YoYo teaching hip-hop with love to inner-city youth

by Michael L. Sanders

Mike-Sanders-Yolanda-YoYo-Whitaker, YoYo teaching hip-hop with love to inner-city youth, Culture Currents Children growing up in cities like Oakland and Los Angeles dream of becoming world famous entertainers. Dreams of money, cars and success run within a young person’s mind. With success, however, come other things that young people don’t consider. They fall victim to the dark side of show business. How can inner-city youth learn to become successful without crossing the thin line between fame and failure?

Yolanda Whitaker is an acclaimed international recording star and actress born in Compton, California, on Aug. 4, 1971. Affectionately known to the world as YoYo, Whitaker took the world and radio waves by storm when she was first heard on Ice Cube’s platinum selling album, “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted,” in 1990. Not long after making that cameo appearance, YoYo made the world take notice with her first single, “You Can’t Play wit My YoYo,” which reached the top 10 billboard markings during the next summer.

Refusing to limit her talents to the hip-hop scene, Whitaker would also become a pop culture icon when she played Keylolo, Sheneneh’s best friend on the Martin Lawrence sitcom. Her movie credits include “Boyz in the Hood,” “Menace II Society” and “Three Strikes,” which were all box office hits in the 1990s.

While growing up in South Central Los Angeles, she had dreams of becoming a professional dancer, inspired by weekend dance shows like Soul Train, Solid Gold and Dance Fever. “Those were the premiere shows at the time, so I copied all the latest dance moves and would practice in front of a mirror all day until I got them exactly like the people that danced on those shows.” After years of dancing, she decided to try her hand at rapping and discovered she was good while battling other MCs, male and female, around her neighborhood.

After recording four more albums and being nominated for a Grammy award, YoYo wanted to complete another dream and open a school for teaching the business of hip-hop. “My generation was always referred to as Generation X. Myself, I was tired of that label, so I am attempting to reach Generation Y and show them not only how to become successful but also how to handle success when it becomes overwhelming, because it will. I was always good at humbling myself, and that is a quality I am trying to instill in the youth here at my school.”

“Demand respect, whether it’s in the music industry or in the general public. Don’t let society profile you by looks. Show them you have skills in all areas.” – YoYo

YoYo’s School of Hip-Hop, founded by Whitaker, opened in the summer of 2011. Beginning with 63 students, the school now has 250 inspired young men and women between the ages of 8-18. Located in South Central Los Angeles, the school focuses on hip-hop literacy, healthy lifestyles and self-discipline, while YoYo empowers young women to work hard towards denouncing sexism in America.

Postponing her next music project, “Black Butterfly,” so she can start the school, she found it necessary to put the children first because she feels the youth of today are being neglected when it comes to helping them build a future. “I want these young ladies to understand that because you are beautiful and have a nice physique that you are not an object. Demand respect, whether it’s in the music industry or in the general public. Don’t let society profile you by looks. Show them you have skills in all areas. That was the motivation behind founding this school.”

The school features dance programs, computer technology classes and sports. Recently the school was presented with the “You Must Learn” Award for achievements in education, a big accomplishment considering the short time the school has existed. Students are eager to learn, and YoYo says she hasn’t had any disciplinary problems from any of the students, which means a lot. She plans on starting a school here in the Bay Area.

YoYo plans on starting a school here in the Bay Area.

YoYo’s School of Hip-Hop is located at 3351 West 43rd St., Los Angeles, California. There is also a website for the school, www.yoyoschoolofhiphop.com.

Michael Sanders, an Oakland writer on the staff of the Laney Tower, can be reached at sanders.mike1974@gmail.com.