Real Name: Yolanda Whitaker
D.O.B.: August 4, 1971 Compton, California
Label: East West/Elektra
Yo-Yo is a veteran female hardcore emcee and now actress. Much of her music has advocated female empowerment, denouncing the frequent sexism found in rap music. Yo-Yo dubbed her rap crew the IBWC, which stood for the Intelligent Black Woman’s Coalition.
Whitaker first appeared as a guest on Ice Cube’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted 1990 LP, on the track “It’s a Man’s World”. Cube returned the favour by appearing on “You Can’t Play with My Yo-Yo”, on Yo-Yo’s 1991 début album, Make Way for the Motherlode. Her follow-up in 1992, Black Pearl was well-received by critics, due in part to its focus on positive messages and uplifting themes that contrasted the popular gangsta rap style. However, this did not translate into a hit with mainstream rap audiences, and the album’s sales were considered a disappointment.
Less than a year later, Yo-Yo recorded and released a more commercial follow-up, You Better Ask Somebody. The album featured musical and lyrical styles more in line with the hip-hop climate of the era, including many references to guns and smoking marijuana. In an effort to distance herself from what some in the rap community saw as preaching positivity on her previous CD, Yo-Yo even dissed herself on the track “They Shit Don’t Stink” by rapping, “I fell off, but now I’m back, cuz that Black Pearl shit was wack”. The final track on the album was her third recorded hip-hop duet with Ice Cube, “The Bonnie and Clyde Theme”. The track was actually a B-side on the album’s first single, “IBWin’ wit My Crewin”, but ultimately it was the only song from the album to achieve substantial radio airplay. Yo-Yo’s next album was 1996’s Total Control.
In 1998, she finished her fifth and final album, Ebony, but it was not released. After appearing on the Style Network’s makeover show How Do I Look, she was asked to revamp the show’s theme music, and VH1’s Miss Rap Supreme. In 2008, her single “Can’t Play With My Yo-Yo was ranked number 92 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop. Later that year, she performed with MC Lyte, Lady of Rage, and Salt-n-Pepa at the BET Hip Hop Awards.
She appeared in the 1991 film Boyz N The Hood, 1993’s Menace II Society and other “hood”-style films; had a recurring role on the television show Martin as Keylolo, the sidekick of comedian Martin Lawrence’s alter ego, Sheneneh; and appeared on other TV shows, including Fox (network)’s New York Undercover. She has also made many cameo appearances, including the music video for Missy Elliott’s “Da Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”. She has also appeared in the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, as a voice actor.
- 1991 Make Way for the Motherlode
- 1992 Black Pearl
- 1993 You Better Ask Somebody
- 1996 Total Control