An Unexpected Trip Back To Hip Hop's Early Days News & Notes producer Drew Tewksbury has worked on segments ranging from Internet addiction to Ethiopian jazz, but as he tells Tony Cox, a segment he produced featuring old school hip hoppers Yo-Yo and Spinderella remains his favorite.
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An Unexpected Trip Back To Hip Hop's Early Days

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An Unexpected Trip Back To Hip Hop's Early Days

An Unexpected Trip Back To Hip Hop's Early Days

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TONY COX, host:

This is News & Notes. I'm Tony Cox. Now we're going to turn to Drew Tewksbury. He is another producer here on News & Notes. Hey, Drew.

DREW TEWKSBURY: Hey there, Tony.

COX: You worked on a lot of different segments while here on News & Notes. You produced segments ranging from Internet addiction to Ethiopian jazz, but what was one of the more memorable segments that you produced?

TEWKSBURY: Well, Tony, I've had a lot of fun doing so many different kind of segments here, but I think the most memorable piece that I did was on the ladies of hip hop, Yo-Yo and Spinderella.

COX: Oh, yes, Spinderella and Yo-Yo spoke to us about their performance on the BET Hip Hop Awards back in October, right?

TEWKSBURY: Yeah. Farai Chideya interviewed them last October, but my interest in hip hop goes way back, to when I was 8 years old. It was about that time when my brother and I would stage rap battles in our Phoenix, Arizona, living room. We'd turn the lights down low, put on my mom's gold chains and oversized Ray-Bans, and we'd pump up the jams. Our parents would shake their heads and watch us as we attempted less-than-perfect break-dance moves. But it was about that same time that I fell in love with Spinderella.

COX: Not Salt nor Pepa?

TEWKSBURY: No, Spinderella was the one for me.


TEWKSBURY: She fell somewhere in my childhood crushes lists right above Debbie Gibson, and right below Sheera. So when this opportunity came up to produce this piece on Spinderella's performance, I jumped right on it.

COX: So let's listen to a little bit of it.

(Soundbite of song "Push It")

SALT-N-PEPA (Rapping): Salt N Pepa is here and we're in effect Want you to push it, babe Coolin' by day then at night working up a sweat Come on girls, let's go show the guys that we know How to become number one in a hot party show Now push it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FARAI CHIDEYA: Yo-Yo is dancing in her seat. That's a good sign. So, Spin, it's great to have you back on, and we had so much fun when you were here before.

Ms. SPINDERELLA: Yeah, how have you been?

CHIDEYA: Things are great. So, you know, it's amazing to think that "Push It" was released two decades ago.

Ms. SPINDERELLA: I know, you're reminding me now, like - it seems like it was just yesterday.

CHIDEYA: Yeah, you know, it's like, you know, how do you think - why do you think that that song stands up today?

Ms. SPINDERELLA: I think it's because the - I guess the subliminal message in it. A lot of people - we always talk about this when we're performing, how some people think it's about sex, some might think it's about dancing, but I think it's that subliminal message. You know, that classic - I wonder, you know, what people are thinking, and it's been years that that has been really, really the issue with that song. Also, the fact that it's up tempo and it's just like...

CHIDEYA: It's a classic.

Ms. SPINDERELLA: It's perfect for right now. You know, like if you're hearing the music right now, a lot of the music that is out in R&B and hip-hop, up-tempo stuff is reflecting of that sound.

CHIDEYA: I want to go to Yo-Yo. Your career took off back in '90 with the song you did with Ice Cube. Here's a little bit of it.

(Soundbite of song "You Can't Play with My Yo-Yo")

Ms. YO-YO (Rapper): (Singing) No, you can't play with my Yo-Yo

Mr. ICE CUBE: (Singing) What's your name, baby?

Ms. YO-YO: (Singing) No, you can't play with my Yo-Yo. That's right, my name is Yo-Yo, but know I'm not a dunking As I rap, chilly chill bringing the funk and I steal your man, as if he was a hawk and He'll call me baby, yo, or even pumpkin

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: So, another great song, another set of memories. When you think about that moment in hip hop, what makes it different from today?

Ms. YO-YO: Introduction. It was just - I think there's just - it's the same. There was only a few then, there's only a few now. And the Salt-n-Pepa song, I think that song is a classic. It just reminds you of the introduction of women realizing that they had a place in hip hop. For me, that's why that song is just - I can see the video, I can see it there. And for me, with "You Can't Play with My Yo-Yo," the same thing, I think it was just an introduction, another style, West Coast style of female MCs doing their things and that, you know, it was just very few of us then.

CHIDEYA: Salt-n-Pepa rolled out with three women.

Ms. YO-YO: Yeah.

CHIDEYA: And you - when you collaborated with a guy, you used a different mechanism to sort of enter the public consciousness. What's the difference, in your mind, between, say, if you had, you know, come out completely solo, without having kind of this archangel figure, versus working with him?

Ms. YO-YO: It wouldn't have been the same. I mean, because I think we all come out of camps. Salt-n-Pepa had Herbie Love Bug, who had introduced them to the game. I had Ice Cube, who - really, I was the voice for women at that time because women were being talked about so bad within those lyrics, so that it was just a - it was like the answer. It almost like when the Latiqua(ph) was saying, who you calling a (bleep) just a little bit sooner.

CHIDEYA: Well, we cannot use those words on NPR, but we will just forge ahead because...

Ms. YO-YO: Uh-oh.

CHIDEYA: We're so nice here. But I want to go back to the awards show. You ladies dedicated the performance of "What a Man" to Barack Obama and it also, you know - Yo-Yo, Lady of Rage, MC Lyte. What was that moment like? I'm going to start with you, Spin. What was that performance like?

Ms. SPINDERELLA: Well, of course, we're all friends, and a lot of people seem to think that, you know, because you're females in hip hop, that it's catty and this, that and the other. But we supported each other, each of us have supported each other in some way prior to that. But when we got together, it was kind of that first time that we actually had the opportunity to be on stage, work with each other. We actually rehearsed together. We came up with ideas.

CHIDEYA: And Yo-Yo, it strikes me that you have had a voice that transcends hip-hop performance. You've also done stuff on the radio where you get to talk a lot...

Ms. YO-YO: Yes.

CHIDEYA: Use your own voice outside of the performance mode. But there must be a certain juice that you get from performing. What is it like to just, you know, take the stage?

Ms. YO-YO: It's a different kind of energy. I've been a performer all my life. I was in proficiency in English programs, drama, arts, so it's beyond stage. It's just really giving my soul. It's giving my energies. It's giving love through performing. Not necessarily what I'm saying is connecting to a people through music, through energy. I love it.

TEWKSBURY: You know, there are so many things that I like about this segment. It's hard to know where to start. There are several instances that we call radio gold. First of all, we had to take Spinderella by phone and apparently, there was a chainsaw or a weed whacker going outside her window or something, because there was some savage gardening going on out there, super loud. And then, of course, the second moment of radio gold, the curd one, Yo-Yo dropped the B-bomb right on air.

COX: Now, you know, that's not NPR-approved, right?

TEWKSBURY: No, but that's what I love about live radio. You never know what's coming up.

COX: So, I hear something special happened between you and Yo-Yo right after that segment.

TEWKSBURY: Tony, actually, Yo-Yo and I shared two moments.


TEWKSBURY: The first was when she taught me a new dance move. It's called throwing it out the window. Basically, you place your feet about a shoulder-width apart, bend your knees slightly, and make the motion of tossing things over your shoulder. Needless to say, I butchered it. But Yo-Yo, she had it down.

COX: And the second moment was what?

TEWKSBURY: Well, the second moment happened kind of unexpectedly. As Yo-Yo was saying her goodbyes to everyone, something came over me. I can't explain it. But after tossing it out the window with Yo-Yo, I felt like we're a little bit closer, you know. So, I went right over to her, gave her a big hug. And you know what she gave me back, Tony?

COX: I can't imagine. What was it?

TEWKSBURY: She gave me a big smooch on the cheek.

(Soundbite of laughter)

TEWKSBURY: It was a big moment for me, Tony.

COX: Oh, gosh.

TEWKSBURY: So, Yo-Yo, if you're out there somewhere listening, give me a call.

COX: News & Notes provided that for you. Well, you know, it's interesting. You've been a part of the staff, and we've enjoyed having you around because you're such a character. And the staff meetings with you have really been interesting. I don't what to say other than thank you.

TEWKSBURY: Yeah, thank you. It's been a great time.

COX: That was Drew Tewksbury, one of our producers here at News & Notes, talking about his unrequited love for legendary ladies of hip-hop, Spinderella and Yo-Yo.

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