Beyond Slutty 

MC Lyte chucks the small fry

FRI 7/8 Years before striking gold -- and a Grammy nomination -- with her rapaciously seductive joint "Ruffneck," MC Lyte had every hip-hop head and his momma on her jock. After all, if you're a twelve-year-old Brooklynite kicking down rhymes and flossing with the fellas while most of your female counterparts are at home popping pimples, the world of liberated-black-woman hip-hop is your oyster. And granted, MC Lyte was a borough Lothario worth her salt. In 1989, a scant year after unleashing her debut album, Lyte as a Rock, she emerged with the shockingly funky Eyes on This, whose tracks "Cha Cha Cha," "Slave 2 the Rhythm" (characterized by the oft-sampled loop Funky fresh, dressed to impress, ready to pah-ty), and "I Am the Lyte" could still crank up a dancefloor sixteen years later. Listening to her early raps still feels like sitting on a couch right next to the sassy Brooklyn teen while she explains, with calculation and poise, exactly why she had to clock your homeboy. A forerunner of Queen Latifah and originator of the "gangsta pussy" concept that Medusa would commit to poetry ten years later, MC Lyte was known for reversing gender roles. Her raps had the "nyah-nyah" quality of an MC sticking her fingers in her ears and blowing raspberries. The fact that Lyte's way of atoning for past rejections was to out-slut the men who wronged her seemed enabling, rather than disconcerting: Barring the spread of HIV, many of Lyte's female fans delighted in the prospect of tapping into their inner hoochie. The new women's-lib mantra that hip-hop effusively promoted was something to the tune of Yeh, we did it, you didn't call/That's awright, I'm doin' your boy Paul ("Lil Paul").

Fortunately, Lyte grew into her torchbearer role, and even managed to open a space for tenderness with her more soulful, groove-oriented albums Act Like You Know and Bad as I Wanna Be. She still is the kind of battle rapper who could chew you up and spit you right back out. Lyte proved her verbal prowess while freestyling on the World Famous Wake Up Show around the time she dropped her 2003 album, Da Undaground Heat, Vol. 1 -- but she also has managed to stretch beyond hip-hop's macho shtick. Showing Tom up by getting with Paul is a fun revenge tactic, but it's not the pinnacle of women's empowerment. Then again, when you've clocked two decades in hip-hop, Tom and Paul are small fry, anyway.

MC Lyte performs this Friday at @Seventeenth, 510 17th St., Oakland. The show starts at 9 p.m. and costs $23. For more info: 510-433-0577 or -- Rachel Swan


A Lot to Like

Brainwash -- only $8

The two-day Brainwash Drive-In/Bike-In Movie Festival, which screens indie flicks in a parking lot in West Oakland, refuses to take itself too seriously ("All patrons in the trunk of a full car get in free!"). The eleventh annual features a typical backseat-full of titles like My Hustler Boyfriend, Illegal Aliens Attack, Suffering the Legitimacy of Aesthetics, Extreme Bible Stories, and Zoom Suit. It takes place Friday and Saturday nights (9 p.m.) at the Alliance for West Oakland Development, 1357 5th St., Oakland. $8. -- Kelly Vance


Flaming, Groovy

When is it a good idea to play with fire? When the West Oakland industrial performance art organization the Crucible is involved. The fifth annual Fire Arts Festival, which benefits the nonprofit's metalworking education programs, is like Burning Man without all the dust. The FAF lights up on Tuesday with the launch of new youth-oriented classes, then continues on through the next week with a preview of desert art destined for Black Rock City, two arena shows (Lightning from Above and Magma from Within), a studio open house, intensive weekend workshops, an auction, and more. Ticket packages include all-access for $100 and both arena shows for $40. -- Eric K. Arnold

SAT 7/9

Interstellar Overdrive

Fly me to the moon/and let me play among the stars, Frank Sinatra once sang. Unfortunately for would-be planetary explorers, NASA's admission standards are pretty high. But now there is a way to blaze trails across the universe: Solar-Go-Round, an interactive tour of our very own solar system. If you're curious about the weather on Titan (one of Saturn's moons), or how craters are formed, your mission starts at Chabot Space & Science Center July 9. -- Eric K. Arnold


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