Saturday, March 7, 2009

Snowed In With Lyte Week, Day 6: Just Like a Test

Along with "Paper Thin," "I Cram 2 Understand U" was one of MC Lyte's first attempts at song-writing with a little more substance than freestyles and battle rhymes... and "Paper Thin" was so hard, it was almost 50% battle rhyme anyway! :-D But not "I Cram 2 Understand U." This was a song about relationships, her first narrative song, and a song with a message. Historically, such attempts are where Lyte missteps from the realm of classic bangers to awkward mistakes, but this is a rare exception that's always managed to find a warm spot in the hearts of fans.

Part of the reason for that is how the producers, the Audio Two (and mixed by Daddy O, by the way), keep it incredibly raw and simple. The beat is nothing but a simple drum track, and the hook is just one vocal sample played very briefly between verses. Lyte's really on her own out there as an MC, and she pulls it off with aplomb.

The other part is the cleverness of how the song is actually an extended metaphor, just like Common's heralded "I Used To Love H.E.R.," except this came out seven years earlier. There, Common raps about a girl he's dating, and it's only at the end we find out this "girl" was actually hip-hop, and the phases of their relationship were actually descriptions of the genre's different styles. Here, Lyte talks about being in a relationship with Sam, who seems great except he's apparnetly cheating on her. Lyte's friends try to warn her, he starts borrowing money, "Then my cousin said she saw you with this lady named C/ Well I'm clawin' my thoughts, I wonder who she could be?/ You're spending all your time with her, and not a second with me/ They say you spend your money on her and you're with her night and day." Finally, it's revealed that this "lady named C" is actually an extended metaphor for crack, and Sam is harboring a drug addiction.

This sticker cover 12" also lays out the full spread for us with this tune. It features the original, a radio version, dub and even an acapella. I mean, what more could you ask for besides maybe a hot, 12" exclusive b-side track? Oh wait, yeah; it's got that, too.

It's a short but tight cut called "Take It Lyte," also produced by the Audio Two. It's a fast-paced track with crashing cymbals and Lyte representing herself and her DJ. Lyte sounds hard (and young!) on this one, and K Rock provides some simple but effective scratches on the hook. And, thankfully, this time around there's no message. 8)

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