What makes a group successful? Is it classic albums, a slew of singles, commercial play with street reverence and high mark sales? If so, Naughty By Nature fits the bill with Hip-Hop’s upper crust. But it’s that harder to grasp the stratosphere where Treach, Vin and Kay Gee excel beyond mixed company.
The only way to solidify a spot in music industry outer space is with intangibles. There are no numbers, pie charts or bar graphs used to gauge legends. It’s not the weekend Sound Scan numbers or iTunes downloads. It’s the facts – like Treach wrote Kriss Kross’ “Jump” – that will make you remember an artist forever. The group that put East Orange on the map was stacked with intangibles. Witness five of them…
1) Old People’s Pot
…This is the first definition of “O.P.P.” on questionable online resource Urban Dictionary. Though any Naughty By Nature fan, Hip-Hop aficionado or breathing human being under the age of 40 with ears could tell you O.P.P. stands for Other People’s Pussy, there has been a long-standing debate on the definition of rap’s greatest acronym. Usurping other standouts such as Cash Rules Everything Around Me and Greatest Of All Time in infamy, O.P.P. has been twisted to Other People’s Property (radio version,) Other People’s Privates (weird,) and Other People’s Penises (…awkward.) No matter the definition, “It’s sorta like another way to call a cat a kitten” remains part of Hip-Hop nomenclature 17 years after it was written.
And by “Sex” I mean “Treach.”
The grizzled physique of Treach redefined sexual appeal in rap, turning LL Cool J into a saccharin “I Need Love” Stay Puft marshmallow man of syrupy sap. The MC’s hardened sneer evoked hedonism, rendering the concept of “making love” boring and obsolete, and being replaced with an against-the-wall-in-the-hallway type “making fuck.” Whether it was his relationship with ahhh-push-it Pep, his penchant for trading groupie skirts with Tupac or his Naturally Naughty porn, Treach made women 8 to 80 feel funny on the inside as no rapper previously had. Just ask a fourth grade me… Treach had me rolling my eyes at New Kids On The Block and Boyz II Men like “these corny-ass MFs…”
Because I was but a wee tyke when Naughty By Nature hit, Saturday morning cartoons and red drink were the order of the day. So when “Hip Hop Hooray” found commercial success not only on the radio but in the literal sense on television, you can imagine how pervasive the “Heeeyyy! Hoooo! Koooool! Aiiiid!” cover was in elementary school hallways. Squeezed between Super Soaker and Koosh ball ads, the Kool-Aid co-opt of “Hip Hop Hooray” was the first mass marketing meld of real Hip-Hop and children’s products I can recall. Though mainstream America bastardized the genre through a farcical concentration of rap in a-symmetrical products (see: Pringles, McDonalds, Miller Lite, Fruity Pebbles) Kool-Aid taking on Naughty By Nature showed an acknowledgment, however cheesy, of what our generation was actually listening to. It was a culture and sound we were embracing and our parents could no longer ignore.
Wu-Wear, Rocawear, Sean Jean… nah. Naughty Gear, fam. Naughty Gear.
So far as I can see, Naughty By Nature was the first to take their name in Hip-Hop and translate it into a clothing line for the culture in the mid-90s. They were the originators. TSS Crew and New Jersey native Sam Cadet says the line was hot on the East Coast for a good minute. But once any market becomes saturated with copy cats, hot ideas become null and few originals flourish.
5) Summer Anthems
It’s hard to imagine an MTV Spring Break or summer episode of “The Grind” without Naughty By Nature’s smooth bass line setting booties in motion and promoting an air of Fresh. For me, far and away, the anthem was “Feel Me Flow” from Poverty’s Paradise in 1995. The joint still makes my mixes with frequency in the humid months, staying cooler and smoother than a push-up pop after all these years. “Feel Me Flow” makes a short list of songs that hold appeal after more than one summer. I highly doubt we’ve had a cut this year that will go the distance Naughty By Nature did time and time again.
Previously Posted – “In The Trunk” — The Lyrics And Tales Of Too Short | “Stoned Raiders…”