by Janelle Harris
(excerpted from the June 2009 issue of Sister 2 Sister magazine)
Hip-hop journalists and appreciators of the culture have long bemoaned the lack of women on the mic. Luckily, West Coast rapstress Yo-Yo is stepping back in to fill the void, two decades after she got her first taste of fame at 17. You still can’t play her out, but she wants fans—new and old—to feel free to play her music.
Yo-Yo’s latest album, My Journey to Fearless: Black Butterfly, showcases her liberation as a grown woman living life for herself, something she says she couldn’t do for much of her career.
“When I say fearless, it’s mind, body and soul; it’s me feeling complete,” Yo-Yo said. “I’ve been extreme in certain areas throughout my career—IBWC, totally one way,” said Yo-Yo of her former affiliation with the Intelligent Black Women’s Coalition. Now the single mother of two daughters, ages 14 and 5, isn’t being influenced by the pressures to be a gangsta “b” alongside Ice Cube or a power-to-the-people preacher with her IBWC sistas. “I think this album is more middle, a balance. I don’t have to battle between the old Yo-Yo and the woman I am today.” Scheduled for an April release, My Journey is her first project to be available digitally—a cue she took from the listening tastes of her eldest daughter.
For a while, Yo-Yo stopped wanting to do music. “I kept trying to go back to my old ways, and every time I tried to write something, I didn’t like it because it didn’t represent me then; people wanted me to come harder,” she admitted. “I just decided that maybe it was time for me to quit.” The creativity wasn’t all the way gone, just redirected in other projects, including her work with the Let Yo Lyte Shine Youth Foundation, a community outreach partnership she shares with fellow hip-hop icon MC Lyte. She’s also a trained actress and relevant celeb, co-hosting “Miss Rap Supreme” on VH1 and stunning everyone at the BET Hip-Hop Awards with her 20-something figure.
It’s been 11 years since her last album, but Yo-Yo is ready to throw herself back into her music—just on her own terms. What’s the difference between Yo-Yo and the real Yolanda Whitaker? “Now Yo-Yo comes out after 9:00,” she laughed.
Check out the June 2009 issue of Sister 2 Sister magazine to get up on K’naan, Wayna and Anami Jordan.