Icons Speak: YoYo Talks Keri Hilson, Female Emcees, more

For well over twenty years there has been a marriage between R&B and Hip Hop. Today, there is one particular trend that is still disturbing to fans of both genres — the ever present lack of female Hip Hop artists. In fact, the late James Brown’s hit “It’s A Man’s World” may have become part of pop culture iconography but its words reign more true in Hip Hop than anywhere else.

In the early 1990s, however, like a phoenix, a pack of empowered women rose to challenge the Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Kool G Rap and N.W.A’s of the Hip Hop world. One of those empowered ladies was Compton born emcee Yo-Yo.

Nearly eighteen years after the release of “Make Way For The Motherlode” Yo-Yo continues to bless the mic, support the community and most important empower women, especially those with their eyes set on music. You may have seen her do just that on VH1’s Miss Rap Supreme but today, Yo-Yo is moving forward with her own label and a new look at life through 2009s “My Journey To Fearless”.

While you might want to ask the former “You Can’t Play With My Yo-Yo” rapper where she’s been all this time, her answer through an exclusive Singersroom interview is simply “I never really left the game, I’ve always been associated in some shape, form or fashion.”

You see, Yo-Yo is as real and as down to earth as they come. In fact, she shared her admiration for today’s hard working women in Hip Hop and R&B while getting fitted for a photoshoot, stating “I’m multi-tasking, don’t worry I can do this. I’m a mother,” with a laugh. But that laugh quickly changed to heartfelt concern over the way female artists are and can be treated in music, not just Hip Hop.

“Well you know it’s a hard game. Being that it’s so male dominated and being a female in the game, if you don’t stand up straight they’ll ride your back,” says the Grammy-nominated artist.

“There’s just not enough of us that have the power or strength to withstand all the b.s. this game offers.”

Despite the troubles of the industry, Yo-Yo confirms that there are a few ladies who are handling their business and know how to navigate the game. One of those women is “Turnin’ Me On” singer/songwriter Keri Hilson, who Yo-Yo knew before the success of “In A Perfect World”.

“I was going for Keri Hilson because, before she came out with her first single I knew that she was a wonderful writer and I loved her style. I loved her aggressiveness.”

In addition to Hilson, Yo-Yo credits Missy Elliott, Beyonce and close friend Mc Lyte for their hard work and ability to do it just as well as the men. While she’s showing love to the aforementioned ladies in the industry, Yo-Yo, as with her album, says it all comes from the “heart and soul of a woman but it’s not about shutting out the men though”. To find out which men, specifically in R&B, that Yo-Yo pulled in for her new album and more about the Hip Hop veteran check out our exclusive interview below:

My Journey To Fearless

Singersroom: There are a number of collaborations on your album “My Journey To Fearless,” how did they come together ?

Yo-Yo: I picked these people because these are people I trust. Missy (Elliott) of course, just the way she came in and dominated. She came in the game knowing who she is, what she wanted and how to get it. I respect her for that.

Singersroom: There are a few R&B men on there, specifically Raheem DeVaughn and Ray J. Is there some history there, particularly with Ray J ?

Yo-Yo: Raheem DeVaughn – oh my God that guy is so talented. Once he hears the music and gets in the studio, it’s just magic. I have another single just released called “Morning Comes” with Ray J, produced by Eric Sermon, which is my favorite so far.

These are all people I love. I love their talent, honesty and truth from music.

Singersroom: As far as the Ray-J collaboration, how did that come together ?

Yo-Yo: Actually, I’ve known him for a while. He heard the song “Morning Comes,” called me and was like “Yo, I want to get on this song with you”. Ray J is so talented. He’s from Los Angeles and I’m from L.A.. He’s one of those brothers that is true to himself. I love him not being Brandy’s brother, as he’s his own man. I love his talent and his hunger for music.

Singersroom: You helped a number of aspiring artists on ‘Miss Rap Supreme’, which was a great opportunity. How do you feel about the shortage of female rappers in the game right now ?

Yo-Yo: I think there’s a lot of female talent out there for sure. It’s a hard game. This is like playing basketball. It’s a boys game. Hip Hop is a boys game. If you can hang with the boys… I mean look at Keri Hilson, that’s another reason I love her. She can play these boys game and that’s just not in Hip Hop, that’s in music period. That’s why I love Beyonce – she works just as hard as the boys.

Singersroom: That is true. People can say what they want about her but, Beyonce handles her business. In fact, you mentioned her on your first single.

Singersroom: Would you like to collaborate with her in the future ?

Yo-Yo: I’d love to work with Beyonce. If we got a chance to work together I would love that, she’s a talented young superstar.

Singersroom: Would you do another season of ‘Miss Rap Supreme’ if the opportunity presented itself ?

Yo-Yo: There are other television projects that we’re working on. Miss Rap Supreme, I’m not sure of. We’re keeping our fingers crossed and our mouths shut. But, yes, TV and film is something I’m definitely interested in doing (more of). I went back to school when I was on the east coast and studied acting so instead of getting roles for being Yo-Yo, I’m looking to get roles because the part fits me.

Singersroom: Reality television was and is still hot but, the internet is moving ahead rapidly as well. How do you feel about the new digital platform and is hit helping with the release of “My Journey to Fearless” ?

Yo-Yo: Oh God yes. It is so much easier. You’re seeing people you never would have seen, who never would have had the opportunity to showcase their talent had it not been for these outlets on the web. I think it’s not just my turn but it’s everyone’s turn who has the motivation and hustle because there are so many avenues right now. All you have to do is be truthful to yourself and a hardworker – great music, that helps too.

I’m excited that this album is going to do so many great things, not just for myself but for my community. Things are going to come out of this. Me just being able to put out music from new artists and support females (through YoYo Music).

Singersroom: Would you say you’re looking more for female artists or talent in general ?

Yo-Yo: I’m looking for artists. If I find some hot female artists that’s cool. I’m always keeping my eye out for talent. If I had a choice between a hot girl and a hot guy, I’m going with the hot girl.

Singersroom: “My Journey To Fearless” is a fresh start for you. What is different about the Yo-Yo we knew years ago in comparison to now ?

I hate to say it, because I believe in all the music I’ve ever done but, this is the first time that I’m comfortable with the music. And it’s not fake music. I’m talking sh** and I’m being sassy and being me you know. But it’s the first time that I feel like I’m comfortable and that I’m in control.

I felt like the old me caught up with the new me and I was able to go back to music. I’ve been doing it since I was seventeen and it was just time to come back and time to get up !

For more on Yo-Yo and her new album please visit yoyofearless.com

—— By: Njai Joszor


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