Tommy Boy, 1991
Having released an unnoticed 1989 debut album, Independent Leaders, under the name The New Style, the East Orange, New Jersey trio fell under the mentorship of Queen Latifah, and the first change was to adopt the name Naughty By Nature. Composed of rappers Treach and Vin Rock and DJ Kay Gee, the group is poised to flirt with success with this second album, which was certified platinum six months after its release.
Naughty By Nature will be propelled to the front of the stage at the end of the summer 1991 by the single O.P.P, which includes a magnificent sample of ABC of the Jackson 5 decorated with a small blow of xylophone. O.P.P is a single finally almost Pop, at least in the success, but the group succeeds in the tour de force to make of it a single appreciated at the same time to a public less initiated and to the amateurs of harder Hip Hop. In fact, O.P.P had everything to become a hit, the raw and gritty subject matter with a falsely shy interpretation of Treach and his pushy flow undeniably appeal to the public. The sample of ABC makes it at the same time a nice reference to the Afro-American culture and a catchy single with a chorus that has all the makings of a street anthem, while being pop enough to be a hit. O.P.P is undeniably a great success on all levels.
The album being self-produced with a participation of Louie Vega, we find samples with multiple influences, Funk, Rock, Reggae, Rap, Pop, Blues and many others. And it is well in the sampling that Naughty By Nature is going to shine, they are taken back almost as they are and piled up subtly for contagious rhythms rather varied thanks to the multiplicity of the chosen genres. They are strangely reminiscent of EPMD in the selection and the art of sampling.
The album is introduced by Yoke The Joker on a beautiful bass riff taken from Melvin Bliss’ Synthetic Substitution to bring the Blues side. Treach starts with a violent verse and catchy punchlines and a beautiful alliteration: “I can snap, rap, pack, click-clack, patter-pat-pat / Take that ass to the point you have to ask for your ass back”. The tone is set. Beside the more pop-oriented singles, the group, and particularly Treach, is able to rap with remarkable efficiency for more Hip Hop songs that will please the initiated.
TreachI can snap, rap, pack, click-clack, patter-pat-pat
Take that ass to the point you have to ask for your ass back
Queen Latifah’s touch can be felt on the more Reggae oriented tracks, especially on Wickdest Man Alive with a Reggae sung chorus on a Rock sample of Billy Squier. The second single, Everything Gonna Be All Right, takes the famous phrase of Bob Marley but with a more rhythmic chorus and a more dancing beat, it sounds almost funky. We have a slight Reggae touch with the sample of No Woman No Cry of Bob Marley but it remains very subtle.
Funk can’t be forgotten. 1, 2, 3 brings a nice mix between Jazz and funk with samples of It’s Funky Enough from The DOC, the chorus of Eazy-E taken from The Last Song from Above The Law on a beautiful trumpet of Quincy Jones. It all fits together beautifully. The funky saxophone on Every Day All Day sampled from the Ohio Players or Guard Your Grill which takes a riff from James Brown’s Funky Drummer with a catchy vocal are two other examples of the trio’s perfect mastery of sampling techniques.
For the Jazzy side, you’ll have to go and linger on Rhyme’ll Shine On with a very welcome little piano. Pin the Tail on the Donkey features a great bass riff for Treach’s sharp rhymes. In fact, Treach is a punchline machine, he sends in all directions like a machine gun with his very rhythmic flow. Vin Rock has a real charisma on the mic, they rap with a nice complementarity and send each other the balls well. They have a beautiful capacity to sublimate the productions, their flows is probably what brings the harmony to the very eclectic set.
Naughty By Nature succeeds in a very nice tour de force with this album, the ability to send singles for the clubs while remaining street enough for the real fans of Hip Hop. The assembly of samples is masterfully mastered. A machine to produce hits, danceable rhythms, sometimes darker, with a nice aggressive dynamic on the mic, mixing all kind of influences but for a coherent and high quality rendering, it still sounds very Hip Hop. It’s contagious. A Hip Hop classic.