On one of the records, I think I say, 'I play spades' or something like that. At first I thought, 'This is so corny!' But then one of the guys who I was writing with said, 'No, leave that! That's you! You play spades!' And I said, 'Yeah, you're right, I do. They'll get over it.'
On "Too Fly," you seem to be talking to someone specific. What's that all about?
Actually I'm not. Missy [Elliot] already had the hook in -- too fly. I thought, 'OK, too fly. What am I too fly for?' and I just pieced it together. Just listening to the music it made me feel like a relationship had just ended. It almost made me feel like rain -- like a thunderstorm going on. It's almost like a fictitious novel that I make myself the first person.
So the line about "Next time I see her I'ma poke her in the eye" wasn't aimed at anyone?
Nah, I just needed something to rhyme with the line before that!
You've got a lot of references on the album to guys who can't make it last in bed ...you been running into a lot of two-pump chumps lately?
Um, no. I've probably come across some who couldn't make up for it -- not sexually though. Just by not giving themselves emotionally.
How is your love life?
I'm -- oh, god I hate this word -- dating. I feel like the Brady Bunch when I say that word. But I am seeing someone, but it's not serious and we both know this. You'd never know him in a million years -- right now he plays basketball in China.
What's the meanest thing you've ever done to somebody?
Oh my goodness. My godsister stayed over at my house when I was seven or eight. She must have done something to me -- I don't know what -- but I know that I laid my jacks out on the floor on the way to the bathroom so if she got up in the middle of the night, she would step on my jacks.
Speaking of violence, how have you managed to keep yourself out of the violent side of hip-hop all these years?
Probably because I'd rather be bowling than at an awards show.