We last checked in with Yo-Yo in 1992 with her sophomore effort Black Pearl. Her debut album Make Way For The Motherlode was a critical success, and even if it didn’t sell a ton of units, it did make some waves on the Billboards. A lot of its success can be credited to her mentor Ice-Cube, who served as the executive producer, producer, majority writer and overall visionary of the project. Cube would also get EP credit for Black Pearl, but he wasn’t as involved in the production and writing, and the album received mixed reviews. I’ve never listened to Make Way For The Motherlode from beginning to end (I recently came across a copy of the album, so I will be reviewing it some time after I finish 1993), so I can’t compare it to Black Pearl, but overall I thought Black Pearl was a decent listen. Regardless, Yo-Yo would return with her third release, You Better Ask Somebody in 1993,
Like both of her prior projects, Ice Cube would serve as the executive producer for You Better Ask Somebody. He would also get his hands dirty on the production side of things, and even though he’s not credited, he would also yield his pen to Yo-Yo’s rhymes. Cube’s influence would help You Better Ask Somebody receive much better reviews than it’s predecessor. I’ve never listened to You Better Ask Somebody before now, but I’m curious if it’s that much more of an upgrade than Black Pearl.
IBWin’ Wit My Crewin’ – Yo-Yo gets You Better Ask Somebody off to a great start, largely due to a banger of an instrumental, courtesy of QDIII. That’s not a shot at Yo-Yo’s rhymes, because she actually sounds dope spittin’ on the banger, it’s just that QD’s backdrop is that fire. By the way, this is your third album, and your homies with Ice Cube, Yo-Yo. What you mean you don’t have money for munchies?
Can You Handle It? – Yo-Yo uses this one to tell all the critics, haters and jackers that she’s the wrong sister to fuck wit. The Baker Boys (whom I’ve never heard of before today) and Ice Cube get the production credit for an instrumental that has a dusty east coast feel to it. I’m usually a fan of the dusty production sound, but this one doesn’t do it for me.
Westside Story – Yo-Yo uses this mid-tempo groove (Laylaw, Derrick McDowell and Ice Cube get credit for the instrumental) to represent her coast, and she sounds pretty appealing in the process. Batting them eyes and showing a little thigh, with her sexy ass.
Mackstress – She may not be as militant as her first go round, but Yo-Yo still has some consciousness in her bones. She uses this sick backdrop (credited to Ice Cube, DJ Crazy Toones (RIP) and QDIII) to encourage women to stand up for themselves, and with the current climate in America, this song couldn’t be more relevant. It always feels good to bob your head to a song with an uplifting message.
20 Sack – QDIII put in some work for Yo on this album. This time he hooks up a smooth groove for our host to get her sexy gangster on, as she spits “my windows are tinted, I got my seat laid back, my Jeep’s a 4×4 but it rolls like a Cadillac…through the dips and the swerves, my music is heard, you could swear this bitch is Iceberg”. The song title and hook are arbitrary, but the rest of the song is so dope I’m willing to overlook that.
You Better Ask Somebody – QD and Cube (who also contributes his voice to the hook, and his pen and delivery to Yo-Yo’s rhymes) concoct another very eat coast sounding instrumental(that kind of reminds me of the instrumental from Ice Cube’s “Wicked”) for the title track. Yo-Yo compliments it well, as she rides it commendably, and fires a shot back at Roxanne Shante, who took a shot at her first: “I never had a hoe flex, but Shante trick get the Cotex, nappy headed hooker don’t got no ends, been wack ever since “Roxanne’s Revenge”…little dumb black girl, how the hell you gonna come and dis a black pearl?”. Not bad.
They Shit Don’t Stink – Yo-Yo uses this one to call out the women and men that don’t realize their roses really smell like boo-boo. But Yo-Yo doesn’t just point out the speck of dust in her sister’s eye, she also cleans the sleep out of her own, as she proclaims “I fell off now I’m back, cause that Black Pearl shit was wack”. It’s rare that a rapper admits weakness or failure (especially back in the nineties, years before emo rap existed), and even though I don’t feel Black Pearl was wack, it’s refreshing to hear a rapper show vulnerability on the mic. All that said, this song is average at best.
Letter To The Pen – Over a traditional early nineties west coast backdrop, Yo-Yo recites letters she’s written to her incarcerated man (I wonder if this song inspired Nas to write his soon to be classic “One Love”). Martin Lawrence stops by to add a little comic relief during the hook. I like Yo-Yo’s concept, but the execution wasn’t that great.
Givin’ It Up – Yo-Yo invites Idle Joe (which is a hi-larious rap alias, if you ask me) and Lil E to join her over this zany Mr. Woody produced instrumental. Well, they can’t all be winners.
Pass It On – Our host invites her all female crew (Nick Nack, Sukii, Chann, Lady T, Shorty and Dawn) to join her, as each spit a verse about puffin’ trees. None of them sound spectacular, but the Pockets and Ice Cube concocted instrumental is so blissful, Riff Raff would sound decent rapping over it.
Girls Got A Gun – With some help from Cube (according to the liner notes), QDIII lays down another dope instrumental for Yo-Yo, who goes back into militant mode for this one. This was really dope.
The Bonnie and Clyde Theme – The final song of the evening finds Yo-Yo and Ice Cube reuniting on the mic, but unlike “It’s A Man’s World” where they were arguing over who was the more dominant sex, this time their rolling back to back, ride or die. Pockets mid-tempo groove is a guaranteed head nodder, and Yo-Yo and Cube’s chemistry is undeniable.
Yo-Yo has a noticeable chip on her shoulder throughout You Better Ask Somebody, and when you couple that with Cube’s vision, the end results are positive. Yo-Yo sounds sharp on the mic (large part due to Cube’s pen) and most of the production, which ironically has a heavy east coast feel, matches her energy. The few times she’s not at the top of her game, the instrumentals still manage to entertain (bars!). You Better Ask Somebody is not a classic album, but it’s a slightly better listen than Black Pearl, and fares much better than her female contemporary, MC Lyte’s Ain’t No Other, which was released on the same day.