14 January 2016

VIDEO: MC Lyte - In Performance at the White House

While networks like Fox "News" (yes the quotes are on purpose) and such have called President Barack Obama the "rapper in chief" as an insult, the hip hop community can actually take that title as a compliment. More emcees have been invited to the White House under President Obama than any other president (I could also make the leap and say more than all other presidents combined. Do I have numbers to back it up? No. But it sounds right, don't it?). In some way or another, these hip hop artists have been in the White House during Obama's presidency: Kendrick Lamar, Killer Mike, Common, Ludacris, Queen Latifah, Doug E. Fresh, Wale, Jay Z and Big Sean. Big Sean was technically the first rapper to perform on White House property. He and then girlfriend, Ariana Grande, performed a song (that I'm sure was very popular) during the Easter Egg Roll in 2014. But who was the first emcee to perform inside those hallowed walls?

Last Friday (January 8th) PBS aired A Celebration of American Creativity: In Performance at the White House. This years celebration marks the 50th anniversary of the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act. This vital and significant law was signed by President LBJ on September 29, 1965. The act gave birth to The National Endowment for the Humanities as an independent federal agency of the U.S. government. Along with the National Endowment for the Arts, these agencies are dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities. For almost 40 years, this tribute concert has featured almost every genre of music. Except one. Hip hop. But this years theme, A Celebration of American Creativity, provided the perfect arrangement for hip hop to make its White House debut.

Queen Latifah performed Preachin' The Blues with Trombone Shorty earlier that evening. She played Tennessee blues singer Bessie Smith for the HBO biopic film Bessie. And toward the end of the celebration the Queen came on stage again. But this time it was to introduce the next act. Queen Latifah introduced the legendary MC Lyte as "my mentor, my inspiration, my all in all, the godmother of hip hop." The Brooklyn emcee began her set with the first verse of her track Dear John in spoken word form. Her lyrics are front and center in her a capella delivery. Accompanied by the house band, Lyte jumps into her energetic track Cha Cha Cha. MC Lyte had so much fun onstage that she even personalized the song for the occasion, "You can Cha Cha Cha to this Mardi Gras/ You're the best president that I've seen thus far." In two song snippets, MC Lyte was able represent the hip hop culture in the best way possible. She showcased the positive/fun side of our music as well as making sure to highlight the power that our music can have through social commentary. I could not be happier to have the beautiful MC Lyte be the face (literally as well, because at 45 she is still flawless) of hip hop to the White House audience.

Peep concert video below. As well as music video for Dear John and Cha Cha Cha.

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