I was reading languagehat's post yesterday on a study by a Johns Hopkins academo-babe on the use of the term "Yo." I went to my Urban Dictionary and found it gives 83 street definitions of "Yo"--one, who signed her comment as "nappyafrochik" in 2003 termed the term obsolete--"Yo," this chick said, became archaic in 1993 though it has been kept alive by white kids who thought saying "Yo, yo, yo" was gangsta hip--here's nappyafrochik's statement:
Yo: a word that died a horrible death in 1993 but still manages to haunt us through usage by white kids in nice neighborhoods who by some strange dementia think they are from the projects. you poor unfortunate soul.
Lookit me, i'm hardcore gangster. One day i'm playin in the front yard in my striped t shirt beating the dog witha stick and the next day i'm out sellin weed pimpin my 82 buick while blastin Lil Wayne. I'm real tough and straight from the hood, YO.I know what she means; I thought "Yo" was dead years ago, too, but obviously not in Baltimore, where Johns Hopkins is located.
Y-O, by the way, is what rapsters use for Yonkers, New York--a divided burg of a mixed race place--with whites (Irish/Italians) on one side of Getty Square and the Black kids on the other side. "Hey, dude, yo from the Y-O, yo?"
And Urban lingo is being changed daily as the Latino rappers kind'a are taking over the genre while the black pros all are ending up in Hollywood as actors, producers, filmmakers now--funny how this truly NON-musical music phenomenon has taken over American music--blacks still set the agenda for modern American popular music--dig how all the whites, males and females, add black affectations and shit to their pronunciations of words and their slurring their speech to make it more blacklike--a la nutjob spoiled brats like Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears--I mean, come on, the rankest black girl singers on the Apollo Amateur Hours are better singers than those two Disney robots.
Dig out your old Anita Baker videos and watch that beautiful black singer work the music for all it's worth in her hip, yo-yo-yo, from-the-solar-plexus way--damn how that woman can manipulate a song to fit her feelings. And I watched Mary J. Blige on teevee today and she was cool as hell; reminded me of Anita Baker, that's why I brought up Anita Baker's video.
What I'm drivin' at and what languagehat's post made me realize is how utterly old-fashioned I am--and how once when I was young and rebellious I thought, "I will never become an old fuddy-duddy," meaning I would never become a moldy-fig; I would stay hip; hipness was cool; hipness was jazz, Madame Zzaj or the Nazz--and then one day there was no jazz and hipness became being white morbid dried-out prunish out-of-tune Brit kids with bangs haircuts and wearing their continental suits and thin ties--fops! Yo, fops! And the fops took over my hip music world and made it crassly juvenile (Hannah Montana) and multidirectional (accepting of any weird sound or style as progression)--any direction you wanted to go was hip with the Beatles. At least the Rolling Stones were more hip than the Beatles in terms of their respect for the music they were stealing and copycatting, but then their hipness is mockery to me, mocking American music and musicians who were at their zenith in 1964 when the recording industry white promoters saw how they could bring foppy Brit whites over here to sing like blacks--even cover black American music, both of those bands, on their first albums, like Sam Phillips had done with Elvis (he sold Elvis to RCA-Victor for $56,000, enough back in the 1950s to start the Holiday Inns), and make it a commercially white product)--turned his black side white.
But the hip-hoppers even though I don't call them musicians at least have brought music back to being more American now than ever--dig? And "dig" shows you how out-of-step I am with reality--when's the last time you heard a cat say, "Dig it, man"? And when you reason about this, isn't "Dig" the same a "Yo." Just a method of getting yo attention, yo? One commenter on the Urban Dictionary said "Yo" was a word used when a rapper can't find anymo' words to rhyme so he or she just ends the line with "Yo."
And by the way, my generation of hipsters gave you the terms "rock" and "roll" and we put 'em together and made rock 'n roll. How about "O0-shoobie-dooby-00h-00h"? Bop talk. And yes there were bop dictionaries all over the place at one time.
But the cool disposition is still what it's all about really. The blacks keep reinventing their own cultural language forms in order to duck and dodge the ready-to-steal-it and claim it as their own white vultures--once the whites get hip-hop down they'll take credit for it, except so far only a very minute few of whites have managed to crash the rap biz--two of them got some good pussy and Hollywood contracts out of being white rappers, both Detroit white boys; Dee-troit, where you'd better act black or you might as well move out to St. Claire Shores or up past Highland Park somewhere. But when and if the whites or Latinos do takeover hip-hop and rap the black culturists will come up with another form of "scat" "bop" "zoot" "rap'" or "hip-hop."
Do kids now control our language? We jazzsters and beats and such when we were kids changed the Americo language--hell yeah we did--"Cool"--we came up with that. "That's cool, brother"--we came up with that. You see "hot" in jazz meant old jazz, meant Dixieland; "cool" was something new; something laid back--and we came up with the word "copacetic." Everything was copacetic, man, dig? That's cool! (Which became "Zat'scool, man.")
So, YO, stay cool y'all, even y'all in the Y-O, yo, yo, yo. As one Urban Dictionary definer said, "Yo is simply half of Yo-Yo."
for The Daily Growler, yo, yo, yo.
Yo, Anita, baby! What a babe, yo?
Yo, from the Y-O, or the Mount Vee? MJB movin' like Macy and Anita now.
Yo, yo, yo, Macy, the Queen Mama, yo! The Wolfman loves some Macy Gray.