When we usually tune into Love & Hip Hop, we are watching them chase their dreams while dealing the drama that comes with it. But with the latest special, Love & Hip Hop: Lineage to Legacy, cast members from different cities are coming together to learn about their ancestry through Dr. Gina Paige’s African Ancestry DNA test. The two-part series follows them as they learn about what African country they originated from as well as their native African tribe. Cast members who traced their lineage include Yandy Smith-Harris, Rich Dollaz, Karlie Redd, Papoose, Remy Ma, Tokyo Vanity, Momma Dee and Paris Phillips.
Throughout the series, you see them not only excited to learn about their background but also become so surprised to see how their lineage aligns so much with their strongest qualities. Yandy Smith-Harris, who is known to be one of the most successful entrepreneurs of the franchise, was shocked to learn that her hustler ambition comes from her Cameroonian background and she now sees it burgeoning in her children as well.
“My people were marketers, they were entrepreneurs,” she said of her Fulani tribe roots. “My babies are ambassadors for different brands and they can do posts and make money. And my son is always like, ‘Mommy, anybody got any brands for me to promote?’ And I’m like is he just chasing money like how I used to be? But now I understand that this is who they are. It’s a part of our lineage and it’s part of our legacy because that’s how Cameroonians work. Cameroonians were marketers. Cameroonians were entrepreneurs. So I’m going to continue to pass that along and nurture that in my babies.”
Smith-Harris also pointed out how Lineage to Legacy can help dispel myths about African countries being impoverished and lacking resources.
“[We’ve seen things on television that show this country] that’s in destitution where you see everyone living in huts and sitting in the dirt with slides,” she added. “Like that was my depiction for so long of what Africa was…We have been bamboozled. We have been led astray, run amok… I learned that we are from the country of overflow. We are from a country of abundance. Abundance of natural resources, gold and an overflow of food, arts and creativity.”
Rich Dollaz said learning about his African roots made him feel more empowered.
“Obviously with critical race theory, we don’t we don’t get to learn about [our] roots the way we’re supposed to learn about our roots,” he said. “So this was definitely an eye opening experience. This isn’t your normal Love and Hip Hop thing. This is more of an evolution of Love and Hip Hop and it couldn’t come at a better time than Black History Month.
Karlie Redd said this experience was more enlightening than she expected it to be. Learning that she had Nigerian roots and that her family didn’t originate from Trinidad was a major shock but also helped her understand why she loves to visit Nigeria so much.
“I’ve been visiting Nigeria for years,” she said. “Come to find out this whole time I’ve been feeling like Nigeria is a home to me [because it is]. I listened to Nigerian music. My mom always dresses like she’s from Nigeria. I didn’t know it was just always my ancestors just calling me home.”
She plans on spreading this knowledge about her roots among her family.
“I’m gonna teach everyone back home from Trinidad that we were enslaved and that we were taken from Nigeria on a ship to Trinidad,” she continued. “That’s what really happened. And I can’t wait to teach everyone in Trinidad, this special story.”
Finding out that she has origins in the Yoruba tribe, who value generational wealth, made her more motivated to instill this same value in her daughter.
“They’re rich in generational wealth and that’s what I definitely extend to my daughter. You cannot just do this for now. You have to think for your future and your kids and everything.”
Paris Phillips plans to represent for Cameroon just as hard as she does for her hometown of Brooklyn, New York now that she knows about her lineage. Before this experience, she wasn’t eager to visit Africa but now that she knows her ancestry she can’t wait to touch down on African soil.
“This experience has been everything to me,” she said. “From the food to the dancing…[The media doesn’t] highlight the good part of Africa. They always highlight the bad areas. When you come to Hollywood [the media] doesn’t show Skid Row, but in Africa, they highlight the bad part. I’m ready to visit now. I’m from Cameroon and I’m just excited. It was a really dope experience for me. I recommend everyone get the DNA [test] to find out where they’re from. You’re going to walk different and talk different.”
The second episode of Love & Hip Hop: Lineage to Legacy will air Feb. 14, on VH1 9:00 p.m EST/PST.