Origins of the term, Yee!, are often debated, but a Richmond-raised rapper and entrepreneur is cementing it as a homegrown source of pride for Richmond residents and Bay Area-wide.
Ritchie Fontaine, also known as the veteran rapper Lil Ric, has launched an apparel line for Yee! that has quickly gained popularity and plenty of regional followers.
Lil Ric said he partnered with popular hip hop artist Mistah F.A.B. on the apparel line. But his recollection of the origins of Yee! goes back to the late 1980s and early 1990s. The De Anza High alum and Richmond Steelers coach said the term derived from where he was raised, Kennedy Manor, the southeast Richmond public housing complex currently called Monterey Pines.
“Instead of calling out each other names, we created a call so we would know we were around,” Lil Ric said, adding that friends of his coined the term. “If we was in any other city and see somebody we know, we would “Yee!” and immediately they’d be like, that’s one of my peoples right there.”
The term was later spread to the prison population and placed on a track by the legendary rapper Mac Dre, which further popularized it, Lil Ric said. The new generation of artists are keeping the term alive, he added.
“Yee! means excitement, energy, love,” he said.
The Yee! brand includes shirts, hoodies, baseball tees, and hats for adults and young people and specialized version for special events, including the ongoing Golden State Warriors NBA championship run.
To view items and make an order, visit YeeNation.com. Also, The Hook Up on San Pablo in Richmond and Mistah F.A.B.’s Dope Era store also carry the Yee! label, Lil Ric said.