It is no secret that female MCs have struggled to gain and maintain credibility not only for their lyrical ability, but for their image, femininity and intelligence as well. If you have seen the previews for VH1s Miss Rap Supreme, then you already know that things havent changed much.
Veteran Hip-Hop star Yo-Yo is back in a big way as the shows co-host alongside MC Serch, and she has her own ideas about the reasons why women are still struggling for respect in the game.
As a radio personality on Los Angeles station KDAY, a community activist, teacher and mother, Yo-Yo has proven that the Intelligent Black Womens Coalition (IBWC) was more than just a dream for her. We spoke with Yo-Yo about the persistent challenges that women in Hip-Hop face, her hopes for their future and the behind-the-scenes drama of Miss Rap Supreme.
AllHipHop.com: On your commentary for the trailer of Miss Rap Supreme you're talking about how much rap really needs a strong woman right now to take that crown. There [appears to be] a lot of very troubled women on the show. What is your definition for a strong Black woman in terms of rap and Hip-Hop today?
Yo-Yo: Being truthful to who you are, being truthful to yourself. This whole generation to me seems troubled, and we all have troubles, but being honest with who we are and able to express that. To take these challenges head on and come out fearless and victorious. That's just with women period, you look at the truth, you try to define yourself and the truth will set you free.
I think a lot of these troubled women don't know who they are, where they're coming from and where they're going. They want something, but they don't know how to get it.
AllHipHop.com: Do you feel it's still a struggle for a woman to be a good rapper, be conscious and still sell records?
Yo-Yo: What it is, like I said before is being honest. It doesn't matter if you're selling sex, it doesn't matter. If you're telling your story, people want to hear your story. They don't want to hear a made up story, if you can identify with people then include and incorporate that into your music then that's good too. But people want to hear the truth.
One thing I love about Lauryn Hill is that she was able to get out her message in a way that she was still respected. That's what every woman looks to do - you wanna be able to say what you mean and mean what you say and not have people take it out of context. That's hard for a woman, because in my day growing up with all of these male rappers, you have your raps written and a team where you're the underdog, it was hard to find my identity. Who am I?
Sometimes with the industry and Hip-Hop being so young at the time, you had journalists giving you titles and labels, and you're like, "Wait wait, hold up." I'm not saying I'm not hardcore, and that I can't get down and dirty with it, what I'm saying is I'm not a gangster. What I'm saying is I will put you in your place, but I'm a lover not a fighter. It was almost hard to say all of that, and I wish then that I would have been able to do that. That's what I try to encourage with all of the women - take these challenges for real. "You Can't Play With My Yo-Yo"
AllHipHop.com: You were one of the few women in the history of rap along with Lauryn Hill who were able to maintain their femininity and still be tough. I think there's been a divide between the women that go super gangster and the women that exploit their femininity. How do you see it for a woman to be able to balance those things in this market?
Yo-Yo: This is where I give credit to Ego Trip, VH1 and 10 x 10 Productions for allowing those who have been there and paved the way to come out and tell their stories. One thing about the Black culture in general is that we don't know our history. We cant say where we're going, because we don't really know where we've come from.
That's the same thing with Hip-Hop, you have these great legends and people with great stories, but you don't know their testimonies. How did you make it out? Where do you go from here? Do you just continue rapping? How do you step up your game? How do you transform?
Madonna's so good at it, she's able to do it but very few are able to do it. Queen Latifah is able to do it, I gotta give Queen some love - I love her! She's got our roads long - we have a road we can really travel far on now. We've paved the way, but now we can look ahead. "Stompin' To Tha '90s"
AllHipHop.com: Del Tha Funkee Homosapien (a.k.a. Del The Funky Homosapien) did an interview with AllHipHop recently where he said that he did writing for you and Ice Cube. Do you think having [a ghostwriter] work with artists is a good thing - that it helps develop [writing] skills for that particular artist?
Yo-Yo: I love Del Tha Funkee Homosapien. He wrote great lyrics because he was a great person and his head was in the right place. He has a way of delivering things that you wanted to say almost like me doing an essay, going to a professor and asking if could touch it up for me. It does help you because you always need a team and it's so hard.
I think my problem came in when it had started creating a different identity for myself. I'm like "Wait a minute, I'm not just that hard." Journalists wanted to know if I really keep a gat in my purse. I'm like, "Hold up, I wrote this because I was vibing off of it. Cube set the scene and I was in the moment."
It doesn't discredit me, but I think when Boss came out it was her mind, she was in a zone. People kind of discredited her and she lost her place. People feel like you still have to live in the past and you don't. We know where Hip-Hop is going. When we said 18 years ago that Hip-Hop was here to stay, we didn't really know. Now we know, Hip-Hop is a culture, people are invested in it and it's a billion dollar business. Jay-Z was able to do it big [laughs]. "IBWin' Wit My Crewin'"
AllHipHop.com: As [an artist] who has come full circle to be a part of the media and critiquing [others], what are the biggest pieces of advice you would give any artist?
Yo-Yo: You gotta work on your craft and keep education in your life, because that helps you grow as a writer. Performing is very necessary, they talk about the blueprint, create your blueprint for what you're doing because I think it comes to a point in your life where that's not all you want. You think it's all about the glitz and glam and fame when you're young and in the moment, but take time out to see and ask yourself questions that you wouldn't normally ask yourself on a higher level [like], "Where do I see myself in five years?"
Journalists ask [that] question, and of course I'm older and wiser now, but I can see why they fly off the handle with it. That's not an easy question to answer unless you're prepared for that. So you gotta prepare, because my biggest thing was once I turned 29 I was turning 30 I was just like, "Damn, where do I go from here?" I was a child star, what do I do now? How do I make this a business move?"Black Pearl" featuring Big Bub
AllHipHop.com: The big talk is about Khia being on [Miss Rap Supreme]. I'm sure that there's a great deal of tension because of the fact that she's been a recording artist and a lot of these girls coming into it are newer or unsigned who probably struggled just as hard, but have never had that platinum selling hit. Tell us a little about any tension or excitement in the house and what fans can expect.
Yo-Yo: It gets good! Khia brings that energy that I just love, because they don't respect the history. If you had a one hit wonder they don't give a rat's a** about it, and it shouldn't be that way. That's one thing that's kind of turned me off, but seeing her get in that a** I understood where she was coming from, but I wanted her to stay focused. Touch on it and move on. But I think that was her problem because she feels like, "Hey listen, no matter what you think about me I'm still doing it."
That's humbling for a person who's been there and done it on their own, and don't feel like they have that success. They feel like they're still the best kept secret, so it adds that flame. And you know this generation [is] a handful, so I'm sitting on the side watching it like "Woooooooo" [laughs]. Like "Oh gosh, this is good." I love Khia. I'm glad that she was able and they accepted her to be on the show because she has so much flavor.
That's how life is, sometimes you get one chance and it's not enough, and you need another chance to go out and prove yourself. People might look at you and say, "What the hell are you doing here?" and you go, "Hey listen, I still got something to prove and I'm right where you are even though you think I'm somewhere else."
AllHipHop.com: What's next for you aside from the show?
Yo-Yo: Well, I have a company called Fearless Entertainment/Yo-Yo Music. I am looking to discover the next raw untapped talent of a female entertainer. Be it singing, rapping, I would love it all. What I want to do is take my experience for a young, hyperactive, independent, fearless woman and show them all the ropes, because I feel like I didn't have enough leadership to really take me to where I needed to go. I know they're looking for it. Being a radio personality here in Los Angeles, I know they call up here expecting you. They're like "How do I do it?" and I'm like, "I know, I know."
Thank God, you're only as good as your last hit, so the fact that I'm on the radio here in Los Angeles and I'm on this national television show, it's gonna help me use my status now to lead, direct and mentor the young. Also I have an organization with MC Lyte, the Let Your Light Shine Youth Foundation. We have two programs which is an excursion of the arts, and we do the camp, so I'm constantly working on that. My five year goal is I want to be Councilwoman here in Los Angeles, and help set some laws and rules and regulations here in southern California.
I'm a mother and a teacher, I teach a lyrics class here at the Thelonius Monk Institute at my old high school Washington Prep. I'm really looking forward to this national exposure and to continue the journey of finding raw, untouched female talent. Miss Rap Supreme trailer, narrated by Yo-Yo