YoYo is a hip-hop legend… period!
Bred from the South Central district of Los Angeles, YoYo, real name Yolanda Whitaker, caught her big break when she was featured on Ice Cube’s 1990 debut album AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted.
The song “It’s A Man World" represented for all the badass females not only in the rap game but all around the world.
YoYo recently made her reality TV debut on the sixth season of "Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood," delivering intelligence, experience, and knowledge into this generation.
She has also returned to the booth and prepares to release her first single in decades “Out Of Control."
AllHipHop caught up with YoYo in downtown Los Angeles to chat about the woman’s image in society today, her friendship with R. Kelly and Tupac, and the mission behind the YoYo School of Hip Hop.
AllHipHop: For those who are younger and may not know, who is YoYo?
YoYo: I’m a mother. I’m a grandmother now. I’m a hip-hop legend. I’m a community activist. I’m a voice for the people. I’m a friend. I’m a sister. I’m fearless. I’m strong. I’m lonely, I’m weak. [laughs]
AllHipHop: Why do you say lonely?
YoYo: Oh God, well sometimes I do feel lonely. This industry is a lonely industry. For me, trying to get it right for me has been a lonely journey.
AllHipHop: Do you think you’ll ever understand it?
YoYo: I’m in a place of trying to be an artist and sometimes trying to be my true self. Trying not to be so hard and work on my soft side. More gentle, which is a journey.
AllHipHop: How was it with Ice Cube? How did you resolve him calling himself “the b##ch killa”?
YoYo: You know what, he never called me the b##ch. So it was always good because he had a direction for my career. At that time, I had no idea what the direction even was. b##ch killa? I think b##ches took that word and owned it. [chuckles]
AllHipHop: Reality TV is perceived to portray women negatively, is that true in your experience?
YoYo: Women are so desperate. Not all of them but some women are so desperate to get on, they’re willing to do anything. I remember when we were making a voice for hip-hop and we had standards. We had morals. Not that women today don’t, but there were things we just didn’t do. Then came the video vixens, video girls changed the game because you’re thinking here you were fighting for one thing. A lot of women who get that title for reality TV, for hip-hop, for whatever else reason, they want it. They want that notoriety.
AllHipHop: What is your perspective on images of women in 2019?
YoYo: Women are badass. We are making way for ourselves, for our families. We have so much power. The fact that we have bridged so many gaps from generations to generations is incredible. On the other hand, those who don’t know their power are setting trends that we’re trying to water down when it comes to the strength of a woman. Not playing always into a man’s hand.
AllHipHop: You’re releasing your first song in over a decade “Out The Control.” What made you want to record again?
YoYo: I didn’t want to record at first. What made me want to record is being back on the scene. Being back out there and the way people have received me, the love I’ve been getting. I was thinking at first, do they really want me to get back out there? Is that something that people really want? Because they just say that, maybe they don’t know what to say when they see me. I was thinking that for a long time, but so much love out there. Hip-hop is constantly growing. Now, this generation is loving 90’s music so much, I’m like why not?
AllHipHop: Your rhymes, you’re known for your political activism. Do you worry about LNHH damaging your brand?
YoYo: No, only I can damage my brand. Because I’m such an activist, it’s what I’ve always done. I jump into it. I had to kill my ego in order to rebrand and renew myself, and what better way to do it. This generation, they’re so fearless that they are “in your face” energy. I’m used to it. A lot of people run from it like they ran from hip-hop. Me, I embrace it. I make it my own. I show them love. I get into it the way I’ve gotten into everything. Hopefully, you’ll see more legendary artists being a part of shows, things they thought they couldn’t tap or was tabooed.
AllHipHop: How did you get the gig?
YoYo: I got a call. They called me up and said “hey, what do you think about Love & Hip-Hop? We’re interested in sitting down and seeing if you fit for this season. Would you be interested?” I said I’d get back to them. By the end of the day, I’d said yes. Because I made my mind already from my past experiences: say yes and let God say no. Everything for me is for me. If it’s not, no one can make me look bad.
AllHipHop: What’s the best part of filming the show?
YoYo: Blending in with this generation of youth. Letting me reintroduce myself to a new generation who knows nothing about me. Because I work in the community and do so much education work with students, image and trending is very important to them. In order for me to be back in, they recognize me. They see my face. It opens up doors to allow conversation with kids who normally wouldn’t talk to me because I’m considered old school.
AllHipHop: Are the ladies in LNHH taking your advice in real life? It looks like a war between Summer Bunni, A1, and Lyrica on social.
YoYo: It is a real war. You sleep with somebody’s husband and she just had a baby — it’s so hard yet it’s happening every day. The great part is when you know better, you do better. Even Summer Bunni has a right to be wrong and hopefully get it right. I like being in that process where you’re f##king up in life and you have a friend — someone you look up to or you reach out to for help — to say “hey listen I want to help you, but you can’t be screwing no girl’s man.”
That’s a decision women have to make because men are really tricky. They have a way of persuading you, pursuing you, even though they have a whole family at home. If your n##ga was shacking, then he shouldn’t have been macking. [laughs]
AllHipHop: If a chick or male gets too ratchet, will you beat them up?
YoYo: Yeah. If someone throws a drink in my face, I’m f##king them up. Period. [chuckles]
AllHipHop: Do you long for the days of positive ideals in rap?
YoYo: I like true artists. I don’t look for just positive rap because that’s boring, no disrespect. I like an artist. I like a wide range of music, but I want to feel it. There’s an energy that comes with it. I want to feel realness. I want somebody to really talk some s##t and it’s not trending, say some real s##t and I really feel it.
AllHipHop: Can you speak on how you knew R. Kelly?
YoYo: Well I love R. Kelly’s music, big fan like everyone else. I pray for him now what this illness that he has.
AllHipHop: What illness is this?
YoYo: His love for young girls.
AllHipHop: At the Trumpet Awards, you said he slipped his # to your daughter. Can you elaborate?
YoYo: My daughter wasn’t that young, she was over 21. She came to the studio with me, my family travels with me all the time. I was there, I was enjoying him. I was just thinking to myself his past situations like “wow this guy’s really a genius.” We get home, good energy. My daughter goes “mom, I want to tell you something. Promise not to say anything.” I never thought that in a million years. Even when we posted the picture in the studio, friends said “oh God, don’t bring him next to your daughter.” She goes “don’t say anything, R.Kelly...” I’m like “how do you know he gave it to you?” She said his friend slipped her his number. I said “how do you know he knows?” She said “because when he hugged me, he said ‘don’t forget to call me’.” I said “what!?” [claps]
She’s like “mom, please don’t say anything.” I never said anything but at that moment, I thought this couldn’t have been Snoop. This couldn’t have been Ice Cube, but who knows what he’s done to other people? Because I loved him so much that I never even judged him. I just felt he tried to play me out, but I let it go. Once I saw that movie [Surviving R. Kelly], I’m like wow, that could’ve been one of my daughters had she been weak. Because that entertainment power is so powerful, you see what it does to just be a part of the group, the team. Back in my day, it was called groupies.
AllHipHop: Groupies still exist!
YoYo: Groupies still exists, but now they groupies for the whole squad.
AllHipHop: You were one of the original rap personalities on TV as "Keylolo" in Martin. What’s the biggest difference between reality TV & shooting something scripted?
YoYo: Shooting something scripted, it’s a piece of your life that you act out. It’s in real-time the majority of the times. Acting, you get a chance to prepare. The reality of shooting a reality show is I don’t know what your reaction is or where you’re coming from, it’s off the top. Who knows where it’ll go?
AllHipHop: What are your thoughts on the criticism of today’s female MCs?
YoYo: I understand it a little bit. Because when you’ve been apart of hip-hop for so long and you’ve passed the part of saying “well we bare no responsibility, it’s up to someone else” — now we know the power of it. I’m too old to say I know better. I’m too seasoned to act as if I know that it doesn’t raise a community, or contribute to fashion and everything else you see around it. To me, the trend is lasting a little too long. I can’t wait for it to end. I’m sick of young girls saying to get sex, you have to pay me. How long they want it to be, how big and how good they can ride on it. Everybody’s out here looking like Figueroa whores, I’m sick it. I want them to have some class about they ass, put on some clothes and be artists. If that’s your style like Madonna, then people will tastefully welcome it.
Guys can do whatever they want in music. Because of our power, I want us to be aware so we don’t contradict our character for our power. But I love women who do whatever they want to do. Be as creative as your mind can and be able to own a football team and a basketball team. I want that same kind of love that they give men to women. but I can’t see men selling their ass on Figueroa. [laughs]
AllHipHop: Can you speak on your relationship with Tupac?
YoYo: Tupac and I were like brother and sister. Of course we once had a relationship that grew into a brother/sister love. High respect for each other. Till this day, his family and I are still very close. Work very closely with his organization. I’m actually doing some stuff. His organization actually contributes to the YoYo School of Hip Hop. We work very close, his sister Sekyiwa and I spend time together. We go out to their mother’s house in San Francisco and stay on the lake.
AllHipHop: Is it true you were with him in the hospital when he died?
YoYo: I was. I thought he was gonna live, let’s just start there. He was very strong. My presence was known, he looked at me. He knew I was there.
AllHipHop: What’s your goal with the YoYo School of Hip Hop?
YoYo: My goal is to continue to use this as a platform to educate and give people the information that I never had (that I thought I had). To have a space for people who feel they can’t give all of their time but they can give some of their time and give back. This time around on November 1st when we relaunch the YoYo School of Hip Hop, it’s to take talented artists and give them a platform, more so than just making it a summer program. Our kids are growing up now!
AllHipHop: What’s some of the information you didn’t know?
YoYo: Well we bring a lot of information in, it’s not just my information. We bring in Platinum-selling artists, they tell their story. We bring in media, PR, people from streaming, DJs. We have so many people who are offering their knowledge and experience. It’s growing right before my very eyes. It’s spider-webbing!
AllHipHop: Anything else you want to let us know?
YoYo: I have a new single “Out Of Control” out the end of September. It’s an independent project. I got a distribution deal and I’m excited about that. We’re constantly working. I want to add artists on and just keep on going. Of course, I definitely want to run for Congress. I’m gonna start off as City Council, that’s my 50-year goal.
I don’t want to get too wrapped up, but I’m just grateful for the opportunity. The work I’ve done through my tough times in my career has benefitted me tremendously. It’s allowed me this new space, but it humbled me enough to give me the desires of my heart this second time around: living into this LNHH, a new album, working with kids who know nothing about me. Follow me @yoyofearless!