Mudcat Café message #2666463 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #121876   Message #2666463
Posted By: Azizi
28-Jun-09 - 10:31 AM
Thread Name: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
Subject: RE: Michael Jackson's Impact On Music Videos
Somewhat off-topic:

The "Yo!" in "Yo! MTV Raps" is an African American Vernacular English word which is introductory exclamation with has a similar meaning as the word "Hey!". "Yo" has largely been discontinued from everyday use since at least the 1990s, although there's a somewhat current Hip-Hop/R&B refrain to some song or the other that goes "Yo baby Yo baby. Yo".

The word "yo" may have been used by Black Americans earlier than the 1980s, but my memory of that word dates from that decade. "Yo" was a call for attention that is similar to the English word "Hey!". I've collected several foot stomping cheers from the mid/late 1980s in which the introductory word "Yo!" was later changed to the word "Hey!" Here's one (transitional?) example from my website that includes both "Yo" and "Hey"

Introduce Yourself {Version #1}
Group: Hey, Shaquala!
Soloist #1: Yo!
Group: Innn-TRO-duce yourself.
Soloist #1: No way.
Group: Innn-TRO-duce yourself.
Soloist #1: Okay.
Soloist #1: My name is Shaquala.
Group: Hey! Hey!
Soloist #1: They call me Quala.
Group: Hey! Hey!
Soloist #1: My sign is Aries
Group: Hey! Hey!
Soloist #1: I like to dance
Group: Hey! Hey!
Soloist #1: I wanna be a dancer for the rest of my life.
-TMP; Pittsburgh, PA mid 1980s; collected by Azizi Powell, 1997


It should be noted that "Yo" definitely doesn't mean "I" like the Spanish word which is spelled & pronounced the same. What I find very interesting is that the same word "yo" appears to have been (is?) used in the same exclamatory way in the Akan language [Asante/Twi] in Ghana, West Africa. Here's an example from the now classic 1923 book by R.S. Rattray, Ashanti (Oxford Press Edition; 1969; p.96 with notes):

"'Me nananom nsamanfo, nne ye Awukudae, mo me gye eto nni, na mo ma kuro yi nye yiye, na mo ma mma nwo mma, na nnipa a ye wo kuro yi mu nhina nya sika'.

'My spirit grandfathers, to-day is the Wednesday Adae, come and receive this mashed plantain and eat; let this town prosper; and permit the bearers of children to bear children; and may all the people who are in this town get riches.'

This speech was punctuated throughout by the exclamation of yo! [1 from the okyeame ('linguist' or spokesman) and shrill cries of Tie! Tie! T1e! Tie-e-e-e! [2] from the osene (the herald)..."

1. Yo really should be spelled vo, this v having a peculiar wy sound and being really a labial semi-vowel.

2. Tie (listen)