Yolanda ‘Yo-Yo’ Whittaker

Yo-Yo (born Yolanda Whittaker) has been among the most sophisticated and unpredictable female MCs around. She doesn’t take an overtly feminist tack but urges young women to show sexual restraint and use their minds as well as their bodies.

Her introduction to the hip-hop game came with an appearance on the 1990 Ice Cube track “It’s a Man’s World” (off his debut solo album, “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted”). It wasn’t until the next year, when East West America/Atlantic Records issued her first single, “You Can’t Play with My Yo-Yo” (#1/#36 – R&B/Hot 100) that she gained critical acclaim and success. The following singles “Stompin in the ’90s” (#2 – hip-hop), “Ain’t Nobody Better” (#4/#30 – R&B/Hot 100) and “Girl, Don’t be No Fool” helped propel the album “Make Way for the Motherlode” toward cracking the Billboard Top 100 (#74/#5 R&B) chart. Meanwhile, she added her first screen credit in the Oscar-nominated film Boyz n the Hood (1991) with a small cameo.

After a successful year, she maintained her radio exposure with the singles “Homegirl Don’t Play That” (#3/#53 – R&B) and “Black Pearl” (#11/#74 – R&B), which led to the release of her sophomore album with the same title (#145/#32 – Top 100 R&B). 1993 would prove to be one of her busiest years with film appearances in Who’s the Man? (1993), Menace II Society (1993), Strapped (1993), and Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993); and her third album’s release, “You Better Ask Somebody” (#107/#21 – Top 100 R&B). Although her sophomore album retained the critical success of her debut, it didn’t keep the success. However, aided by the singles “IBWin’ wit My Crewin’,” “Westside Story” (#14 – hip-hop) and “The Bonnie and Clyde Theme” (#1/#37/#72 – hip-hop/R&B/Hot 100), her third album returned her to the best-selling female MCs list.

After 1993, Yo-Yo’s musical career took a back seat to her acting career with appearances in film (1995’s Panther (1995)) and television (New York Undercover (1994) and a recurring role on Martin (1992)). It wasn’t until 1996 that she returned with her fourth release, “Total Control” (now on East West America/Elektra Records), an R&B-infused album that catered more on party jams and happiness. The album (#46 – R&B) and its subsequent singles (“Same Ol’ Thang (Everyday),” “Steady Risin,” “One for the Cuties”) failed to hit and, with a lawsuit for an uncleared sample, the album was pulled off shelves. However, the following year, Yo-Yo added more acting credits with more film (1997’s _Trials of Life_ (1997) and Sprung (1997)) and television (The Parent ‘Hood (1995) and The Jamie Foxx Show (1996)).

In 1998, Yo-Yo collaborated with some of hip-hop’s finest for her fifth studio release, “Ebony.” The two singles “Iz it Still All Good? (Something’s on Your Mind)” and “Do Ya Wanna Ride?”) went unnoticed, and East West America/Elektra soon deleted the album and released Yo-Yo from her contract. Once again, instead of letting the hardships of the music business get to her, she focused more on acting with larger film roles (1999’s Beverly Hood (1999), 2000’s 3 Strikes (2000), and “The Rev. DoWrong Ain’t Right!”).

After 2000, little was heard from Yo-Yo until her voice work in one of 2004’s best-selling video games Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004). She finally returned to the music spotlight with 2005’s mix-tape remix of Ciara’s “Goodies” and the Game’s “How We Do.” Her sixth studio album is set for release in 2006 on her own indie label amid fans’ anticipation, as well as more voice work on the upcoming animated film Da Jammies (2006).

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