MC Lyte is a legend and hip-hop pioneer whose career spans decades, and now she’s getting involved with a health initiative that is close to her.

She is lending her celebrity to raise awareness for myeloma, a plasma cell cancer.  On March 6, MC Lyte facilitated a Facebook Live discussion titled, “My Word, My Health: What You and Your Community Should Know about Multiple Myeloma.” The discussion included professors of medicine and myeloma patients showcasing diverse perspectives on living with myeloma and the health disparities faced by African American communities. Multiple myeloma is a rare type of blood cancer that impacts 35,000 people in the U.S. each year, with more than 20% of these cases occurring in Black people. Studies show that Black people have better treatment results when given equitable access to care; however, it currently takes Black people twice as long to get treatment from the time of diagnosis compared to white people.

MC Lyte recently talked to Blavity about why she decided to become a part of this cause, revealing that her mother has cancer. Lyte also shared her thoughts on the new generation of women rappers and why hip-hop has lasted 50 years.

How did you get involved with the Facebook discussion you moderated in early March?

MC Lyte: Being part of the launch of the campaign was to just bring awareness to myeloma. And honestly, it started with Wyclef [Jean]. I was talking to Wyclef. He knew exactly what was happening to my mom, who has cancer now. And, I guess he also knew the gentlemen who were putting the project together. And he thought it was a good idea to get me involved. So I met with them, and we talked about how it is that I could help in using my platform to bring some more awareness to exactly what’s happening with myeloma and how people need to go check themselves out, but more importantly, just being open to using myself as a conduit to get the information out there.

For those unfamiliar, this is a cancer that is not diagnosed in high numbers. How does it disproportionately impact the Black community? What have you learned along this journey?

MC Lyte: It’s a terrible blood cancer. And what I’ve also learned by dealing with all of the panelists and being involved in these multi-layered conversations is that it can go undetected if your doctor hears that you’re tired, and you may have these symptoms that are not easily related to be myeloma. Some symptoms include back pain, some lower back pain to the degree that it could feel unmanageable even if you’re working out. So I think it’s just being very intentional about what it is that’s going on with your body and not being led to accept it if it’s not getting better. And, of course, that comes with getting a second and third opinion sometimes.

This discussion occurred during Women’s History Month, and considerable discussions have happened for a few years now about disparities within the Black community, specifically among African-American women. There’s a lot of conversation around fertility, different types of cancers, fibroids and similar things. How important are these discussions, and how are you hoping to continue to lend your voice to help elevate these discussions?

MC Lyte: I am here for the long haul. So, for the latter part of your question, it’s important for me not only to be a conduit and use my platform but to be participatory in the conversations. Because that’s where we learn. Some of the conversations that have happened throughout my life have been because people were open and willing to share their experiences, which to me means everything. As someone who was there to witness those types of conversations, I was able to learn at an early age some of the things that, fortunately, I did not have to go through because I heard people speaking of their experiences. And once again, this is one of those conversations where even if you’re just there to hear it and not participate, you’re going to get some truth that will hopefully, if you allow it to, help you in your now and your future.

As we age, we tend to get more intentional about our health. In what ways would you say that you have adjusted your lifestyle?

MC Lyte: I would love to think that I just got this perfect cookie-cutter eating, schedule or regimen. But the truth is when you’re mindful about it, you can make better decisions. And there will be occasions where you might eat something that they say isn’t good for you, but it’s about balance and actively working to do better. Are you getting out and doing some exercise? Am I getting on the treadmill? Am I forcing my heart rate to come up? Those are some of the ways I have been a little bit more intentional about what I eat and also allowing myself and committing myself to some sort of physical activity during the day.

Outside of everything you’ve done regarding the health stuff, you’ve been an in-demand host and moderator for some time now. At what point in your career did you realize you needed to diversify your entertainment portfolio outside of being an MC?

MC Lyte: It was very early on in my career. My first manager said to me one day that it was a duty to raise the awareness of my celebrity without a hit record. And so we began at that point to concentrate on how to make that happen. But more specifically, I began to really hone in on all of the other things that I wanted to do. So I went to acting class and voiceover coaching and things of that nature because I knew that would be next up in the line for what it was that I wanted to do. And I didn’t want to be asked to be involved in something and invited and not be able to deliver. So it was the preparation, and I think that must have happened probably in my early 20s.

You mentioned the idea of a hit record. You are a hip-hop pioneer. So, how do you feel about the state of women in hip-hop today? It is still a male-dominated industry, but many female rappers are really having success, in and out of music.

MC Lyte: There’s not only room for one at the top. I think me and a bunch of others can dispel that. If we just allow ourselves to see the truth that there’s more than one, there are so many that are so different from one another and speak different languages, come from different places and, quite frankly, represent different types of people. I just think it’s up to those who are willing to take that on as a responsibility. We can shed some more light so that it won’t just be one.

I feel like there are so many great females representing different things. I saw an article that was written recently, and it was about how, in Houston, there are 22 female rappers who all have music out, who all have videos, who are really taking their craft and this business seriously. And that’s just Houston. Across the country and across the world, so many women have taken to the mic, and it’s all up to us who it is that we decide to listen to and who it is that we decide to follow. 

So, I can’t blame anything mainstream because that’s what it is. It’s mainstream, and I don’t own it. So they get to do whatever they want to do with it. But in the meantime, if we want to show some love to Rapsody, Tierra Wack or Flo Milli, or to whoever it is that’s out there, including the acts who have achieved mainstream crossover success like Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat and others. So, I think it’s important to show some love and admiration to those who may not necessarily be counted as mainstream.

Last year was the 50th anniversary of hip-hop and you were involved in a few things. Ironically, The Roots Picnic celebrated its 25th anniversary simultaneously. There was an amazing CBS special that aired and featured a lot of hip-hop pioneers. And it was fun to see everyone get together and honor hip-hop and what has happened with rap since its inception. In the beginning, many believed hip-hop was a fad. What would you attribute its staying power to?

MC Lyte: It’s eternal. There’s really no way to describe it. As long as people keep feeding energy into it, it continues to grow. And that’s the truth. Hip-hop is for everyone. Anyone in their bedroom, a studio, a classroom, or some afterschool program where they make music can make a hip-hop record. You can put the record up and now instantly become a part of what we call hip-hop.

There are many different levels to hip-hop. There’s also a culture that needs to be considered. And frankly, to some degree, by those who respect it. Hip-hop was a gift from God to a disenfranchised group of people, and they decided to take it and make something of it. And this is where we are today.