Sad as it may seem, it’s not very often that we get a chance to witness teen stars successfully expand their superstardom well into adulthood. It is rare.

But MC Lyte has done just that and more.

The Brooklyn-born hip-hop pioneer released her first album, Lyte As a Rock, at age 18 in 1988—the first female MC to drop a full LP. She also made history as the first female solo rapper to be nominated for a Grammy when her 1993 hit “Ruffneck” was up for a nod. In addition to dropping seven studio albums with an eighth on the way and five no. 1 hits, the two-time Grammy nominee has several acting credits and has lent her recognizable voice to various voiceover campaigns and televised events, including the BET Awards. The 44-year-old currently cohosts the nationally syndicated radio show Café Mocha Radio with comedian Loni Love and Angelique Perrin. And you can also see her whipping up a holiday dish with Chef Roblé on set at The Walmart Holiday Hub in Los Angeles. Yep, girlfriend is everywhere!

And her fans got an extra special treat in October when she hit the stage with Brandy, Queen Latifah and Yo-Yo for the 20th anniversary of Brandy’s “I Wanna Be Down (Remix)” at the 2014 BET Hip Hop Awards.

All of this is good with this femcee, but philanthropy and celebrating the lives of others who help uplift their communities has a special place in her heart. That’s one of the reasons why she co-hosted the Salute Her: Superwomen Making a Difference Awards reception on Monday in Chicago. The event, sponsored by Café Mocha Radio, honored nine Chicago-area women in various categories, including Syleena Johnson, singer and R&B Divas: Atlanta star, digital strategist and blogger Luvvie Ajayi, and fashion designer Barbara Bates.

“The women who are working in the community need to be acknowledged. Who else is going to acknowledge them? It’s up to us say we love the work you’re doing, continue it,” she explained. “Helping people can become a contagious thing, and when you see the good that it does, all of a sudden you have people who have never stepped out of their comfort zone to help anyone wanting to now help.”

MC Lyte touched on several topics during her sit down after the Salute Her reception including the myth (yes, myth) that Black women can’t get along, whether hip-hop artists like Iggy Azalea should address the “plight of Black people,” and Bill Cosby.

Toni Morrison once said that Black women were the original girlfriends, you know, sister-friends. But there are some Black women who feel that we aren’t that friendly toward one another. The support that women in this room are showing one another obviously counters that, but it seems to be a reality for some. Why is that?

MC LYTE: For about the last eight years I’ve come on board as an honorary member of Sigma Gamma Rho. So now I have sorors, and it’s a sisterhood that I’ve never experienced before. I think it takes you actually living through that experience to know that it can happen and to know someone that really has your back and the only interest that they have is in having you feel better about who it is that you are. I don’t think that’s very common in everyday life for women.

I do believe that whatever it is that you look for is what you will find. So if you’re steadily looking to disagree with women or think working with another woman is never going to work, if you have that type of attitude, then that will come to pass. I think that whatever it is that you’re looking for—whether it’s looking for strong women for mentorship or guidance or that you want to become that—you have to be willing to do it for someone else.

Before you joined the sorority how were your relationships with women?

MC LYTE: Well, I had a funny style anyway because I am an only child; I’m independent. For me to actually lean on the shoulder of someone was really unheard of unless it was my mom. But I think it took getting older and understanding that you can have really substantial friendships with women and build a sisterhood with women who will catch you when you’re about to fall.

If you have a group of friends, there are some who have gone through the things that you’re going to go through or that you may be going through now. It’s so funny because when you have real sister-girlfriends and you start talking about something that you’re going through, one out of three is going to say, “Girl, this is what you do.” So you get some of your best advice—and you might not have gone to them for that—but just in talking and being honest, being open and being true, you get to reap some of the benefits of having real friendships.

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